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Freddie Gray case: William Porter’s fate in hands of jury

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Posted at 7:45 AM, Dec 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-14 07:45:09-05

The fate of William Porter will be in the hands of the jury as early as Monday.

Porter is the first of six Baltimore police officers to be tried for the death of Freddie Gray.

His defense team rested its case Friday. Now, all that remains before the jury begins its deliberations are closing arguments by the prosecution and Porter’s lawyers.

After that, the jury — comprised of three black men, three white women and two white men — will determine Porter’s guilty or innocence on the following counts: involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

‘A nice and honest guy’

On Friday, Porter’s mother, Helena, described him “a nice (and) honest guy.”

“He likes to keep the peace,” she added. “He’s the peacemaker.”

Baltimore police Capt. Justin Reynolds also testified for the defense, explaining that the “transporting officer” is responsible for those taken into custody. Porter was not the transporting officer in Gray’s case.

When Porter helped Gray onto a bench in the wagon during one of the stops that April day, he did more than he was required to do, according to Reynolds.

“He went beyond what he could have and still kept within the policy,” Reynolds testified.

Porter, 26, has said Gray was kicking the inside of the police van en route to the station, and he had tried to kick out the window of a patrol car during an arrest a few weeks earlier.

Report finds gaps in unrest preparedness

Authorities say Gray broke his neck April 12 while being transported in a police van, shackled but not wearing a seat belt. He died a week later.

His death sparked outrage and demonstrations, some of which were plagued by arson, vandalism and looting, despite his family’s pleas for peace.

An independent report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University released Friday cited gaps in Baltimore’s preparedness for the unrest.

The researchers made recommendations similar to those in an earlier report, including the development of policies for mass demonstrations and improved intelligence gathering, according to a statement from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Many of the recommendations have already been implemented.

Porter’s testimony

During his four-hour testimony Wednesday, Porter contended that of the roughly 150 prisoners he has placed in a police wagon since joining the Baltimore Police Department in 2010, none was secured with a seat belt — in part, out of concern for officers’ safety while in the wagon’s tight quarters.

Prisoners were never secured with seat belts during field training, and though cadets were instructed to secure prisoners with seat belts, they were not shown how, Porter said.

“It is the responsibility of the wagon driver to get the prisoner from point A to point B,” he told the jury.

Prosecutors allege that Gray didn’t get the medical help he asked for during one stop of the van. An autopsy showed his spinal column was “functionally” severed. The cause of his death was a neck injury, and the manner of his death was homicide, a medical examiner testified last week.

Porter has testified that Gray didn’t ask to be transported to the hospital until the fourth of six stops along the 45-minute ride to the police station. Porter relayed the information to the driver, he testified, but he didn’t call a medic because Gray didn’t appear injured and didn’t articulate what was wrong.

Baltimore police canceled leave for officers who had days off from Monday through Friday. Officers will be scheduled to work 12-hour shifts instead of the usual 10 hours.