On Wednesday morning, pretrial motions began in Baltimore for the second Freddie Gray trial.
Officer Caesar R. Goodson is being charged with second-degree depraved heart-murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, gross negligent manslaughter, criminal negligent manslaughter and misconduct in office. Goodson, 45, was the driver of the police van transporting Gray.
Gray was arrested in April. He was not buckled in the police van and was injured during the ride. He asked for medical assistance, which he was denied, and ultimately died from a fatal spinal cord injury.
Goodson’s trial is scheduled to start Monday, Jan. 11, at which time jury selection will begin.
Of the officers being tried, Goodson faces the most serious charges. He faces up to 30 years in jail if convicted of the second-degree depraved heart-murder charge. According to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Goodson had five chances to secure Gray in a seatbelt and did not.
Goodson has been with the Baltimore Police Department since 1999.
Officer William G. Porter was the first officer to be tried in Gray’s death. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault in the second degree and misconduct in office. His trial began in early December. On Dec. 16, after over 16 hours of deliberations, the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, and Judge Barry Glenn Williams declared a mistrial.
On Monday, Porter and his team filed a motion to quash a subpoena the prosecution issued last month calling Porter as a witness in Goodson’s trial, as well as the trial of Sgt. Alicia White, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 25.
According to Porter’s attorneys, Porter will invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself since he is being retried for the same crimes in June. Porter being forced to testify also puts his own credibility into question, his attorneys claim. Further, the defense argued, the prosecution called Porter a liar numerous times throughout his trial. If Porter testifies in the upcoming trials and does not change his testimony he will be once again characterized as a liar, and if he does change his testimony it would be considered perjury. No matter how the trials played out, this would be a lose-lose for Porter, his team claims.
The filing states, “If Officer Goodson or Sergeant White were to be acquitted it is all but inevitable that jurors would conclude that Porter — the star witness — was not credible. If convicted, the jurors will assume that Officer Porter has knowledge of inculpatory acts that he has now revealed when granted immunity.”
Prosecutors plan to offer Porter “use and derivative use immunity.” This means that Porter’s testimony at Goodson and White’s trials cannot be used against him in his retrial in June. This differs from “transactional” immunity, in which the charges against Porter would be dropped.
In addition, according to the defense, a federal investigation is still ongoing, so the immunity granted by the prosecution may not apply to any new information discovered.
“Calling Officer Porter at the Goodson and White trials will not only result in his rights being violated, but will necessitate a quagmire in which rights are trampled on all sides in the ensuing free-for-all,” the motion reads.
University of Baltimore law professor David Jaros said that offering transactional immunity would have been the more common strategy.
“The state can in this case legitimately say, ‘We gave a full effort trying to get Officer Porter. Unfortunately that case ended in a mistrial, so we have to do some cost-benefit analysis, weighing our odds of getting Officer Goodson versus a second shot at getting Officer Porter,” he explained.
But the retrial could play out differently. Judge Charles G. Bernstein, who also served as a public defender, trial attorney and Circuit Court judge, believes granting full immunity to Porter would in fact protect him from anything discovered in the ongoing federal case. He also said that the information Porter provides at the upcoming trials would differ from the information the prosecution claimed he lied about, so perjury would not be committed.
Due to a gag order issued by Judge Williams, attorneys on both sides cannot comment on the case.