BALTIMORE – A Maryland appeals court postponed the trial of a police van driver charged with second-degree murder in the death of Freddie Gray, saying it needs to address whether another Baltimore officer should be compelled to testify against Caesar Goodson.
Jury selection for Goodson's trial was supposed to start Monday. Prosecutors have indicated that testimony from Officer William Porter, whose trial ended in a hung jury last month, is crucial to their case against Goodson.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams, who is overseeing the trial, ruled last week that Porter must testify against Goodson despite Porter's assertion that he has a right not to incriminate himself.
Porter's trial is postponed indefinitely, pending further proceedings, including more written filings from both sides, followed by oral arguments before the Court of Special Appeals, Maryland courts spokesman Terri Charles said.
Gray died in April, a week after his neck was broken during a van ride. Goodson was with Gray for every second of his 45-minute trip from the site of his arrest to the Western District police station, where Gray arrived critically injured and unresponsive.
The trial could provide the public with its first chance to hear Goodson's side of the story. He has not spoken with investigators or made any public comments.
He faces the most serious charge of the six officers charged — second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. To be convicted, prosecutors must prove that Goodson was so callous in his disregard for Gray's life that he deliberately allowed him to die.
Since Porter's case ended in a mistrial, the stakes for Goodson's trial have grown in a city still on edge from the rioting and unrest in April.
Porter's lawyers say he risks going to jail for contempt if he refuses an order to testify, but if he does testify, he could be charged with perjury if he makes any statements that differ from what he said or will say in his own defense.
Prosecutors say Porter has immunity at Goodson's trial and they can't use his statements against him later. But defense attorney Gary Proctor wrote in court documents: "The bell cannot be unrung."
The judge himself acknowledged that he was entering "uncharted territory" before issuing his ruling last week.
His order is unprecedented in Maryland and could have tremendous implications for future cases with multiple defendants.
The death of a young black man exposed the deep divide between the public and the police in Baltimore, and became a national symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Prosecutors say the officers should be held accountable for Gray's fatal injuries because they left him handcuffed and shackled at the legs but unbuckled by a seatbelt, making him vulnerable to injury inside the metal compartment. Neither did they call an ambulance when he indicated he needed medical attention. Goodson, they say, bears the most responsibility because he drove the van, so Gray was technically in his custody.
Prosecutors have revealed little about their case against Goodson, but their witness list includes a former police officer who can describe "retaliatory prisoner transport practices," suggesting they intend to raise the possibility that Gray was given a "rough ride" in the van.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors can't comment because they are under a gag order.