Police trials in Freddie Gray case to remain in Baltimore, judge rules

Six Baltimore police officers are facing charges in connection with the unarmed black man's death this past spring.

Bryan Woolston/REUTERS
Local activist Darius Rosebrough (l.) speaks with Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis on the second day of pretrial motions for six police officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland September 10, 2015. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams on Thursday rejected defense motions requesting a change of venue for the trials of six police officers in the case of a black man who died in April from injuries in police custody.

A Baltimore judge on Thursday denied a request for a change of venue for the trials of six police officers charged in the death of a black man who died from an injury in police custody.

The death of Freddie Gray Jr. in April triggered protests, including a day of rioting and fueled a US debate on police treatment of minorities.

Defense lawyers for the officers had argued before Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams that intense publicity made it impossible to hold a fair trial in Baltimore.

"The citizens of Baltimore are not monolithic," Williams told a packed courtroom. "They think for themselves."

Protesters outside the courthouse cheered the decision.

The hearing came a day after the city's financial control board approved a $6.4 million civil settlement to the Gray family.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the settlement would help avoid a drawn-out legal process and resolve any civil claims against Baltimore and the officers.

The Fraternal Order of Police criticized the settlement because it had been reached before the officers' cases were heard. Trial has been set for next month.

Police arrested Gray, 25, on April 12 after a foot chase in crime-ridden West Baltimore. He was bundled into a police transport van while shackled and handcuffed and was not placed in a seatbelt. Officers ignored his request for medical aid.

He died a week later from a spinal injury, sparking protests and rioting in the largely black city of about 620,000 people. National Guard troops were sent in to restore order and Rawlings-Blake imposed a curfew.

The officers face charges ranging from second-degree depraved heart murder to assault and misconduct. Three of the officers are white and three are black, including one woman.

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