Chief Deputy Prosecutor Michael Schatzow (right)

It began with prosecutors, smugly and arrogantly, ready to try six Baltimore PD officers, and juggling trial schedules to maximize what they thought would be a series of easy convictions. Then the Porter trial, their first, the trial that would set the stage for five more steamrolled convictions, ended in a hung jury, hung mostly in favor of acquittal.

Suddenly, the prosecutors came to think that without the testimony of Officer Porter–the very man they failed to convict–in every trial to come, they had no cases. They admitted that in their arguments before multiple courts, and also admitted, in essence, they were idiots. They had to admit that they changed their minds about Porter’s vital value as their witness, and expected the courts to cover them, because, after all, if the courts didn’t force Porter to testify, they’d have no case, and because all of the cases were about social justice, and because another long, hot summer is not far away and the social justice forces they hope to appease are just waiting for an opportunity to riot and extract additional tribute from public treasuries, they had reason to think the courts would eventually see things their way.

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Even Judge Williams thought the prosecution was gaming the system and the prosecution offer of immunity for Officer Porter was nothing more than subterfuge for laying multiple perjury traps. And then there was that annoying Fifth Amendment. How could a man still facing trial in the same cases, all with the same evidence, possibly be forced to testify against his co-defendants and himself? Isn’t that as gross a violation of the Fifth Amendment as one can imagine? Not in Maryland, it isn’t: 

Maryland’s highest court ruled in favor of prosecutors in the Freddie Gray cases Tuesday, ordering that Officer William Porter can be compelled to testify against his fellow officers. [skip]

Prosecutors also had argued that Williams, the circuit court judge, wrongly blocked their authority when he ruled that they couldn’t call Porter to testify at the Nero, Miller and Rice trials. They had not previously said that Porter was considered a witness in those cases, and Williams said deciding to call him later was a stall tactic.

It was not clear whether Porter’s attorneys, Gary Proctor and Joseph Murtha, could try to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The cases were sent back to the trial court level, where the attorneys are barred from speaking by a gag order.

What nonsense. Not only can Proctor and Murtha appeal the ruling to higher federal courts, but they can, if necessary, appeal to the Supreme Court. This is just the kind of constitutional issue that the appellate courts and the Supreme Court might wish to hear as it implicates a fundamental right of all Americans.

William ‘Billy’ Murphy Jr., the attorney for Gray’s family, said prosecutors’ request to call Porter was ‘straightforward’ and the appeals court ruling was correct.

‘The main issue,’ Murphy said, regarding whether Porter could be compelled to testify, ‘was not unprecedented.

Mr. Murphy is hardly a disinterested bystander. He has already enriched himself by several millions as the City caved to the Gray family without a trial, indeed, without even a filing. Notice that Mr. Murphy–and The Baltimore Sun–is not providing the precedent he claims exists.

Who’s Next?

The Chicago Sun Times explains: 

The trial for Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking officer charged in the Gray case, will start April 13 — one year and one day after Gray was arrested outside the Gilmor Homes in Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood when he ran from police.

Gray was booked after Rice and officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller found a knife they deemed illegal in Gray’s pocket. The state’s attorney has said the knife was legal and Gray should have never been taken into custody. He died a week after his injury in the van.

Rice is charged with manslaughter, misconduct in office, reckless endangerment and assault. All of the officers have pleaded not guilty.

I suspect that the prosecution is hoping to convict the highest-ranking officer involved of something–anything–in the hope that would somehow make it easier to convict the rest.

The Company You Keep:

Mom told us all, and as usual, she was right: the people you hang out with define you. The Baltimore Sun has the story: 

The man who ran with Freddie Gray last April pleaded guilty Thursday [03-10-16] to conspiracy to commit murder in an unrelated case.

Davonte Roary, 21, admitted to taking part in a shooting in an alley behind Gilmor Homes — yards away from where his friend Gray was arrested on April 12.

So what? What does this have to do with Freddie Gray. Quite a bit, actually.

Case records state that Roary initially admitted to a related drug deal, but said he knew nothing about the shooting.

Three months after Gray’s death, Roary had agreed to sell $200 worth of heroin to a group driving from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Baltimore, according to court records. When the group pulled into the alley, the driver and Roary discussed the transaction and got into a disagreement, after which another male approached the car, pointed a gun at the driver and said ‘I want your money,’ records show.

The driver began to pull away when a witness said Roary ordered the other man to ‘shoot him’ and the man shot the driver in the back, according to the records. The man survived, driving himself a few blocks away to call for medical help.

That evening, police tracked the phone used to arrange the drug deal to Roary’s house in North Baltimore. The driver and another witness positively identified Roary as the dealer who met with the Eastern Shore group, records show. No one has identified the shooter.

Zeigler said her son is innocent and described the charges against him as ‘harassment’ for his being with Gray on the morning he was arrested. She said he was taking the plea deal to get out of jail, where he’s been held since August.

