Opening arguments are underway in the first trial in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who died in April, after Baltimore officers gave him a “rough ride” in a police van that severed his spine. Six officers have been charged in the matter, and Officer William G. Porter is the first to appear before the court.
Porter, who is a Black Baltimore native, is facing a jury that closely reflects the racial makeup of his city. Eight of the 12 jurors (66 percent) are Black—five women, three men. The jury is rounded out with three White women and one White man. Citywide, 63 percent of Baltimoreans are Black and nearly 32 percent are White.
Porter pleaded not guilty to the charges of manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. The Baltimore Sun reports that the trial is expected to set the tone for the subsequent trials and Porter is up first because he will serve as a material witness against two of the other officers.
Gray’s death touched off massive demonstrations in the city, as residents revolted against a police force they feel doesn’t value the lives of people of color. In his opening argument, Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said that Porter, who failed to put Gray in a seatbelt, “criminally neglected his duty” to help Gray and is “on trial for what he did, and more important what he didn’t do.”