Jury Hears Closing Arguments During Trial of William Porter in Freddie Gray Case

Story Transcript

STEPHEN JANIS, TRNN: This is Stephen Janis reporting from the Real News Network in Baltimore.

We’re outside Mitchell Courthouse where closing arguments in the case of William Porter, the first officer being tried in the death of Freddie Gray, have just concluded. Our reporter Jaisal Noor has been inside the courthouse during the arguments, and is here with an update. So give us a little bit of outline of what first the prosecution said in closing.

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: I’d say that the prosecution provided a much more compelling closing argument. Jan Bledsoe, who presented the closing argument, she had the seatbelt that Freddie Gray was not buckled in, that contained his blood from the fact that he was injured in the van. And she used that as a prop in her opening statement. The courtroom was packed. More people than we’ve seen throughout any part of this trial. And I think the prosecution did an effective job of laying out not what, not what William Porter did do, but what he didn’t do. The fact he didn’t buckle in Freddie Gray, and William Porter did not call prompt medical attention. And he also used William Porter’s own police interrogation, his own conversations with police investigators against him. And I think she presented a fairly compelling case in the process.

JANIS: You were also tweeting out, which is interesting, that also the prosecution really stuck to the, said the law is really what’s governed this. Not officer’s discretion or decisions, but really the law. Can you talk a little bit about that?

NOOR: Right. So the issue is what a reasonable officer would do. And that’s key because the defense did everything they could to paint the idea of a reasonable officer as William Porter. Not buckling Freddie Gray in, because they didn’t think that Freddie Gray was injured, because no–they presented many other police witnesses who said they rarely if ever buckle in passengers in the back of a wagon. And also got to the issue of training, was William Porter trained on these facts?

And so that was the defense’s argument, that he was reasonable. But I think the prosecution–you know, they also appealed to common sense. Do you buckle in passengers in your car? And they even were able to cross examine William Porter on that question. And even he acknowledged that when he, when he has a friend or anyone else in his car, he buckles them in for their safety. It’s common sense.

JANIS: And so the defense, was the defense, was the defense sort of reiterating, did they come up with anything new that struck you during their, during their closing remarks? Anything that stuck out?

NOOR: So I’d have to say the defense’s closing was lackluster. It just was not as compelling, not as energetic as the prosecution’s case. The defense actually went through every single witness. They went through the prosecution’s witness, went through their entire case. And you know, you could tell that the court was impacted by it. People were leaving the court. I actually had to get up at one point to stretch my legs because I kind of felt like I was getting lost in the monotony of it.

Again, they appealed to the–they made the appeal that William Porter was acting reasonably. They also, they also said the prosecution was playing on the, on the jury’s fears of what might happen if, if the defendant, William Porter is found not guilty. And they also said the prosecution didn’t have evidence, they didn’t have hard facts, and which–which is true, to a certain extent. But they, but the prosecution did present all the testimony that William Porter gave, the testimony of other witnesses, other police officers.

And so I think, I think the defense is going to definitely, it’s definitely going to be an uphill battle for them.

JANIS: Let me ask you a question. You talk about Jan Bledsoe having the belt. What was the courtroom like when she brought that belt out? Give us a little bit of like, inside, what it was like.

NOOR: I think it was a gripping moment. Earlier the jury had had, you know, found out that Freddie Gray’s own blood was on that belt. That’s a key part of the evidence symbolically, because William Porter is charge with not, essentially not seatbelting Freddie Gray in, and the allegation is that could have saved Freddie Gray’s life. If he was seatbelted in that wagon, Freddie Gray might have been alive. He likely would have been a paraplegic, but he would still be with us today.

So it was–and she made the point, it only takes three, four seconds to seatbelt, seatbuckle him in. William Porter was in the wagon with him. He had lifted him up. Sat him down on the bench. But the fact that he didn’t buckle him in could have cost Freddie Gray his life.

JANIS: So where do we go from here? What are we waiting for now? The defense is, is there going to be a rebuttal? Or [inaud.].

NOOR: So the prosecution has their rebuttal, which will give them a chance to counter some of the defense arguments. I think we have–we know, we know what the, we know the arguments they’re making. And I think it’s going to be pretty straightforward. And then the case goes to the jury. The judge, Barry Williams, has said he wants the trial to wrap up by the 17th. I think it might be even quicker than that. It might be over within the next few days.

JANIS: All right. Jaisal, thank you so much. He’s going to continue his coverage from the courthouse for the Real News. We’ll be out here with updates regularly throughout the next couple days. My name is Stephen Janis, I’m a reporter for the Real News Network in Baltimore.

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