BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A judge rules Officer William Porter does not have to testify for the prosecution against three of his fellow officers.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren has more on the ruling and what it means.
The judge said that he never expected the Court of Special Appeals to get involved the way they did, postponing the Goodson and White trials indefinitely. The ruling Wednesday means the trials of three officers charged with lesser offenses will go on as scheduled. The first here on Feb. 22.
Prosecutors in the Freddie Gray cases took a blow from the judge, who ruled over their objections that he will not force Officer William Porter to testify in the trials of officers Edward Nero, Garrett Miller and Brian Rice, meaning they’ll move forward as planned for now.
“I don’t think it’s anything like a fatal blow. I think there was a skirmish today that took place. The defense won the procedural skirmish, but the trials are going to continue,” said University of Maryland law professor Doug Colbert.
Prosecutors admitted Porter was not originally a key witness in those trials. Porter’s lawyers called the state’s move a bid to hold the officer hostage and get him to perjure himself as he took the stand five times.
The judge questioned whether it was a rouse so that prosecutors could postpone all the trials, then retry Porter first – the order they originally demanded before his mistrial and still want today.
“The state, like many of us, were not prepared for the appeals court to intervene in the criminal prosecution before a trial was held,” Colbert said. “So right now I think the prosecutors are going to review this ruling, and we may be hearing more before the next trial.”
All of the cases would have been put on hold over the issue of Porter’s testimony because whether he’s force to take the stand or can remain silent and plead the fifth is now being appealed to the state’s second highest court—an issue they won’t resolve at least until March and could be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sergeant Alicia White was in court Wednesday. The judge said that it was inappropriate for her not to be in court and represented when he originally ruled that Officer Porter should be compelled to testify in her case.