BALTIMORE – Four months after six Baltimore police officers were charged in the death of Freddie Gray, defense attorneys and prosecutors will appear before a judge who will determine how the case will move forward.
Six Baltimore police officers face criminal charges stemming from Gray's death. Gray, who was black, was critically injured April 12 in the back of a prisoner transport van after he was arrested in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. Initial police reports said Gray was arrested with a knife, though whether Gray was legally carrying that knife is sure to be a centerpiece of the case as it moves to trial. Prosecutors say it's legal under a city ordinance, while defense attorneys argue that it's a switchblade, and thus illegal under both city and state law.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams will hear about three key issues during Wednesday's hearing: Whether Democratic State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby should recuse herself due to what defense attorneys characterize as conflicts of interest; whether defendants will be tried together or separately; and whether the charges against the officers should be dismissed. Defense attorneys have argued in filings that because Mosby's office conducted its own investigation into Gray's death, she could be considered a witness and is unfit to try the case. The defense attorneys also asked the judge to toss the charges against the officers, arguing Mosby's office directed officers in the neighborhood to be proactive in making arrests related to drug sales.
All six officers, including Edward Nero and Garrett Miller, are charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. Lt. Brian Rice, Sgt. Alicia White and Officer William Porter also face a manslaughter charge, while Officer Caesar Goodson faces the most serious charge of all: second-degree "depraved-heart" murder.
The officers themselves won't appear at the hearing.
WHAT FREDDIE GRAY MEANS TO BALTIMORE
Gray's death in April inspired near-daily protests of thousands of people for more than a week. On April 27, the day of Gray's funeral, a riot erupted at Mondawmin Mall when lines of police clashed with teenagers and others throwing bricks and rocks. The unrest spread through the city, buildings were set ablaze, and $9 million in damage was done to structures and businesses. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan called in the National Guard, and Democratic Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituted a weeklong curfew. In the wake of the riot, city Police Commissioner Anthony Batts was fired and replaced with one of his deputies, Kevin Davis.
Gray's death and life — he grew up poor and suffered from lead poisoning as a child — brought to the forefront longstanding allegations of police brutality against black men in Baltimore, as well as systemic problems of unemployment, the lack of job and educational opportunities, income disparity and segregation.
PROTESTS AND PREPARATIONS
Since the rioting, roughly 1,400 officers have undergone civil unrest training, and the Baltimore Police Department has received updated equipment designed to protect officers on the streets. For the upcoming motions hearings, scheduled for Wednesday and Sept. 10, police department spokesman T.J. Smith said all officers will be on standby in the event of any unrest.
Activist groups, including the People's Power Assembly, are organizing protests outside the courthouse Wednesday.
A second hearing will be held Sept. 10 to determine if the trial should go forward in Baltimore or be moved outside the city. Defense attorneys have argued that because of the spring curfew, the judgment of every city resident is compromised.
The trial for the officers is scheduled to begin Oct. 13.