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Opening arguments seek to exonerate William Porter of wrongdoing

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JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m standing in front of the Mitchell Courthouse here in Baltimore Maryland. It’s the third day of the trial of William Porter. He’s the first of six officers to be charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Today a twelve-person jury, eight black and four white, were seated. Today also the prosecution and defense gave their opening arguments. We also saw the questioning of the first witness. To provide analysis of today we talked to University of Maryland law professor and legal expert Doug Colbert. The defense’s opening arguments, they told the jurors that they may want to quell further unrest, might want to find the defendant not guilty, but they have to focus on the facts. That was the opening, the opening statement. What’s your response to that? DOUG COLBERT: They’re trying very hard to focus on reasonable doubt, and the fact that the prosecution has this burden. And they don’t want the jury to be thinking about the consequences should they reach a verdict of not guilty. NOOR: They argued that Porter did not know the policy requiring him to seatbelt his passenger. COLBERT: That was in their opening statement. I think the first witness accomplished what the prosecution sought, which was the officer received training. The instructor testified that she provided numerous examples of the officer knowing how and what to do in a situation where the prisoner was complaining of not breathing. So I thought overall that the prosecution witness established what the prosecution sought. NOOR: And they even said maybe it was the job of the arresting officer or the driver, too. Did that surprise you they would say that? COLBERT: They suggested many different theories which they hope will establish a reasonable doubt. In part that’s what a defense is supposed to do. Whether or not it was too much information for the jury, without specifics, is something that we won’t know until the end of trial. NOOR: They also focused on the character of William Porter. They said, you know, he grew up in the neighborhood, he was serving the neighborhood that he grew up in. Part of the police athletic league. He wanted to help the community. He didn’t give tickets for open containers, he did give tickets for loitering. He wanted to clean it up. He never fired his gun, no use of force complaints. COLBERT: And that may be the defense’s strongest card. It’s unusual to tell a jury at the outset that the accused will be testifying. But the defendant’s testimony certainly appears to be necessary, and may indeed be what the defense needs in this case. There is a great deal of sympathy for a young police officer, but he is inexperienced. And whether or not he conducted himself properly becomes the issue in the case. NOOR: And some of the final words by the defense was, let’s show that the whole damn system is not guilty, riffing off the chant of the protesters on Monday night. COLBERT: I actually didn’t hear that. Say that again? NOOR: So the defense said–so the defense said, let’s show the whole damn system is not guilty. And the protesters’ chant on Monday was the whole damn system is guilty. And so the defense was saying it’s not the whole system, it’s not William Porter. That’s the problem. COLBERT: There is a part of the defense that’s placing responsibility elsewhere, either with the other officers or with the police department itself. And that’s not unusual to try to point the finger, other than at your client. NOOR: And so we’ve seen both opening statements now. Where do things–where do things lie right now? COLBERT: I think today was a good day for the prosecution. I thought that they presented their opening statement effectively. It was moving at times. I think you really began to feel what Freddie Gray had experienced inside the van. And that’s where the prosecution is going to be focusing, inside the van. I think the defense is going to be looking outside as much as inside to show that an officer cannot be held culpable, responsible, for something that he walked upon [a scene]. But perhaps other officers might be. NOOR: Follow us @TheRealNews on Twitter, on Facebook, and our website for ongoing coverage of the Freddie Gray trials. From Baltimore, this is Jaisal Noor.


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