The Freddie Gray Trials: What Six Baltimore Cops Are Facing

freddie gray
A crowd of protesters waves banners for Freddie Gray on May 1. Six police officers will be tried in the death of Gray in Baltimore. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Caesar Goodson, the second of six Baltimore officers facing charges related to alleged involvement in the April death of Freddie Gray, goes to trial on January 6. The six accused officers, who are being tried separately, face a charges ranging from misconduct in office to depraved-heart murder. The first officer to be tried, William Porter, will have to go through the court again after the judge declared a mistrial as a result of a hung jury. He'll be tried again in June 2016.

Who Is Freddie Gray?

Gray, a 25-year-old black man who lived with his sister in the Gilmor Homes in West Baltimore, was arrested on April 12. He was carrying a knife at the time of his arrest, which officers had alleged was an illegal switchblade—but carrying such a knife is in fact legal in the Maryland. As a result, state attorney Marilyn Mosby determined Gray was illegally arrested.

After being placed in a transport van by police, Gray sustained a spinal cord injury at some point over the following half hour, which ultimately led to his death on April 19. Mosby's investigation determined Gray was not buckled into the police wagon per Baltimore Police Department regulations, and that officers had at least five instances in which they could have done this. While in the wagon, Gray requested medical attention—requests Mosby determined were ignored by multiple officers.

After his death, protests that at some points turned violent erupted across Baltimore. More than 200 people were arrested and 100 officers injured in the subsequent days. Other cities stood in solidarity with Baltimore. A protest in New York City following Gray's death led to 143 arrests.

As the nation looked on, the Maryland state attorney on May 1 brought charges against the six officers involved in Gray's arrest and transportation. The Baltimore Police Department investigated the circumstances of Gray's arrest and death first, handing over their findings to the state attorney, who also completed an independent investigation.

"I've heard your calls for 'no justice, no peace.' Your peace is needed as I work to deliver justice in the case of Freddie Gray," Mosby said during a press conference at the time.

Who Are the Officers?

Officer William G. Porter

Porter is the first officer to be tried, with jury selection for his case having begun on November 30. He is charged with involuntary manslaughter, which holds a maximum 10-year sentence, second-degree assault, also a maximum 10-year sentence, and misconduct in office.

Porter has been a Baltimore police officer since 2012. According to the Baltimore Sun, he met the police wagon holding Gray after his arrest. Mosby's investigation alleges Gray asked Porter for medical attention twice, and Porter declined to provide it on both occasions. Gray was sitting on the floor of the police wagon, and Porter moved him to the wagon's bench but failed to strap him in, according to the state attorney.

Porter is the first officer to be tried as he will serve as a "necessary and material witness" in cases against two fellow officers, Caesar Goodson and Alicia White, the Sun reported.

In Porter's trial, jury selection took two days. The jury includes five black women, three black men, three white women and one white man.

Officer Caesar Goodson

Goodson's charges are the most serious of the six officers involved in Gray's death. He faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence; second-degree assault, which also a maximum 10-year sentence; gross negligence vehicular manslaughter, another maximum 10-year sentence; criminal negligence vehicular manslaughter, a maximum three-year sentence; and a misconduct in office charge. Goodson is also facing the most serious charge of all six: second-degree depraved-heart murder, which carries a maximum 30-year sentence.

"Depraved-heart murder is a super manslaughter case," Walter Balint, a criminal defense attorney in Baltimore with 33 years of experience, told Newsweek during a May interview. "It is like taking a loaded gun and firing it down the street. You kill someone standing on the other side of the street with that shot. You didn't intend that specific victim, but you killed someone." The charge is a fairly unusual one, Balint added.

The 45-year-old officer was a member of the police force since 1999. He drove the police wagon holding Gray, and the state attorney alleges he failed to strap Gray into the wagon at least five times.

Lieutenant Brian Rice

The highest-ranking officer facing trial in Gray's death, Rice faces involuntary manslaughter charges, a 10-year maximum sentence; two charges of second-degree assault, each with a 10-year maximum sentence; and two charges of misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

The 41-year-old encountered Gray on April 12, prompting him to flee after the two made eye contact, WBALTV reported. Rice, on bike patrol at the time, chased Gray and reportedly helped put him into the police wagon, He also reportedly told the driver, Goodson, to stop in order to restrain Gray.

Rice became an officer in 1997. Reports indicate he was hospitalized in 2012 for mental health concerns. At the time, his superiors confiscated his firearms.

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Officer Edward Nero

A police officer since 2012, Nero was charged with two counts of second-degree assault, each with a 10-year maximum sentence; two counts of misconduct in office; and one count of false imprisonment.

The 29-year-old assisted Rice is the pursuit of Gray, along with officer Garrett Miller. According to WBALTV, Gray surrendered to both Nero and Miller, and the two handcuffed him together. The state attorney alleges Gray told both officers he was unable to breathe and asked for medical attention.

During the arrest, Nero and Miller found the knife in Gray's pocket. Despite the legality of him carrying the knife, Gray was arrested. While held on the ground by the two officers, WBALTV reported that he started scream and flail his legs. Nero is accused of holding Gray until Goodson arrived in the police wagon.

Nero, Miller and Goodson are all accused of putting Gray into the police wagon, where, according to his family, his spine was eventually 80 percent severed at the neck. WBALTV reported the three officers also removed Gray from the wagon while he was being transported to put flex handcuffs and leg shackles on him. After he was cuffed and shackled, Gray was reportedly put back in the wagon without being strapped in.

Officer Garrett Miller

Miller faces two counts of second-degree assault, each with a 10-year maximum sentence, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of false imprisonment.

Miller, 26, became an officer in 2012. He was involved in arresting and transporting of Gray.

Sergeant Alice White

White faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence; second-degree assault, also a maximum 10-year sentence; and misconduct in office.

The 30-year-old was made a sergeant in early 2015 after becoming an officer in 2010. She was the second highest-ranking officer involved in the incident, following Rice.

While Gray was in custody, the police wagon made a stop to pick up another person, and White was waiting there. According to WBALTV, White "spoke to the back of Gray's head" when she encountered him in the police wagon. Despite him being unresponsive, White did not seek medical attention for Gray.

White received two citizen complaints about Gray's arrest and was assigned to investigate both.

What Are the Issues Surrounding Their Trials?

The primary issue the defense takes with the trials is their location. Because they will be held in Baltimore, the defense argues it will be difficult to assemble an unbiased jury. Defense attorneys made the request to move the trial out of Baltimore, arguing that jurors would see the police officers as "poster children" of larger police brutality issues. In response to the defense's request, prosecutors said their argument was "insulting to the citizenry of Baltimore."

The local police union has also taken issue with Mosby. In May, Gene Ryan, the president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, wrote a letter to the state attorney saying he has "very deep concerns about the many conflicts of interest presented by your office conducting an investigation in this case." According to the Baltimore Sun, Ryan took issue with Mosby's connection to William Murphy, an attorney for the Gray family, and her marriage to Nick Mosby, a Baltimore councilman.

"It is clear that your husband's political future will be directly impacted, for better or worse, by the outcome of your investigation," Ryan wrote in the letter. "In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety or a violation of the Professional Rules of Professional Responsibility, I ask that you appoint a Special Prosecutor to determine whether or not any charges should be filed."

Mosby's spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie told the Sun there was no conflict of interest on either front.

"State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby has been elected by the residents in Baltimore City to uphold the law in every neighborhood, including her own, regardless of if her husband is the councilman within the district where numerous crimes occur," she said. "There is no conflict of interest surrounding Billy Murphy. He is representing the family in a civil case, which has nothing to do with the criminal case."