William Porter: ‘Baltimore cop’ must testify in Freddie Gray trials

William Porter: Baltimore cop must testify in Freddie Gray trials
William Porter: Baltimore cop must testify in Freddie Gray trials

William Porter, one of six officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray, will have to testify against his fellow officers, according to a ruling from Maryland’s Appeals Court on Tuesday.

In its ruling, the state’s highest court gives Baltimore prosecutors the opportunity to use William Porter as a witness in the trials of Sgt. Alicia White, Lt. Brian Rice and Officers Caesar Goodson, Edward Nero and Garrett Miller.

“Well, it’s not particularly surprising. Both sides in its arguments were very compelling. But ultimately, at the end of the day, the state got what it wanted, obviously. Officer Porter will now be compelled to testify against the other five officers, which exactly, again, is what the state wanted to see happen,” legal analyst Warren Alperstein said.

The court also reversed an order from Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams that ruled William Porter did could not be compelled to testify in the trials of Rice, Nero and Miller.

Prosecutors argued that they had the right to compel William Porter to testify because they were offering him limited immunity in those cases.

Defense attorneys argued that compelling William Porter to testify would violate his right against self-incrimination. Porter was the first officer to go on trial on charges related to the in-custody police death of Gray. However, that trial ended with a hung jury and Porter is expected to be retried in June.

The orders, which were just two pages, came days after the Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case.

The court’s decision is a historic one in the state and sets precedents in how testimony can be used among co-defendants.

“This is a monumental decision in Maryland appellate courts,” Alperstein said. “What this in effect says is a court can compel court defendants to testify against each other, even when these co-defendants are pending their own trial. So this is a big decision, not just because it’s Freddie Gray, in the aftermath of the riots, etc., but this has far-reaching effects across the state of Maryland.”

The court’s order did not include an opinion outlining how the ruling came about. Alperstein said that although the defense has the right to appeal, it may wait to do so until after the opinion has been released.

“I think the attorneys will wait to see what the opinion is and the rationale behind the court’s decision and at that point, the attorneys will ultimately make the decision whether or not to appeal to the Supreme Court,” Alperstein said.

There is no word on when the opinion on the ruling will be released.

Meanwhile, Rice’s case, which was scheduled for Wednesday in Baltimore City Circuit Court, will be postponed, court officials said Tuesday. A new tentative date of April 13 was officially set into the court record during a postponement hearing Tuesday afternoon.

The ultimate series of dates for all of the trials will be determined after Judge Williams meets with counsel in the near future, officials said.