Judge Rules Officer Statements Can Be Used in Freddie Gray Case

by | October 13, 2015

By Kevin Rector

A Baltimore judge on Tuesday ruled that statements made by one of the police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death will be allowed as evidence in the officers' trials.

Judge Barry Williams denied a motion by attorneys for Sgt. Alicia White to suppress two statements that she provided to internal investigators. Five of the officers' attorneys had filed motions to have their statements suppressed on the grounds that they were made under duress and in violation of their rights. Lt. Brian W. Rice and Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller agreed Tuesday to withdraw their motions to suppress the statements they provided to internal investigators.

The admissibility of officer William Porter's statement will be discussed when the parties return to court Tuesday afternoon.

All six officers charged appeared in court Tuesday _ the first time they have appeared together _ as prosecutors and defense attorneys argued outstanding motions in advance of their trails, slated to begin next month.

The focus of the hearing so far has been on the statements that five of the six officers provided. Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the police transport van in which Gray sustained a severe spinal cord injury, did not provide one.

Prosecutors consider the statements key evidence in their cases, while defense attorneys have argued in written motions that the officers gave their statements under duress for fear of losing their jobs, that some of them believed they were discussing what happened as witnesses rather than suspects, and that none were fully and properly briefed on their rights.

Gray, 25, was arrested and injured April 12 and died April 19. His death sparked protests against police brutality. His funeral on April 27 was followed by citywide rioting, looting and arson. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced charges against the six officers May 1, and they were later indicted by a grand jury.

Goodson is charged with second-degree murder. White, Porter and Rice are charged with manslaughter. Officers Nero and Miller face lesser charges, including second-degree assault. All six have been charged with misconduct. All have pleaded not guilty and have been free on bail.

When Rice was questioned by police investigators about the arrest and treatment of Gray, he was told the interview was "strictly" a procedural matter and was put "at ease" by the officers questioning him, according to his attorneys.

White was questioned once without being informed of her right to remain silent, then called back days later to be read her rights and provide a second statement, her attorneys have said.

Rice, White and Porter have all previously said they gave their statements under duress, for fear of losing their jobs. Rice and Porter have said they believed they were giving statements as witnesses, not suspects.

Miller and Nero also have argued their statements were taken in violation of their rights, though their filings included fewer details about the circumstances surrounding their giving statements.

Goodson's trial is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 6; White's for Jan. 25; Miller's for Feb. 9; Nero's for Feb. 22; and Rice's for March 9. Porter's trial is scheduled first _ slated for Nov. 30.

The hearings are scheduled to continue Wednesday.

(The Baltimore Sun's Justin Fenton contributed to this report.)

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