Jury selection began this week in the trial of a Baltimore police officer who’s accused of neglecting to get medical help for a 25-year-old man who died of a spinal cord injury suffered while he was in police custody.
Baltimore police officer William G. Porter, 26, is charged with manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in the death of Freddie Grey.
Grey’s death sparked riots across Baltimore last April.
Prosecutors will have to show Porter was aware that Grey needed medical assistance and that there was a high likelihood that he would die if he didn’t receive it, according to David Jaros, an associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore.
“This is not an easy case for the state’s attorney’s office to win,” Jaros said, adding that it’s difficult to persuade a jury of “what’s going on in a defendant’s mind.”
In other words, it will be difficult to prove whether Porter actually knew there was a good chance Grey would die without medical help.
Grey — who was arrested after running away from two police officers and charged with carrying an illegal switchblade — died after being left handcuffed but not buckled into a police van. His death led to public speculation that his arresting officers intentionally gave him a “rough ride,” a practice with some precedent in Baltimore’s police department.
Porter, who like Grey is black, is the first of six officers to go to trial in the case. He was at the scene during several stops of the transport van Grey in which Grey was riding, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Prosecutors likely wanted to try him first because they viewed a statement he made to police as a crucial piece of evidence against him, The New York Times reported, citing legal analysts.
Porter told investigators that he asked Grey if he needed a medic, according to The Baltimore Sun, which cited investigators who had reviewed the statement. Grey reportedly said he did need medical attention.
Porter then said that he couldn’t tell if Grey was truly hurt or just trying to avoid jail, according to the Sun.
The most serious charges have been filed against the driver of the van, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. His trial for second-degree depraved-heart murder will begin in January.
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