Baltimore police Officer William Porter can be compelled to testify under immunity against fellow officers charged in connection with Freddie Gray’s death, Maryland’s appeals court ruled Tuesday.
Maryland’s Court of Appeals made the decision in two separate rulings. The first, related to the trials of Sgt. Alicia White and Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., denied an appeal by the defense. The second — pertaining to Officer Garrett Miller, Officer Edward Nero and Lt. Brian Rice — reversed a lower-court decision that prevented Porter from testifying in those officers’ trials.
The trials of all five of these officers charged in Gray’s death had been on hold until now.
In February, another decision out of Maryland courts immediately halted jury selection in the trial of Nero, who is charged with second-degree intentional assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
Porter himself has already gone on trial, but it ended in a mistrial in December.
Tuesday’s rulings does not mean Porter is now absolutely immune in the sense that he won’t stand stand trial again. To the contrary, he is scheduled to face a second trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment starting June 13, though the date could change.
But, according to the portion of Maryland law cited in Tuesday’s brief court decisions, nothing Porter says on the stand in the trials of White, Goodson, Miller, Nero or Rice can “directly or indirectly … be used against” him in his own case. He could be charged with perjury, obstruction of justice or failure to comply with the order, though.
Porter’s legal team had fought to prevent him from testifying in these other cases, arguing there’s no way to guarantee that information from his testimony wouldn’t be used against him later.
The 25-year-old Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury in April 2015 after being arrested and put in a police van without a seat belt. Large protests and, in some cases, destructive riots broke out after his death, with some claiming the fact Gray was black contributed to his treatment.
The six officers charged in his death face an array of charges. Goodson, who was driving the police van carrying Gray, faces the most serious — second-degree depraved-heart murder, which could mean 30 years behind bars if he’s convicted.