The defense for William Porter has presented him as a reasonable officer who did nothing wrong the day Freddie Gray was arrested, while prosecutors depict him as an indifferent cop who denied Gray medical care in the police wagon where he suffered a fatal spinal injury. On Monday jurors will hear closing arguments and then begin deliberating on which version they think is true.
Porter is charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. Jurors have heard eight days of testimony. Prosecutors say Porter is partially responsible for the death since he didn’t call for an ambulance when Gray indicated he needed medical aid and because he ignored a departmental policy requiring officers to buckle prisoners in seat belts.
Porter told jurors he didn’t call a medic because Gray didn’t show signs of injury, pain or distress and said only “yes” when Porter offered to take him to the hospital. Porter and other witnesses testified that it was the responsibility of the wagon driver, Caesar Goodson, to buckle Gray into the seat belt.
Goodson faces the most serious charge: second-degree “depraved-heart” murder. Porter is the first of six officers to go to trial for charges stemming from Gray’s injury and death, and it likely will set the tone for the others and for the city’s healing.
Gray’s death prompted protests and rioting in Baltimore, and his name became a rallying cry in the national conversation about the fractured relationship between the police and the public, particularly black men, in America’s cities.
As the verdict looms in the most high-stakes and high-profile case in the city’s recent history, Baltimore officials are taking pre-emptive measures. Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis canceled leave for officers through Friday.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has urged residents to remain calm by saying “Whatever the verdict, we need everyone in our city to respect the judicial process. We need everyone visiting our city to respect Baltimore.”
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