1st Trial in the Freddie Gray Murder Case to Begin Monday in Baltimore

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While cases of police misconduct flood the news, the trial concerning Freddie Gray’s death is set to begin Monday in Baltimore.

The trial, which has fallen under the radar a bit due to a gag order imposed by Judge Barry Williams, is the first of six separate trials for the police officers accused in Gray’s death. Monday will signal the beginning of the trial of Officer William Porter who allegedly, along with the driver of the van in which Gray was being transported, checked on Gray during a stop, but didn’t report his medical condition. Now, Porter is facing a charge of manslaughter in Gray’s death. It’s a charge that some criminal experts, like Russell Neverdon, don’t think will stick.

“They are using terms like ‘failure’ and ‘negligence’—terms associated with a civil case, not a criminal case,” says Neverdon, executive director of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Inmate Grievance Office in Baltimore.

Neverdon also questions when Gray’s fatal injury occurred. In video recorded by a passer-by, Neverdon says, it is easy to see that Gray is in physical distress.

“It is indicative of someone who has sustained some kind of nerve damage already,” says Neverdon. “You don’t know how he was taken down and handcuffed. We do know he’s yelling before he gets in the van, saying he’s in pain.”

The theory of the prosecution is that Gray was the victim of a “rough ride,” a term that refers to when police intentionally refuse to put suspects in seat belts, then drive erratically, jostling them around the car or van, often in attempts to make them confess to crimes. Prosecutors allege that Gray received his fatal injury when his head bumped against a bolt in the van during a “rough ride.”

“They are saying the injury is consistent with a bolt inside the van. What holds the front tire to the frame of a bike? A bolt. Two officers on bikes arrested him. The injury could have been sustained then,” says Neverdon. “Did they get DNA off of that bolt?”

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