Opening Statements Begin in Baltimore Police Officer’s Trial

BALTIMORE (The Baltimore Sun/TNS) - The trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter began with opening statements Wednesday after a 12-person jury was seated.

After two days of questioning of 150 potential jurors, a panel of five black women, three black men, three white women and one white male was chosen. Additionally, three white men and one black man were chosen as alternates.

Porter, 26, is the first of six city police officers to stand trial in Freddie’s Gray’s arrest and death. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow opened for the state, stressing that Porter alone was on trial.

“Mr. Gray is not on trial,” he said. “Other officers are not on trial.”

Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while being transported in the back of a police van following his arrest in West Baltimore on April 12, and died a week later. His death, which was ruled a homicide by the state medical examiner, prompted weeks of demonstrations and became a flash point in the larger national protest movement against police misconduct.

Prosecutors say Porter should have sought medical attention for Gray after he complained of injuries. Prosecutors are trying him first because they say he is a material witness against two other officers charged in the case.

Defense attorneys repeatedly lobbied to get the officers’ trials moved out of Baltimore, arguing that they could not receive a fair trial in a city rocked by rioting on the day of Gray’s funeral and a weeklong curfew that followed.

While all of the prospective jurors questioned on Monday and Tuesday said they were familiar with the case, a panel was narrowed down and brought to court Wednesday morning for final questioning.