The second day of the Prosecution case in the trial of Lt. Brian Rice, was, by sketchy media accounts, another prosecution disaster. The Prosecution continued to present the same witnesses from the three previous trials, and they gave the same testimony. Actually, in one instance, less, though there was one semi-surprise.
Dr. Morris Soriano testified that Gray’s spinal cord injury would have allowed him to breathe and talk for some time, which is, of course, absolutely necessary if the Prosecution’s narrative is to make any sense at all. Unfortunately, Judge Williams has already crushed that theory. From The Baltimore Sun:
On cross examination, Rice’s attorney Michael Belsky questioned how Soriano had reached that conclusion, asking him whether he had relied on a belief that Gray had been ‘hungry for air’ at one of the later stops of the van.
The question was in reference to a statement that Porter allegedly made to Det. Syreeta Teel, also of the department’s FIT team, that Gray had said he couldn’t breathe.
Of course, if Gray could speak, he could, by definition, breathe. This, however, made no difference:
The statement was allegedly made in an unrecorded conversation between Porter and Teel, and Williams ruled it was inadmissible hearsay — barring it from being introduced at Rice’s trial. He also ordered it redacted from the medical examiner’s autopsy of Gray, one of the documents Soriano reviewed in reaching his conclusion.
As Belsky pushed Soriano to explain the basis of his conclusion, Soriano sighed, and told Williams that it was his understanding that he was ‘not allowed to talk about’ the statement.
Translation: “I can’t explain how I reached that conclusion without parroting stuff the prosecution made up for me.” Judge Williams was not amused:
Williams looked exasperated.
‘Luckily, there’s not 12 people over there,’ he said, gesturing to the empty jury box before telling Soriano that indeed he was not allowed to talk about it.
No media source published anything else Soriano said, which suggests he did nothing at all to forward the Prosecution Narrative. This witness falls into the category of farcical relief and desperation:
The last time Brandon Ross saw Freddie Gray conscious, Gray was in shackles and being moved head first onto the floor of a police transport van by several officers. Ross was screaming in anger from the curb.
‘I was upset — upset how they was treating my friend.
Actually, this testimony supports the officer’s accounts of an hostile, threatening crowd. This is amazing:
As Ross walked through the events of that April morning last year — establishing Rice’s involvement in Gray’s arrest, as well as his own actions at the scene — Rice alternately came off as a ‘jerk,’ as Ross described him, and as the top-ranking officer forced to make a quick decision in a volatile situation, as his defense has suggested.
Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe drew out Ross’ criticisms of Rice, asking him about Rice’s ‘tone of voice’ during Gray’s arrest. Ross said it was ‘loud, aggressive, threatening.
Hmm. Bystanders are aggressively screaming at the police that are making an arrest, and a police officer responds forcefully to suppress them. Imagine that. As has been the pattern throughout these trials, cross-examination destroys everything the prosecution might have hoped to accomplish:
On cross-examination, Chaz Ball, one of Rice’s attorneys, pushed Ross in another direction, getting him to admit that it had sounded like Gray was kicking inside the van, that Gray had been angry and upset, and that his demands to see a supervisor had drawn Rice’s attention.
While Ross insisted that he and others on the scene were not ‘hindering [Rice] from doing his job,’ his cellphone video from the incident, played in full, showed him and others screaming at officers.
Ruh-roh, Shaggy! Also testifying was Det. Michael Boyd who apparently did nothing more than testify to a few foundational issues, such as police radio procedures.
While Boyd testified to a range of evidence, including city surveillance footage and police radio recordings, prosecutors did not ask him about his interview of Rice.
In fact, when Ball tried to bring up that interview when cross-examining Boyd, Bledsoe objected and Williams sustained the objection.
The exchange raised the question of whether Rice’s statement will be entered into evidence during his trial.
Yes it does, and the answer would seem to be no. Obviously, Rice’s statement is entirely unremarkable, and because it is likely merely a recitation of the bare basic facts of the case, and there are no contradictions or smoking guns to which the prosecution can point, or manipulate, they’re objecting to any mention of it. I suspect the Judge has ruled it out of bounds prior to the trial, thus his sustain of Bledsoe’s objection.
This has been the consistent quality of the Sun’s reporting:
The prosecution also called Officer Lloyd Sobboh, a police recruit who participated in a demonstration for police investigators of how mobile he could be in the back of a police van while handcuffed and shackled, and Jamel Baker, a Gilmor Homes resident who watched Gray get placed in the van from his apartment window as Ross yelled at Porter.
Uh-huh. And what did they say? As usual, WBALTV’s coverage was more complete and balanced:
Also testifying was Baltimore police Detective Michael Boyd, who was on the task force that investigated the case. He was on the stand for more than an hour, but did not offer much more than identifying officers photographed at various scenes during Gray’s arrest and transport.
This makes more sense of Ross’ testimony:
In addition, the state called Brandon Ross to the stand. Ross was with Gray when he ran from police on the day of the arrest.
Ross said Rice told him to leave the scene as Gray was being placed into the transport van.
Ross added that he called 911 when Gray was arrested to report the police. He said he used the name Rodney Clark when he called because he ‘didn’t want to be harassed by police.’
‘The police locked up Freddie for nothing,’ Ross said.
Ross testified that he thought Rice acted like a ‘jerk’ from making him leave the scene.
‘Why couldn’t we be around to see what was going on?’ Ross said.
Now we see why Ross thought Rice a jerk. Notice that the prosecution is continually doing its best to criminalize normal, responsible police conduct. When a hostile crowd is gathering around an arrest in a high-crime area, an area the Prosecutor herself asked officers to specifically patrol, it is entirely reasonable to tell that crowd to be on their way. These are not the kind of people that respond to polite entreaties.
And in the belaboring the obvious department:
University of Baltimore law professor David Jaros said the prosecution is working to lay the foundation of its case against Rice. He admits that barring the entry of evidence different from the other officers’ trials, getting a conviction will be tough.
‘This was always going to be a difficult case to prove,’ Jaros said.
‘While the evidence has been mildly different in this case, I believe an acquittal will be likely unless the state has some new evidence.
In the “no kidding” department:
It is clear that the state is just presenting a warmed over version of what they have presented here before in the other cases,’ said defense attorney Warren Brown, who is not connected to the case. ‘It kind of reminds you of the adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
And when you’ve lost the NAACP:
It doesn’t look like there is anything different,’ said Tessa Hill-Astin, president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP.
Looks aren’t deceiving, Ms. Hill-Astin.
A reminder from Update 36:
It was Lt. Rice Freddie Gray saw, freaked out about, and ran from. Rice called for help, and it was Off. Garrett Miller that actually caught and ultimately arrested Gray. During that process, Rice was dealing with a growing and hostile crowd. The officers sent Off. Goodson several blocks away to get away from the crowd, and there, Lt. Rice helped Officers Miller and Nero shackle Gray and prone him on the floor of the van. Rice was briefly in the van–about 9 seconds–and that was the extent of his involvement with Freddie Gray.
Rice had virtually no contact with Freddie Gray, and the prosecution has conceded that the arrest and detention of Gray was lawful. It’s virtually impossible to imagine what additional, new evidence the Prosecution can produce because there is no additional, new, evidence.
The upcoming trial of Sgt. White will be even more devoid of evidence. Unless I’ve missed something significant, Sgt. White never so much as touched Gray. She had nothing to do with his transport, leaving only the seatbelt issue, which is already defunct. Her involvement in the case is even less than that of Lt. Rice.
More as it sort of develops.