6 trials, 1 case: Why officers are being tried separately in Freddie Gray death

A Baltimore judge is expected on Tuesday to set trial dates for six police officers charged in relation to the April death of Freddie Gray.

Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun/AP
Sheriff's deputies stand in a line on Lexington Street in Baltimore as protesters rally outside the courthouse at Calvert and Lexington during court proceedings in the Freddie Gray case, Sept. 10.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams is expected to set a trial date Tuesday afternoon for six police officers charged with the death of Freddie Gray this spring.

The six officers are being tried separately and face charges ranging from second-degree assault to second-degree "depraved-heart" murder.

Earlier this month, Judge Williams ruled that the case will be split into six to ensure that each officer gets a fair trial.

“Williams said that trying the officers together would not be 'in the interest of justice' because key evidence that's admissible with regards to one officer may be inadmissible for another. The officers are charged with a range of offenses, from murder to misconduct, as each played a different role in Gray's arrest and transport," The Baltimore Sun reported.

Mr. Gray was a 25-year-old black man who died on April 19 after sustaining a critical spinal cord injury while in police custody. A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, after which prosecutors charged the six officers involved in his arrest and transport.

Gray’s death sparked widespread protests in Baltimore and increased tension linked to police treatment of minorities. The tensions were fueled also by Eric Garner’s death in New York City after being put in a chokehold by an officer, and that of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, who was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., August 2014. [Editor's note: An earlier version mischaracterized the shooting.]

According to investigators Gray asked for medical care during the police van ride after his April 12 arrest, and one of the officers, William Porter told investigators “he wasn't sure if Gray was in distress, or trying to convince officers to take him to the hospital instead of jail.”

Police officers' statements reviewed by investigators differ and this offers further explanation for why the judge ordered separate trials for the six officers charged in the incident “Some of the statements provide differing accounts of events that day; defense attorneys have argued in court that such conflicts could create problems in a joint trial,” the Sun reported.

The city of Baltimore has already agreed to pay Gray's family $6.4 million to settle any civil claims in his death.

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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