In the Media: Md. Highest Court Hears Porter Arguments; Video Shows Police Slapping Student
A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.
From the Baltimore Sun: Maryland’s Highest Court Hears Arguments Over Porter Testimony in Freddie Gray Cases
"The state's highest court convened Thursday to consider a key question holding up trials in the Freddie Gray case: Can Officer William Porter be forced to testify against his fellow officers?
"The court's seven judges peppered attorneys for the state and for the six Baltimore police officers charged in Gray's arrest and death with questions about the protections of the state's immunity statute, and whether prosecutors have an absolute right to deploy it as a legal tool.
"The judges did not immediately issue a ruling, and it's not clear when they will.
"At one point, Judge Clayton Greene Jr. asked Porter's attorney why it's a problem for Porter to testify as a witness, given that he already testified in December at his own trial, which ended in a hung jury.
"But Judge Lynne A. Battaglia said prosecutors face a 'minefield' of problems in their retrial of Porter if they push forward with him as a witness in the other trials. An attorney for the state's attorney's office agreed, saying prosecutors will encounter a 'heavy burden.'"
From the Baltimore Sun: Uneven Justice for Baltimore’s Rioters
"Allen Bullock, who knew Freddie Gray, took out his frustration over his friend's death on a police car last spring. A photographer captured him standing on the hood, wielding an orange traffic cone like a baseball bat as he smashed in the car's windshield. He's looking straight into the camera, mid strike. And just like that, he became the teen-age face of the Baltimore riots.
"This week, he took a plea deal in the criminal case filed against him. Under the agreement, he will be sentenced later this month to 12 years in prison, with all but six months of the time suspended, and he is required to complete hundreds of hours of community service. The sentence is a small fraction of the nine-year, unsuspended term prosecutors wanted — yet it's far worse than most punishments doled out for those caught up in the chaotic few days of crime last year.
"Despite law enforcement promises to hold rioters accountable, relatively few have been prosecuted. Of the approximately 550 people arrested during the uprising in late April and early May, fewer than 100 were charged with any kind of significant crime, according to my analysis of police and online court records, and most of them either had their cases dropped or shelved, or they were given minor suspended sentences.
"While the records don't tell the whole story, they do show how haphazard justice can seem in Baltimore. One woman was held in jail on $50,000 bail for almost seven months, only to have all charges against her (burglary, theft and malicious destruction) dropped by prosecutors. And bail amounts for those charged with inciting a riot, among the more serious charges made, ranged from zero to Mr. Bullock's $500,000, which was well above the bail set for the police officers charged in Gray's actual death."
From the Baltimore Sun: Criminal Investigation Launched After Video Shows School Police Officer Slapping Young Man
"Law enforcement officials launched a criminal investigation Wednesday after video surfaced of a Baltimore school police officer slapping and kicking a teenage youth while a second officer watches.
"The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon on the steps outside a city high school. School Police Chief Marshall Goodwin and the two officers in the video were placed on administrative leave, and activists renewed calls for the Department of Justice to investigate the school police.
"School officials have released few details of the incident, and there is disagreement about whether the youth is a student.
"On Wednesday, acting School Police Chief Akil Hamm said the two officers responded to REACH Partnership School in Clifton Park after two 'intruders' were reported inside. He said their presence was considered a threat.
"The officers moved the two young men outside, Hamm said. He said school officials had determined that the two were not students by consulting with school administrators, who could not identify them. He said police wanted the community's help identifying them.
"Attorney Lauren Geisser, who said she represents the 16-year-old youth and his parents, said he does attend the school. Geisser said the youth, whom she declined to identify because he is a minor, went to the hospital for injuries to his ribs and face."