The prosecution has now rested its case today, in the trial of Officer William Porter, the first of six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, in April. Mr. Gray died from trauma to his spinal cord, with no evidence found of any other bodily injuries in an autopsy. Charlottesville Chief of Police Timothy J. Longo – an attorney who served on the Baltimore police force for 19 years, commanding several divisions and retiring as Colonel – testified on Thursday. Chief Longo is also a qualified expert witness.
Justin Fenton and Kevin Rector in theThe Baltimore Sun report today that the attorneys for the defense have pointed to the questions relating to how and when Mr. Gray received the injuries he sustained. Officer Porter was unable to call for an ambulance in response to Mr. Gray’s requests that one be called because he did not complain of any specific symptom which is required, evidently, by protocol if and when an ambulance is to be called. It is not clear why Gray’s request for an inhaler did not qualify for the expression or ‘complaint’ of a symptom if his specifying a symptom was necessary in order to obtain medical attention, since the police are responsible to ensure the safety of the arrestee..
The article clarifies further:
“Porter took the stand Wednesday as his team opened their defense. He said Gray told him he needed urgent medical care, but did not say why. Porter said he was nevertheless set to accompany Gray to Bon Secours Hospital to be examined. Before he could, Gray was found unconscious in the back of the van.
To prove that Porter committed involuntary manslaughter, his attorneys say, prosecutors must show that his conduct deviated significantly from what an officer would reasonably have done.”
Several officers involved in the arrest have testified as defense witnesses, and backed up Officer Porter’s testimony:
Officer Mark Gladhill testified Thursday that he saw Gray inside the police transport van kneeling and supporting his weight after the point at which the state has alleged that Gray had suffered a severe injury and needed urgent care.
Officer Gladhill said he had taken part in 50 to 100 arrests during his time on the force and had ” only used seat belts on prisoners when they were placed in his police cruiser. Other officers — Matthew Wood, who noted that in 100 arrests, he “could not recall a detainee ever being put in a seat belt in a van; and Officer Zachary Novak, who had helped Gray into the van, testified that he believed that only 10 percent of thoaw arrested and loaded into a van are secured with seat belts – and other witnesses have testified that Gray was thrashing around inside the van.
The timing of Mr. Gray’s injury is what is at issue, and the defense argues that he was exhausted from running from the police and officers to resist arrest, and that Officer Porter had no reason to believe that Mr. Gray’s petition for help was a legitimate request, since he did not complain of anything specifically.
Chief Longo announced his retirement from the Charlottesville Police Department last week, after having served as Chief for 15 years.
Longo testified that the van driver, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., was ultimately responsible for Gray’s care, and that Porter had notified a supervisor that Gray needed help. He said Goodson and the supervisor, Sgt. Alicia D. White — not Porter — had the responsibility to take further action.
“I believe [Officer Porter’s] actions were objectively reasonable under the circumstances he was confronted with,” he said.
Justin Fenton’s and Kevin Rector’s article in the Baltimore Sun includes the following passage describing Chief Longo’s testimony:
“Porter testified that he did not take the time to fasten Gray’s seat belt in part because he did not want to expose his gun to the detainee. Longo supported that explanation.
Schatzow said Gray’s hands were handcuffed behind his back, and that by Porter’s account, he was not acting out. Schatzow raised Porter’s actions with Longo, saying it would have taken but seconds to put him in a seat belt.
“Under what yo u’re saying, danger can arise any moment,” Schatzow said.
“Any second,” Longo replied.
“So nobody gets seat-belted?”
“It’s certainly within the discretion of the officer,” Longo said.”
The timing of this directive is also very coincidental. The article by Fenton and Richter continues:
Long-standing department policy directs officers to secure arrestees with seat belts. Days before Gray’s arrest, the department emailed new directives that made it mandatory.
Porter testified that he did not see the directive.
Even with such orders, Longo said, officers can still make calls in the field — with the understanding that they could face administrative scrutiny.”
Jury deliberations in the case are to take place on Monday, before a jury of seven women and five men; including a total of 7 persons of color. Additional information is available in the Baltimore Sun article “Jury deliberations to begin Monday in Officer Porter’s trial in Freddie Gray case,” by these same reporters:
Porter’s defense team spent three days and called 12 witnesses, including Porter, to argue that Porter did not believe Gray was seriously injured and had acted as a reasonable officer would in his treatment of Gray.
Gray, 25, was arrested April 12 and suffered a broken neck and severe spinal cord injury at some point during a 45-minute, stop-and-go ride in the back of a police transport van, medical experts have testified. He died a week later.