By CATHERINE PALMER
News & Features Editor
Opening statements were delivered Wednesday afternoon in the first trial of the Freddie Gray case. Baltimore Police Department (BPD) Officer William Porter is the first of six officers to be tried. Jury selection began Monday and concluded Wednesday morning.
Gray was arrested on April 12 and put in a police van for transport to the Western District police station. Porter was not involved in arresting Gray but was present at many of the van stops after the driver Officer Caesar Goodson, Jr., called for backup, according to the prosecution.
In their opening statement, prosecutors painted Porter as negligent and callous in his treatment of Gray.
“There was no reason not to put him in a seat belt, unless you simply didn’t care,” Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Schatzow argued that Porter had been taught to buckle in arrestees.
The prosecution said that Porter lifted Gray off the floor of the van and put him back in his seat after seeing he could not breathe. However, Porter did not call for medical assistance.
A medic was called when the van arrived at the police station, and Gray was transported to a local hospital where he died a week later from a severe spinal cord injury.
“Now, Mr. Gray is unconscious. Now, Mr. Gray is not breathing. Now, Mr. Gray’s heart not beating,” Schatzow said.
The defense followed the prosecution, describing Porter in a notably different light.
“Mr. Gray’s death was a tragedy. So is charging someone who did nothing to precipitate it,” Defense attorney Gary Proctor said.
According to The Sun, Proctor told jurors that Porter, a Baltimore native, had no record of misconduct and was good at his job. Defense attorneys argued that Porter had not been aware of the BPD’s seat belt policy, which went into effect a few days before Gray’s arrest.
The defense also argued that Porter had previous experience with Gray as an arrestee. They said Gray had been taken in custody a few weeks before his April 12 arrest and had tried to kick out the windows in police car.
The defense argued that it was due to these interactions that Porter had suspected Gray was faking his injuries on April 12 and had not called for medical attention.
Proctor also encouraged jurors not to jump to conclusions about Porter simply because they want to find someone responsible for Gray’s death.
“Let’s show Baltimore the whole system is not guilty as hell,” Proctor said, in reference to a phrase often chanted by protesters against police misconduct.
Porter has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, assault in the second degree, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
According to the ABC News, Gray’s mother and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby were present in court on Wednesday.
Gray’s death in April sparked over a week of both peaceful and violent protesting. Following the protests, the murder rate in Baltimore skyrocketed to an all-time high.
According to The Sun, in mid-November Baltimore reached its highest ever per capita murder rate with over 300 hundred homicides.
Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts was fired in July due to controversy over his handling of the Gray’s protests as well as the rise in homicides. Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis was appointed to the position permanently in October, sparking additional protest.