Since the tragic death of Freddie Gray we’ve seen indictments and a settlement for the family. But the trials for the officers charged in the Freddie Gray case continue to loom on. In December of 2015, a mistrial was declared in the case of Officer William G. Porter. The remaining five officers are slated to begin trials soon despite tactics from the prosecutors to postpone them. Initially, Marilyn Mosby’s office requested that Officer Porter be forced to testify against two of the other officers. However, in a turn of events, her office has requested that he testify against all five of his fellow officers facing charges. This move to force his testimony against all five officers backfired when Judge Barry Williams questioned the prosecutor’s motive and accused the prosecutors office of trying to stall trials.
Officer Porter had been ordered to testify in the trial of Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. Judge Barry Williams granted Porter limited immunity in exchange for his testimony, promising that nothing Porter says on the witness stand will be used against him during his June trial. Porter and his lawyers were shocked at the order to testify because the United States Constitution protects against self-incrimination in the Fifth amendment. The amendment asserts that: “[No person]…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…” This ordered testimony called into question, how could Porter testify about the incidents that happened without indeed incriminating himself? Limited immunity and complete immunity are two different things. Limited immunity still allows for Porter’s testimony to incriminate him.
Attorneys for Goodson told the Baltimore Sun that: “forcing a fellow officer charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray to testify against Goodson could lead to scenarios that completely eviscerate the purpose of their constitutional protections.”
Goodson and Porter’s attorneys both believe that the attempt by the prosecutor to override or limit the constitutional rights of Porter is not constitutional and furthermore causes them to question the limited immunity promised to Porter that typically has only been provided to witnesses and not defendants. The state never provided case law that supports this type of immunity for a defendant like Porter.
So the question becomes, has Marilyn Mosby and her team started to fumble the ball on these cases? Why are they attempting to stall the trials? Do they have enough evidence that can hold up in a court of law that will support the jury coming to a verdict? Hopefully, we shall see but until then it’s now in the hands of the Maryland State Court of Appeals to determine if Judge Williams can compel Porter to testify. That hearing will be held on March 4. If the court finds that Porter can’t be compelled to testify we should all start to wonder how this will affect other cases and, most importantly, if justice will be delayed or denied.