This is significant in that it was the express request of Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby that the officers eventually charged in Gray’s death focus their patrol efforts on that very area, which also happens to be the district Mosby’s city councilman husband, Nick, represents. Why?  Out of control drug dealing bothering the residents.  Absent her request–which the police would, and did, routinely take as an order–Freddie Gray probably would never have come into contact with the police that day. As a low-level drug dealer and general criminal, Gray certainly would have had future contacts with the police, but he would possibly still be alive. As Mr. Roary’s actions clearly demonstrate, drug dealing and use is an inherently dangerous way to live.

Oh, but Gray really didn’t know Roary. He was just some guy that lived in the neighborhood, as Barack Obama said of domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. Not quite:

Roary described Gray as a lifelong friend who ‘was always happy.’ Zeigler considered Gray as part of the family and said he was always a joker and loved to eat at their home.

Roary also provided some significant information about why he and Gray were on a corner known as a drug transfer location:

Davonte Roary out for a morning jog. credit: baltimoresun

Davonte Roary out for a morning jog. credit: baltimoresun

When Roary ran with Gray the morning of April 12, city surveillance cameras show him sprinting into a Gilmor apartment building shortly before Gray was arrested. Roary told The Baltimore Sun that he had met Gray that morning to have breakfast and they had begun to jog to Gilmor when police began their pursuit of them.

Hmm. So, two drug dealers running from the police really weren’t running from the police because they were drug dealers. They were meeting for a bit of breakfast and decided to get in a little morning workout beforehand, which is apparently common among Baltimore drug dealers. Obviously, the police seeing two young men out for a jog, for some unfathomable reason, decided to pursue and arrest them. Right.

Final Thoughts And Clarification:

The comments section of Update 33.4 became a bit interesting. Regular reader and commenter everlastingphelps wrote:

You are absolutely shy about examining the evidence. You will admit wrongdoing when it is absolutely undeniable, like the cop in Carolina who shot the fleeing suspect in the back, (which to be fair, other people like Conservative Treehouse tried to excuse even in THAT undeniable a case).

For anything short of absolute, in your face evidence? You turn beyond

a reasonable doubt into beyond ANY doubt, no matter how unreasonable. You are still arguing that Freddy Gray essentially committed suicide. That isn’t a reasonable doubt. That’s saying OJ is innocent because his Goldman and Simpson actually slit each other’s throats.

There are no incredible cops for you. Every cop is telling the truth until is is undeniably refuted by video. By the same token, there are no credible complaints about police without overwhelming amounts of evidence.

Circumstantial evidence that would be more than enough to convict a private citizen becomes reasonable doubt in your mind. That is a bias that I do not share. You treat cops like black people treat OJ.

For the benefit of those that have not read every article in the Freddie Gray archive–by all means, do; you may find it interesting–please, gentle readers, allow me to clarify my general thoughts on Freddie Gray’s death.

* I do not believe Freddie Gray committed suicide, and I know of no evidence to that effect.

* The evidence is clear: Gray was under the influence of opiates and pot, though I know of no evidence purporting to suggest to what degree.

* After being captured and handcuffed, Gray passively resisted, and later, during transport, began to thrash violently in the transport van.

* There is evidence that Gray participated in “crash for cash” schemes in the past. It is possible that is what he was trying to do–produce some apparent, but non-serious injuries–when the unremarkable driving of Officer Ceasar Goodman caused him to lose his balance, and because he was restrained hand and foot, he injured himself far more seriously than he intended.

* Dr. Vincent DiMaio said it best when he testified that Gray’s death was an accident, and “accidents happen.”

* The officers involved were following normal, daily police procedures and were not reckless or negligent. I come to this conclusion because there is no known evidence to prove they were reckless or negligent.  They treated Gray just like any other unremarkable arrestee.

* There was no probable cause to arrest them in Gray’s death, which was an accident, primarily caused by Gray. This is not “blaming the victim,” but analyzing the evidence to its most likely conclusion.

Again, for those wishing to more fully understand the case, the Freddie Gray archive contains a great deal more detail as to probable cause–actually a complete lack of it–ridiculous charge stacking, and the political motivations for the charges against the six officers.

As I’ve said, over and over again, I do not entirely discount the possibility the officers may have had some actual role in Gray’s death, and am willing to alter my analysis accordingly should such evidence come to light. However, after one failed trial, no such evidence has surfaced.  The trial of Officer Porter was obviously the trial the prosecution felt most likely to result in conviction, and the trial where most, if not all, of the evidence against the officers must have been introduced.  There was no actual evidence, only supposition and innuendo, and the Prosecutors have admitted they have no additional evidence by their insistence that Porter’s testimony must be given or they have no case against anyone else.

Such things should be clearly understood before any prosecutor files any charges, not in desperation when faulty charges fail. If the prosecutors behaved professionally and without political panic, no charges would have been filed.

And the social justice band plays on.

Update, 03-15-16:  Here are the new trial dates, for the moment, courtesy of the Baltimore Sun: 

Officer Edward Nero: May 10

Officer Caesar Goodson: June 6

Lt. Brian Rice: July 5

Officer Garrett Miller: July 27

Officer William Porter: Sept. 6

Sgt. Alicia White: Oct. 13

I’m not going to try to fathom the trial strategy of the prosecution in this new schedule, but if the past is any guide, these dates are likely only temporary.