Stating he is entering “uncharted territory”, Judge Barry G. Williams — the judge hearing the Freddie Gray murder trial — ordered Baltimore Police Officer William Porter to testify against his colleague, Officer Caesar Goodson, in Goodson’s trial that’s set to begin Monday. Judge Williams’ comment reflects the fact he granted Officer Porter a type of immunity that precludes the use of his testimony against him when he faces his own trial for involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, and other charges which is scheduled for some time in June.
Porter and Goodson are among 6 Baltimore City police officers who were indicted last year in connection with the death of 25 year-old Freddie Gray who, according to them, was arrested for possessing an illegal knife. Gray died while in police custody from a spinal cord injury, raising several questions related to the officers’ use of force against Gray during his arrest. Prosecutors say Gray’s arrest and death are evidence of police brutality that were exacerbated by their failure to get medical attention for Gray after he complained about his injury. Of the six officers, Goodson faces the most serious charge of depraved heart murder. He drove the police transport van that took Gray to the station.
Porter, being the first of the six officers to stand trial, already had his day in court. The proceeding ended in December with a mistrial when jurors were unable to reach an agreement on any of the charges against him. They had deliberated for three days before Judge Williams declared the mistrial. While Porter played no part in arresting Gray or loading him onto the back of the transport van, he was responsible for checking on his welfare and securing him in the van. During the trial, prosecutors accused Porter of indifference – not brutality – when he failed to get medical attention for Gray or secure him in the transport van with a seatbelt. Clicking a seatbelt in front of jurors during her closing arguments, Deputy Chief State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe stated, “That’s all it would have taken.”
Porter, 26 years-old, took the stand in his own defense and told jurors he knew Freddie Gray and the two of them had “mutual respect” for each other. His lawyers said prosecutors were asking the jury to convict Porter on speculation and conjecture because no one – including the state medical examiner – knew exactly how Gray died.
Now, with jury selection scheduled to start on Monday for Officer Goodson’s trial, Porter’s attorneys are expected to make a motion to enjoin Judge Williams’ order to testify against Officer Goodson. They claim ordering Porter to testify would violate his Constitutional right against self-incrimination and could expose him to perjury charges or a federal investigation. They are also expected to make a motion to enjoining any order requiring Porter to testify against Sgt. Alicia White whose trial is set to begin on January 25 on charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, and misconduct in office. Sgt. White was the Baltimore City P.D. supervisor on the day of Gray’s arrest. The other officers charged for Gray’s death are Lt. Brian Rice and Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller. All six officers plead not guilty to their charges
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