Prosecutors In Porter Trial To Pick Up With Investigation

Dec 3, 2015

Police Officer William Porter
Credit Baltimore Police

Baltimore prosecutors are expected to continue Friday questioning the lead investigator in the Freddie Gray case as the trial of police Officer William Porter moves into a fifth day.

Detective Syreeta Teel said Thursday she was called to the Western District police station the morning of Freddie Gray’s arrest, April 12, to investigate how Gray became injured between the time he was taken into custody – at Baker and Mount streets – to when he arrived at the police station.

Gray died a week later from a severe spinal cord injury suffered in police custody. Porter is the first of six officers to be tried on charges stemming from the case.

Porter has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.  He could face up to ten years in jail if convicted of the more serious charges.

Prosecutors are presenting their case in chronological order, starting with Porter’s training at the police department’s Professional Development and Training Academy.

Doug Colbert, a University of Maryland Carey Law School professor, said they are providing a good foundation by focusing on police training procedures.

“They are able to get police to testify against other police and that is something we don’t see too often,” he said.

Colbert added prosecutors have to prove Porter was aware of the procedures for protecting a prisoner and that he had a legal duty to keep up on new policies.

Looking At The Incident

Earlier in the day, prosecutors played cell phone videos of Gray’s arrest. Gloria Darden, Gray’s mother, sobbed as she watched one video that showed Porter arriving at the scene in his squad car as Gray was being loaded into the police wagon. She had to be helped from the courtroom.

Brandon Ross, a longtime friend of Gray’s, shot one of two cell phone videos of the arrest played in court. He said Thursday he saw Porter look inside the wagon before turning his back.  Under cross examination, he said Porter did not touch Gray.

Focusing On Policy

Earlier, Capt. Martin Bartness, chief of staff to then Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, said that police officials sent six updated policies to all agency members days before the arrest of Freddie Gray.

One of those updates required officers to buckle all detainees in seat belts and to obtain medical care for them "when necessary or requested."

Bartness said the updated orders replaced a 1997 policy that gave officers slightly more leeway. It instructed officers to buckle detainees in seat belts, but allowed them to prioritize their own safety. The new order leaves no ambiguity. Detainees must be buckled in.

Prosecutors say Porter is partially responsible for Gray's death because he didn't buckle him in a seatbelt and failed to call a medic despite Gray's repeated requests for help.

Andrew Jaffee, the police department’s information technology director, testified that Porter should have known of the change in policy because officers can access their mail from anywhere, not just at the police station. He conceded on cross-examination, however, that there is no way to tell if Porter read the email on the updated seat belt policy.

Associated Press contributed to this story.