Judge Barry Williams of Maryland on Wednesday ruled that the six Baltimore police officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray inside a police van will be tried separately. Gray received neck injuries following an April 12 foot chase with police which ended with Gray being charged with possession of a switchblade and placed into a police van. Each of the six officers, Edward Nero, Garrett Miller, William Porter and Goodson, and Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White, face reckless endangerment charges in regards to Gray’s death. Rice, Porter, and White are additionally charged with manslaughter, and Goodson also faces second-degree murder. None of the six officers appeared in court.
Earlier on Wednesday, Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams rejected a motion to dismiss charges against the six police officers in a pre-trial hearing. The first circuit court hearing began earlier in the day in downtown Baltimore — proceedings which will focus national attention back on the city and racial and socioeconomic tensions at the heart of the friction between local police and the minority communities they serve.
Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby was present when Williams rejected a charge of prosecutorial misconduct by Mosby as well as another to have Mosby and the State Attorney’s office to be recused from the case. Mosby is a Democrat who comes from a long line of police officers and has been vocal about holding cops accountable in the past. Williams said that while he was “troubled” by some of the comments Mosby made during a May 1 news conference, they did not compromise the defendants’ right to a fair trial, the AP reports.
The judge said prosecutors’ chief responsibility is to investigate and prosecute cases, and the fact that the office conducted an independent investigation is not unusual. Williams also said the assertion that Mosby’s judgment was impacted by the fact that her husband, Nick Mosby, is a councilman in a district that experienced a disproportionate amount of violence during the riots that Gray’s death sparked is “condescending. Being married to a councilman is not a reason for recusal.” Williams said it was not within his authority to decide whether Mosby had broken the Maryland Lawyer’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which guide attorney behavior. That was for the attorney grievance commission to decide, he said. The commission investigates and prosecutes alleged violations of the rules.
While the day may come, or may not come, when the words of the state’s attorney will be assessed, parsed, and dissected for the purpose of determining if there were violations of the rules of professional conduct, today is not that day.”
Gray’s death triggered days of protests and, eventually, unrest in Baltimore, including a night of rioting and looting as residents protested police brutality and expressed frustration over socioeconomic conditions that left many of them feeling disenfranchised. President Barack Obama offered comments connecting the racial tensions in Baltimore at the center of the unrest with similar tensions across the nation. He condemned the riots and also said the nation needs to do some soul-searching. Security at the downtown courthouse was enhanced for the hearing and a handful of protesters rallied outside, decrying what they called the militarization of police. One person was arrested and charged with assault.