Thursday, September 20, 2018

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Baltimore officers plead not guilty in Freddie Gray case; judge appointed to preside

BALTIMORE — Judge Barry G. Williams, a former city prosecutor and civil rights litigator with a no-nonsense reputation, will preside over the high-profile criminal cases against six Baltimore police officers indicted in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.

Williams’ appointment Monday came as each of the officers asked for a jury trial and entered not-guilty pleas in writing — a legal maneuver that allows them to avoid appearing at court arraignments that had been scheduled for next week.

“We look forward to trying this case before Judge Williams,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said in a statement. “The defendants have all entered not-guilty pleas, which is their right. All defendants in this case are presumed innocent, until, or unless they are found guilty.”

Defense attorneys for the officers either declined to comment or could not be reached.

Administrative Judge W. Michel Pierson set a trial date of Oct. 13, with motions hearings scheduled for Sept. 2. Pierson also assigned Williams to the case and allowed for written pleadings, which are rarely entered in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Williams could not comment, as judges in Maryland “cannot talk about their pending cases nor their deliberative process,” said Terri Charles, a Maryland Judiciary spokeswoman.

Williams, 53, has been an associate judge in Baltimore Circuit Court since 2005, according to his official biography. He led the court’s criminal division from 2012 until January and chaired the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for Baltimore from 2012 until 2014.

Warren Alperstein, an attorney who represents the city’s bar association on the council, praised Williams’ selection for a case that he said could turn into a spectacle under a less commanding judge.

“He is a no-nonsense, fair and practical judge who will no doubt control that courtroom,” Alperstein said. Williams is “neither state- nor defense-oriented” by reputation, he said.

“The reality of it is there are certain judges that the state would prefer and there are certain judges that the defense would prefer,” but Williams is neither, Alperstein said. “He will not be persuaded by media. He will not be influenced by public sentiment. He will rule as the law will require him to do. Period. There will be no outside influences.”

Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody in April. His death a week after his arrest sparked protests over police brutality and unrest in the city — including looting and rioting — that drew international attention to the case.

Mosby filed charges against six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and death, and all six were subsequently indicted by a Baltimore grand jury.

Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder. Sgt. Alicia D. White, Lt. Brian W. Rice and Officer William G. Porter are charged with manslaughter. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller face lesser charges, including second-degree assault.

Tribune News Service

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