Appeals court to hear arguments in Freddie Gray case

Maryland’s highest court will hear oral arguments in several cases of officers charged in the death of 25-year-old black man in Baltimore police custody.

Attorneys Thursday will be representing five of the six officers facing criminal charges in the death of Freddie Gray, whose neck was broken in the back of a police transport van while handcuffed and in leg irons, but not restrained by a seat belt.

The Maryland Court of Appeals will determine whether Officer William Porter, whose trial ended in a hung jury in November, can be compelled to testify against his colleagues as he awaits retrial. Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams initially ruled that Porter must testify against two other officers, but cannot be forced to take the stand at the trials for three others.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys appealed his decisions to the Court of Special Appeals. The state’s appeals court took up the issue at the request of the Office of the Attorney General.

Oral arguments will be heard by a panel of seven judges.

Attorneys for Porter have argued that he shouldn’t be forced to take the stand while his own trial is pending. Prosecutors counter that they are offering Porter limited immunity, meaning anything he says on the witness stand can’t be used against him at trial.

Prosecutors indicated initially that they intended to call Porter as a witness against Sgt. Alicia White and Officer Caesar Goodson, both of whom face manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office charges. Goodson also faces the most serious charge of second-degree murder.

Williams ruled that while Porter must testify against these two officers he can’t be forced to testify against Officers Edward Nero, Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice because the state only sought Porter’s testimony in those cases after the Court of Special Appeals intervened to stall White and Goodson’s cases from moving forward.

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