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  December 1, 2015

How Jurors Are Being Selected for the Trial of William Porter

TRNN reports from the Baltimore courtroom for the case of William Porter, the first of six officers charged in the killing of Freddie Gray
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TAYA GRAHAM, TRNN: This is Taya Graham reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.

I'm here in front of the Mitchell Courthouse, where six officers are being tried for the in-custody death of Freddie Gray. The first of the six officers to be tried is Officer William Porter. He's charged with four criminal counts, including reckless endangerment, manslaughter, and second-degree assault. This is the second day of the trial, and there also have been protests just the other night, a march to the Inner Harbor.

[Footage of protesters]

GRAHAM: Real News reporter Jaisal Noor is here with me to give us an update on the jury selection process and the trial.

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: So today was the second day of jury selection. Yesterday there was about 75 potential jurors who were questioned throughout the day. They were all dismissed at around 5:40 PM yesterday. They'll be notified if they're selected to return on Wednesday, tomorrow. So today there was a brand new set of 75 jurors. And this set of 75, they had all heard of the Freddie Gray case. They had all heard of the curfew. But one had not heard of the $6.5 million civil settlement between Freddie Gray's family and the city of Baltimore, which was a change from yesterday.

GRAHAM: So the jury has been meeting in Judge Barry Williams' private chambers, and the selection process and questioning is occurring there. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

NOOR: Yes, so this is highly unusual. Beyond the about dozen or so questions that were asked of the entire jury pool yesterday and today, all of the questioning by--all the further questioning by the judge and the attorneys is all happening behind closed doors. And this is to protect the anonymity of the juror pool, which has been strongly advocated for by the defense. But this is highly unusual, and transparency advocates have, you know, raised issues about this. They say this should all be out in the public so the public can know, so the media and the public can know what is being asked, and more about who these jurors are. They're going to be deciding a very critical trial for the city.

GRAHAM: Very true. Is there any idea yet of what the racial composition of the jury might look like?

NOOR: It was really hard for me to get a sense of the racial composition yesterday because I was in the overflow room. Today some of the media in the courtroom was absent, so I got a spot in the actual courtroom. From my numbers, from the 75, more than half, about 45, were African-American. About 27 were white. And the rest were either Asian or I couldn't determine their race. So they were majority African-American, which makes sense in a city that is majority African-American, Baltimore.

GRAHAM: So when does the judge say that the jury selection process will actually be over?

NOOR: Judge Barry Williams has not indicated that, but he has said the jury selected from Monday's pool will be called back on Wednesday. And later today we're assuming to hear the same news, that the jury selected from today's pool will meet Wednesday. And two things could happen. They could either have decided on a jury, or they'll be using Wednesday to further whittle down those remaining jurors in an effort to seat a jury here.

And it's important to note that the defense does not want the trial to be held in Baltimore, and they don't believe a jury can be seated. So the defense is going to be doing whatever they can to draw this process out and to delay this process. The prosecution, the state's attorney's office, does want the trial to be held here. So they're going to do whatever they can to make sure that a jury is seated as quickly as possible.

GRAHAM: So the juror selection process hasn't been completed, but also the prosecutors and the defense haven't had an opportunity to vet these jurors. Is that correct?

NOOR: Right. So all the questioning has been done behind closed doors. From our understanding Judge Barry Williams has been doing the questioning. But the defense and the prosecution have been with Barry Williams in that closed chamber. The prosecution and defense will still get their strikes to take out potential jurors that they do not like. So that is a process that is still, still has to happen. And from what we understand that will begin on Wednesday, when the select jurors are called back from today's pool and from yesterday's pool.

GRAHAM: Thank you so much for the update, Jaisal. We appreciate it.

NOOR: Thank you for having me.

GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham and Jaisal Noor reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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