Potential Jurors Scrutinized in Freddie Gray Trial
On Monday, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams questioned 75 potential jurors in the trial of William Porter, the first officer being tried in the death of Freddie Gray
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 Officer William Porter is the first of six officers to be charged with the in-custody death of Freddie Gray. Officer William Porter is being charged on four criminal counts including reckless endangerment, manslaughter, and second-degree assault. I’m here with Jaisal Noor. Jaisal, can you give us an update on what you’ve seen in the courtroom today?
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: Sure. I was in the courtroom this morning. Actually, I was in the overflow room, because the courtroom was full, which made it a bit of a challenge, because we were in a separate room. We were watching the proceedings–and I say we, me and about three dozen other journalists, watching the proceedings on like, a 36-inch screen, which was from the feed of the security camera. So the image was very obscured. We couldn’t determine the race of the potential jurors, which is an important factor to be considered by the public. So there was challenges to that. But luckily the audio was pretty clear, so we were able to hear the questions that Judge Barry Williams was asking the about 75 jurors who were part of the first wave being questioned today.
GRAHAM: Could you tell us a little bit about the jury selection process and what you saw? Didn’t Judge [Barry Williams] interview them separately?
NOOR: Yes. The judge, first he asked several questions of the jurors, including has anyone heard about the case? And not a single one said they hadn’t. Is anyone aware of the–anyone not aware there was a curfew in effect in Baltimore? Everyone had heard of the curfew. Everyone had heard of the $6.4 million settlement. And from there the judge, he went on to ask questions such as do you have family members employed by law enforcement? And out of those approximately 75, 13 said either they or family were employed by law enforcement.
The question with the most responses was a question if, a question to the jurors, if they themselves had been a victim of crime, or had been arrested or incarcerated for crime, they or a family member. And out of this pool of about 75 jurors about 39 said they had. Which I think tells a lot about Baltimore as a city with lots of crime and lots of violence, and extremely high incarceration rate.
GRAHAM: Do you think the protesters are going to have any influence today?
NOOR: So until about 10:15, about 45 minutes into the proceedings, you could hear protesters outside. You could hear them in the overflow room. And so I imagine you could hear them in the courtroom as well, which was adjacent to the overflow room. And I think it’s–I think everyone, including the state’s attorney, has agreed that the protests have played a role in these charges. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said the fact the officers were charged helped prevent further unrest. And so that’s something the defense has used. You know, they’ve argued the trial needs to be moved outside of the city. They reissued those motions today, before the jury selection process. Barry Williams has said he’s not going to move the trial outside the jury, at least until they try to find a jury that’s impartial.
The jurors’ names will remain anonymous, at least initially, which will provide some protection for the jurors. And the idea is to prevent repercussions for the jurors or have any strong influence from any protests that might be happening.
GRAHAM: Thank you so much for the update.
NOOR: Thank you, Taya.
GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham and Jaisal Noor, reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.
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