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Local News

In the Media: Baltimore Election Review to be Public; Nero Case Defense Expected to Rest Wednesday

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A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: State will allow public to watch Baltimore election review, which focuses on 60 precincts

"State officials say they are focusing on about 60 precincts in their review of irregularities in Baltimore's primary election — a process they agreed Tuesday night to open to the public after a judge was asked to intervene.

"The elections officials had worked behind closed doors Tuesday as the state investigates why the number of votes in the city's April 26 primary was higher than the number of people who checked in at the polls. Officials allowed reporters and campaign representatives to observe the process for about an hour, but then closed the proceedings.

"Late Tuesday, Sheila Dixon's mayoral campaign sought a temporary restraining order seeking to halt the review unless the public was allowed access. At an evening hearing before Baltimore Circuit Judge Althea M. Handy, attorneys for the state and the campaign agreed that the public will be allowed in for the duration of the state's review. Observers will be required to remain in a designated area that was used Tuesday.

"Dixon said the agreement was fair.

"'There is no reason for any part of the vote certification process to be kept hidden from the public,' she said in a statement Tuesday night.

"Linda H. Lamone, the administrator of the elections board, had said the review was private because the warehouse where it is being conducted is a secure building with private voter information inside and the review is a 'reconciliation' of data and not a public canvass.

"Nikki BainesCharlson, deputy administrator at the State Board of Elections, said Tuesday the 60 precincts under scrutiny are located throughout Baltimore. The issues in those precincts — about a fifth of Baltimore's 296 precincts — are 'significantly larger' than in other jurisdictions, she said."

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From the Washington Post: Advocates: Maryland omitted key pollution measure in air-quality report

"Maryland officials left a key pollution measure out of a glowing assessment released this month of the state’s compliance with federal air-quality standards.

"An annual report from the state Department of the Environment touted Maryland’s progress in meeting federal guidelines for air pollutants such as nitrous oxide and ground-level ozone. But it neglected to mention sulfur dioxide, which can cause asthma and other breathing problems.

"Large swaths of northern Anne Arundel and southern Baltimore counties exceed federal limits on sulfur dioxide, according to a preliminary finding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in February. The state has appealed the determination, and the EPA plans to issue a final designation by July 2.

“'We’ve made a lot of great progress on air quality, and we applaud that, but specific communities still have to deal with sulfur-dioxide issues,' said David Smedick, a policy specialist with the Sierra Club environmental group. 'We think that needs to be acknowledged in our state reports.'

"Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the state agency, said the annual report released this month alluded to sulfur dioxide levels by mentioning that the state met federal standards for “fine particle-pollution” in 2012 and that those levels continue to drop.

"Federal guidelines limit sulfur dioxide levels to 75 parts per billion. The state’s analysis shows that the area in question fell slightly below that pollution level, with 71 parts per billion. But the EPA, using Sierra Club measurements, determined that the levels had actually reached 112.3 parts per billion."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Freddie Gray case: Defense expected to rest Wednesday, closings Thursday in trial of Officer Nero

"Attorneys for Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero are expected on Wednesday morning to rest their case in his defense against several charges stemming from the arrest of Freddie Gray, clearing the way for closing arguments to be delivered Thursday morning.

"Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams announced that schedule at the conclusion of testimony on Tuesday. As Nero has selected a bench trial rather than a jury trial, Williams alone will decide Nero's fate on the four charges he faces related to Gray's initial stop and detention and his placement in the back of a police transport van with shackles but no seat belt.

"Nero, 30, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault and misconduct in office in connection with Gray's stop and arrest, for which prosecutors say he lacked reasonable suspicion and probable cause. He also faces reckless endangerment and a second misconduct charge related to Gray's placement in the van, which prosecutors say he did without regard for Gray's safety.

"Williams has not said when he will announce his verdict in the case.

"Since the start of Nero's trial on Thursday, prosecutors have sought to prove his direct involvement in Gray's stop and arrest, suggesting Nero and Officer Garrett Miller violated Gray's Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful seizure. They have also sought to underscore police general orders that require detainees be restrained with seat belts when placed in the back of transport vans.

"Marc Zayon, Nero's attorney, has sought to paint a different picture – portraying Nero as a young officer with little training who only played a secondary role in Gray's arrest. Zayon has said it was Miller who arrested Gray, not Nero, and that Nero was following directives during the incident from his supervisor, Lt. Brian Rice.

"Prosecutors last week played a video of a statement Nero gave to police investigators, in which he seemed to suggest that he and Miller arrested Gray together. They also called Miller to the witness stand on Monday under a rare arrangement giving him limited immunity barring his testimony from being used against him at his own pending trial in July. Miller, 27, faces the same charges as Nero and has pleaded not guilty.

"Miller testified that he alone arrested Gray. He also testified to seeing Nero help Rice place Gray in the back of the van. Prosecutors pointed to a statement Miller had given to police in which he also, like Nero, said 'we' arrested Gray.

"Zayon said prosecutors were inappropriately parsing the officers' words, resting their case on 'one misplaced pronoun.'"

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