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Officer Nero's trial begins this week

Trial for Officer Edward Nero, Involved in Freddie Gray's Arrest, Starts in Baltimore
Posted at 5:08 PM, May 09, 2016
and last updated 2018-12-31 16:50:16-05

One of the arresting officers in the Freddie Gray case, Edward Nero, is scheduled to go on trial this week in Baltimore, ending a near five month delay of trials for all six officers.

The state has charged Nero with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office.

The charges leveled solely against the arrest of Freddie Gray, a case legal experts say is unique.

Complete Freddie Gray coverage

“The prosecutors case is based on a somewhat novel legal theory, that the police officers didn't have the authority to place Mr. Gray under arrest and therefore their touching him and using force upon him is unjustified," said Associate professor of Law at the University of Baltimore David Jaros.

It is novel because that authority to detain is seemingly settled law.

Warren Alperstein, an attorney following these cases, says charging an officer with assault while detaining and arresting a fleeing suspect is complicated and fairly unprecedented legal theory.

"We're definitely in uncharted territory. It is very rare that officer who appear to have been acting in good faith ultimately get charged, arrested and prosecuted for their actions," Alperstein said.

Which is why ultimately, many legal experts in the city believe tomorrow Nero will choose a bench trial and not have his case heard by a jury.

It is his right and his defense team may feel his heady legal argument is better made to a legal mind rather than a jury.

"Given the fact and circumstances, the law that needs to be applied, I believe that if it were in fact a bench trial that is a reasonable and logical decision to make," Alperstein said.

If that is the decision, Nero's trial should move much quicker than what was seen in Officer William Porter's trial.

No jury means no tedious jury selection or instruction and the case will be argued more efficiently with less objections, breaks or foundation witnesses.

"One of the challenges here is not knowing for sure is how the state plans to make its case and therefore what kinds of witnesses they plan to call,” Jaros said, “But it would not surprise me at all if this case were wrapped up this week."

Judge Williams would then be the sole person to convict or acquit Nero on any or all of the charges he faces.

Right now the Nero trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning although just last Friday, the state asked for more time to prepare.

In a motion filed late last week, the State’s Attorney’s Office explained Its offices lost power for a full day and prosecutors are asking the trial start one day later.

If granted, the Nero trial will begin Thursday instead.

Pretrial motions in this case are still scheduled for Tuesday morning at 9:30.

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