Second trial in Freddie Gray case delayed

Posted at 9:40 AM, Jan 11, 2016
and last updated 2018-12-31 20:22:45-05

Jury selection in the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson, the wagon driver most seriously charged in the death of Freddie Gray, was supposed to begin at 9:30 a.m. sharp, but when Judge Barry Williams took the bench, it was to read an order from a higher court saying that it was not going to happen.

"Everything is now put on hold. This is a little different from what we saw at the end of last week where simply the order compelling officer porter to testify was stayed," said legal observer and defense attorney Warren Alperstein.

At issue here is the testimony of the first officer to be tried in last month's mistrial. Officer William Porter implicates Goodson in his taped statement to police in April.

Porter says to detectives that he told the van driver, “Goodson, you should probably take this dude to the hospital.”

It is a powerful statement the state wants against Goodson, but the problem is, Porter still faces a retrial and his defense team thinks he still has the 5th amendment right not to incriminate himself.

Judge Williams ruled last week to compel Porter to testify. Porter then appealed.

By Thursday the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis said the issue of Porter testifying was on hold.

It is an indication, some say of just how important the state considers William Porter as a witness.

“I think we've seen all along the state has been relatively forward with the idea that Officer Porter is a material witness," said associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore David Jaros.

Jaros said the state's case is notably weaker without Porter's testimony and it may be worth fighting up the chain to compel him to do so.

There are real constitutional implications of self-incrimination and immunity, and this ruling will most likely serve as an important precedent.

Jaros said it is one of the reasons why the Court of Special Appeals halted everything as it takes up this issue, but it is also aware it’s currently holding up six high profile trials.

"These things often do speed through the system, particularly in a case like this one which is exceptional, in the public eye,” Jaros said. “It wouldn't surprise me if this becomes everyone's first priority."

But that is just a guess. Next, Porter's attorneys and the state will each file a legal brief.

Oral arguments are expected to follow with each side given a specific time limit to present in front of a panel of three judges who will eventually issue a ruling.

A decision could take weeks or it could take days; either way, for now, the Caesar Goodson trial and all that follow are now on hold until this higher court rules.

The trial of Officer Caesar Goodson was scheduled to begin with jury selection Monday morning.