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Maryland high court explains Porter ruling

P. Kenneth Burns
The Maryland Court of Appeals released their written opinion explaining their decision to force police Officer William Porter to testify.

The Maryland Court of Appeals – the state’s highest court – released Friday its written opinion explaining why it ordered one police officer accused in last year’s death of Freddie Gray to testify against his five co-defendants.

The court held that Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams’ grant of immunity protects Officer William Porter from any violation of his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Porter’s trial on manslaughter and other charges in the Freddie Gray case ended in a hung jury in December and prosecutors have said they plan to re-try him.

Williams ordered Porter to testify against Officer Caesar Goodson and Sgt. Alicia White, but later rejected a prosecution request to compel Porter to testify against Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero and Lt. Brian Rice.

While the Court of Appeals upheld Williams’ order to force Porter’s testimony in the Goodson and White trials, it ruled that he erred when he denied prosecutors’ request to compel Porter to testify against Nero, Rice and Miller.

The court held that state law requires a judge to order testimony once it’s been verified that prosecutors have met the legal requirements for such a request.

All six officers face charges ranging from misconduct in office to second degree depraved heart murder for their alleged roles in Gray’s death from a broken neck suffered in the back of a police van.

The court issued its opinion as Williams is preparing his verdict in Nero’s trial. He said he will announce that Monday morning.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cumming issued a plea to respect Williams’ verdict.

“We are well advised to respect the judge’s decision; whatever our personal reaction might be,” he said at a morning news conference.

He added he is “perfectly satisfied” with the legal process in the Freddie Gray case and that he trusts Williams and his decision.