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Defense rests in first Baltimore cop trial

December 11th, 2015 by WCBC Radio

The defense has rested its case in the trial of Officer William Porter.

Over the last three days, the defense presented 12 witnesses, before resting its case just before 12:30 this afternoon.

Judge Barry Williams dismissed the jury of seven women and five men for the weekend, and order attorneys for both sides back into the courtroom at 2:30 to address and resolve legal issues.

Today, the defense called four character witnesses including Porter’s Mother Helena, who called her someone "who likes to keep the peace and is a peacemaker. "

The only non-character witness who testified was Baltimore  City Police Capt. Justin Reynolds,  who testified as an expert on city police training procedures. 

Reynolds  said Officer Porter’s actions towards Freddie Gray went beyond what was expected for a backup officer. 

The defense did not call Dontae Allen to the stand, the drug suspect loaded into the same van with Freddie Gray, at a stop on North Avenue.

That was the fifth stop the police transport van made on April 12, before taking Gray to Western District police station.

Allen had initially told police that Gray banged his own head against the wall of the van, but  he later denied telling the police that, in an interview with WBAL-TV's  Jayne Miller in April.

The defense requested Allen be brought to Baltimore from a Pennsylvania jail, where he is awaiting trial on theft and forgery charges.

Sources say Allen was brought to Baltimore,  but Allen never took o the stand. 

A court spokeswoman told reporters that Judge Barry Williams  has learned the prosecution has not exercised its right to call rebuttal witness.  

If that doesn't change, the jury could hear closing arguments Monday morning, barring any last minute legal issues. 

In testimony today, Baltimore City Police Captain Justin Reynolds, on medical leave from the department, spoke broadly about police procedures. He said that at the time of Freddie Gray's fateful arrest, the department had 1700 pages of general orders. New orders would be read at roll call over a five day period. The seat belt order, however, was also posted on precinct bulletin boards.

Furthermore, he said, as have other witnesses, that the primary responsibility for prisoner safety rests with the driver (in this case, Officer Caesar Goodson, charged with second-degree murder in Gray's death). He said there is a "reasonable expectation" that an officer would act on what another officer tells them.

That's relevant because Porter himself testified this week he would have needed to get to a precinct computer to access his work email and see the order emailed to all officers three days before Gray's arrest. He told an internal affairs detective who testified for the prosecution that he told Goodson at one point that Gray needed medical attention.

Porter  is one of six officers accused in the April death of  Gray, who died one week after suffering a broken neck in a police transport van after his arrest in West Baltimore.

Gray's death led to a week of protests, rioting, looting and a state of emergency in Baltimore City. Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter,second degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

The defense did  not introduce into evidence a statement Freddie Gray gave to police detectives in March in which he said he had a back injury.  

On Monday, defense  attorneys told Judge Barry Williams they only learned about the statement last weekend, and accused the prosecution of withholding it.

Monday night, the defense asked Williams to declare a mistrial.  He refused, but allowed the defense to use the statement and said prosecutors violated discovery rules which requires attorneys to present their evidence and witness lists to opposing counsel.

Last week, at the start of jury selection, Judge Williams told potential jurors the case would be completed by this Thursday.

Jury deliberations are expected to begin early next week.

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