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Miller wrap up state’s case against Nero

Baltimore Police
Police Officer Garrett Miller (right) testified that he alone handcuffed Freddie Gray and that his fellow officer Edward Nero did not touch him until Gray complained about not being able to breathe.

 Officer Garret Miller testified yesterday that it was he who handcuffed Freddie Gray at the time of his arrest in April 2015, not Officer Edward Nero, and that he later placed leg restraints on Gray at the second stop of the police van taking Gray to the Western District station.

He also said he made the call for the wagon to meet them at the edge of Gilmore Homes to pick up Gray.

Miller, the last prosecution witness in Nero’s trial on charges stemming from Gray’s death in police custody, contradicted the prosecutor’s theory of the case.

Prosecutors have charged Nero with second degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. And they have said the assault charges stem from Nero putting handcuffs on Gray after arresting him without probable cause.

They also have alleged that Nero, Miller and another officer were negligent when failed to secure Gray in a seat belt in the police van.

Nero's Attorney Marc Zayon maintains his client wasn't involved in the arrest, and that it's a van driver's responsibility to secure prisoners.

Miller, who is to be tried on the same charges in July, was ordered to testify against Nero by Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams.

His testimony closely paralleled Zayon’s opening argument. He said Nero never touched Gray until Gray complained of not being able to breathe after being detained.  At that point, Miller said he and Nero sat Gray up and that Nero stood behind Gray to support him.

Legal analyst and former prosecutor Warren Alperstein said Miller’s testimony was a boost for the defense.

“Officer Miller who made it abundantly clear that Officer Nero had nothing to do with the initial detention,” Alperstein said.  “Specifically, that Officer Miller was the only one – it was confirmed through Miller – that put the handcuffs on Freddie Gray; that it was Officer Miller who detained Freddie Gray.”

But University of Maryland Law School Professor Doug Colbert said Miller might have given prosecutors a boost as he tried to help the defense by portraying himself as the main officer who arrested Gray. 

“During the process though, he gave the prosecution what it needed to argue that Officer Nero assisted Officer Miller both in the apprehension by blocking Freddie Gray from leaving the scene and by assisting him onto the police van,” he said.

Colbert added that prosecutors could argue that Nero had a secondary role in assisting with Gray’s capture, which could help prove their case.

But Alperstein said Miller also helped the defense by testifying the police higher ups did nothing in the days prior to Gray’s arrest to inform officers of a new policy that required them to secure detainees with a seat belt in the back of a police van.

The defense began its case Monday afternoon with Timothy Longo, a former Baltimore Police commander and recently retired Charlottesville, Va. Police Chief.

Longo testified that officers have discretion when it comes to general orders and added that officers who respond to foot chases, as Nero did that day, often don't have much information except for a brief description of the fleeing suspect.

Associated Press contributed to this report.