The Freddie Gray trials are set to start this week – the first of six separate trials for each of the law enforcement officers implicated in Freddie Gray’s death. The verdict in the first trial against police officer William G. Porter, 26, will undoubtedly set the tone for the remaining trials. While a conviction will rile an already unsettled police force, an acquittal would likely implode into violent protests and unrestrained anarchy.
Reports The Associated Press on Nov. 30, via US News & World Report: “In Baltimore, this year can be divided into two parts: what came before Freddie Gray died and what happened afterward… Six police officers were indicted in Gray’s death. Jury selection in the first trial begins Monday.”
In addition to Porter, who is black, five other officers are due to be tried – three white males and two blacks – a male and a female. Officers Caesar Goodson Jr., Edward M. Nero, Garrett E. Miller, Lt. Brian W. Rice and Sgt. Alicia D. White have all been charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Porter faces manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct charges. He faces a maximum of 25 years in jail.
Gray, 25, died in April while in the custody of Baltimore police. The unarmed and handcuffed Gray suffered a spinal injury while being transported to the police station in the back of a van – a 45-minute ride where Gray was allegedly shackled but not placed into a seatbelt, which is against department policy. A week later, he died of his injuries.
In October, Gray’s mother Gloria Darden – who settled with the city of Baltimore for over $6 million – was hospitalized after attempting to take her own life.
Officer Porter told investigators at the time that Gray, who was arrested for possessing “an illegal switchblade,” had been arrested multiple times and was well-known among the Baltimore police force. Arresting Gray was “always a big scene,” Porter said, adding that Gray would try to kick out the windows in the back of the police cruisers. “You know, so he was always, always, like, banging around. It was always a big scene whenever you attempted to arrest Freddie Gray.”
Adds Reuters News: “Protests, rioting and looting flared in the largely black city after Gray’s death, and National Guard troops were sent in and a curfew imposed to restore order. Gray’s death added fuel to a national debate on police tactics and treatment of minorities. Prosecutors have said they want Porter to testify first so they can use him as a potential witness against Goodson and Sergeant Alicia White.”
“Everything is at stake. The future of the city is at stake,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said this week.
Riots and protests have already cost the city of Baltimore millions. Stores have been looted and burned to the ground. Images of civil unrest were flashed across the country on national news.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure but it’s hard to say what’s at stake. I know what’s important: that we have order in the city,” mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at the time. “I’m prayerful that justice will prevail and the officers will be given a fair trial by a fair and impartial jury, and that the citizens of Baltimore and the police can respect the decision.”
Do you anticipate more rioting in conjunction with the Freddie Gray trials?