Bench trial of Baltimore officer in death of black man gets under way

Michel CooperLast Update : Thursday 12 May 2016 - 1:25 PM
Bench trial of Baltimore officer in death of black man gets under way

<span class="articleLocation”>A Baltimore police officer goes on trial Thursday on charges stemming from the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died from injuries while in police custody.

Edward Nero, 30, is the second officer to face trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court over Gray’s death from a broken neck suffered in a police transport van.

The death sparked rioting and protests across the majority black city of 620,000 people. The incident is one of those highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Nero waived his right to a trial by jury during a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday. Judge Barry Williams will decide his fate in a bench trial.

Nero is charged with second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. All are misdemeanors.

Five other officers face charges, ranging from misconduct in office to second-degree murder.

Legal experts have said police officers normally waive their rights to a jury because they think judges are more likely to render a not guilty verdict or impose a lighter sentence.

Defense lawyers had tried to have the trials moved from Baltimore. They contended that media coverage and the unrest had made it impossible to find an impartial jury.

Williams has said the trial could run through at least Wednesday of next week.

Nero was among officers who arrested Gray, 25, in April 2015 when he ran from them unprovoked. Gray was not secured by a seatbelt in the police van and an autopsy showed he died from a spinal injury that happened during transport.

The first trial, that of Officer William Porter, ended in a hung jury in December.

Porter and another officer, Garrett Miller, are expected to be called as prosecution witnesses. Both have been granted immunity from having their testimony used in their trials.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Bernard Orr)

Source: Reuters US

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2016-05-12 2016-05-12
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Michel Cooper