A Baltimore Circuit Court judge ruled Thursday that the trials of six police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray will stay in Baltimore, saying the defense had failed to prove that the officers cannot receive a fair trial in the city.
“The citizens of Baltimore are not monolithic,” Judge Barry Williams said in his ruling. “They think for themselves.”
Williams heard arguments from defense attorneys who said that intense media coverage and the city’s surprise multimillion-dollar settlement with Gray’s family this week, along with fear of future unrest, created an atmosphere in which jurors would be biased.
Prosecutors, however, urged that moving the case before screening potential jurors would be premature.
Williams agreed, saying it was wrong to “assume they cannot be fair” without questioning individual potential jurors.
Williams was unconvinced that media coverage had influenced citizens — at least not any more than residents of other jurisdictions. He said that coverage of the story had been “local, state, national, international.”
The defense attorneys had also argued that comments from public officials may have influenced potential jurors, but Williams said citizens have shown that comments from their leaders “sometimes mean very little to them.”
Williams, who previously ruled that each officer should be tried individually, left open the possibility that the trials could be moved if an impartial jury panel can’t be found.