Freddie Gray case: Testimony ends in Brian Rice trial
BALTIMORE (CNN) — Attorneys for Baltimore Police Lt. Brian Rice rested their case Tuesday afternoon, a day after the prosecution concluded their testimony.
Rice is the highest ranking of the six officers charged in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who suffered a broken neck in a police transport van on April 12, 2015.
Days of riots, looting and arson followed.
Rice was the supervisor, the first officer to give chase, and put Gray into the transport wagon after he was shackled, but didn’t seat belt him, according to the testimony of other officers.
The final two defense witnesses were medical experts who both said it was clear Gray’s injuries happened all at once, and happened while the van was on its way to the final stop.
Dr. Matthew Ammerman, a neurosurgeon who treats similar injuries, said since Gray was talking and not showing signs he had a broken neck at the earlier van stops, the injury did not happen until the ride immediately before he was found unresponsive.
The testimony is key to the defense theory that Gray didn’t need help at the van’s earlier stops.
The state argued Gray was injured earlier and he got progressively worse during the van ride and needed immediate medical help.
Rice did not take the stand but acknowledged in court he understood he had the option to testify.
Closing arguments are set for 10 a.m. Thursday.
Judge Barry Williams will decide the verdicts since Rice opted for a bench trial instead of a jury trial.
Other officers testify
On Monday the prosecution called two of the other six officers, Edward Nero, who was found not guilty, and William Porter, whose trial ended in a hung jury in December.
Nero testified that Rice put Gray into the transport van after he was shackled. He said Rice pulled him by his arms, left him face down on the floor, and then climbed or slid over him to get out.
Responding to questions from the defense, Nero said Gray was flailing and at times resisting. “The floor was deemed a better position,” he said, because more force would have had to be used to get Gray onto a bench.
Porter, who will be retried in September, was forced to testify under immunity granted by the state.
He described Gray’s position in the van, recalled his request for help and explained how he “assisted” him to the van’s bench.
He asked Gray if he wanted to go to the hospital, and was told “yes,” according to Porter’s account.
When questioned by the defense, Porter said at that point Gray was speaking to him, making eye contact, and did not show any blood or other signs of injury.
The defense was not allowed to question Porter about earlier van stops since the state did not ask about them, but they were allowed to enter portions of the transcript from Porter’s prior testimony into evidence, including comments about the crowd in the area when Gray was arrested.
Two charges eliminated
On, Monday Judge Williams granted the defense motion to throw out one of the charges against Rice, saying the state failed to show that he committed assault.
Prosecutors had argued Gray was assaulted and the instrument of the assault was the police van, however Williams noted the state didn’t prove that Rice ever had control of the vehicle or collaborated with the driver to harm Gray.
Earlier in the trial a charge of misconduct in office against Rice, for making an arrest without probable cause, was dropped by the state after they said Rice was not directly involved in Gray’s arrest.
Rice still faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and a remaining misconduct in office charge for failing to secure Gray with a seat belt.