Defense rests in Nero trial, verdict due Monday

Posted at 7:45 AM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 17:23:12-04

Judge Barry Williams will render his verdict in the case against Officer Edward Nero on Monday.
With a bench trial, there is no gray area which is why the defense wrapped its argument Wednesday morning around the black and white Officer Nero's police training.

The defense’s last witness was Baltimore Police Captain Justin Reynolds who was recognized as an expert in police policy, procedure and prisoner transport.

He testified that a new police order issued April 9, 2015 making belting prisoners mandatory, was not distributed correctly.

Reynolds said in addition to email, officers should receive paper copies to sign off, get instructed at roll call and if necessary, trained; none of which happened with policy 1114.

Even so, Reynolds says there is another police order which always allows for discretion on behalf of a police officer.
The captain ended his testimony saying of Nero at stops 1 and 2, “I believe his actions were reasonable.”

"Certainly the defense by bringing in an expert that is willing to say that the officer here acted reasonably and was not trained and therefore should not have known he should have buckled in on every occasion, that helps their case,” said Associate Professor at University of Baltimore School of Law David Jaros.

As did Reynolds’ testimony that the training Nero may have received in the academy for defensively buckling a prisoner was only applicable to a squad car with shoulder seatbelts and not wagons.

He said there is no way to restrain a prisoner with one arm while buckling a two piece lap belt with another inside a van.

It was yet more testimony serving to put Baltimore Police training tactics on trial and not Officer Nero.

"It just helps the defense reinforce its arguments that it will ultimately make in closing arguments that officer Nero did nothing wrong, he acted as a reasonable officer would and using these other experts all of whom were acting police officers helps to reinforce that point," said local defense attorney following the case Warren Alperstein.

It was a point the state refused to concede saying Freddie Gray was cooperative at stop one and should have been belted, if not placed at all in the van in the first place.

Still, the defense rested its case on that last witness and after another motion to dismiss the indictment was denied, Judge Williams scheduled closing arguments for tomorrow morning and his verdict for Monday giving him at least 3 full days to weigh this case and some say perhaps, its implications.

"We don't know whether or not he's considered the ramifications of his ruling. Whether or not if he convicts there may be this chilling effect on police work around the city. If he acquits whether it is going to ignite riots and protests in the streets," local defense attorney Warren Brown said.

Either way come Monday, the first verdict in any of the cases surrounding the death of Freddie Gray will officially be reached.   

Edward Nero was given the option to testify in his own defense, the officer opted for his right to remain silent.

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