A Baltimore judge on Tuesday set trial dates, the first beginning in November, for six police officers charged in the death of a black man from an injury suffered in police custody, an event that triggered protests, arson and rioting.
Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams scheduled individual trials with start dates ranging from Nov. 30 to March 9 for the officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray in April.
Gray, 25, died from a spinal injury suffered in the back of a police van following an arrest, leading to protests and a day of rioting in the largely black city.
It also fueled a US debate on police treatment of minorities.
"The court does find good cause to postpone this case," Williams said as he moved back the Oct. 13 start of the trial.
The first officer to be tried will be Officer William Porter. Prosecutors have argued that he is a key witness against Officer Caesar Goodson, the van's driver, and Sergeant Alicia White, and should be tried before them.
Citing an initial police review, the Baltimore Sun reported on Saturday that Porter had told Goodson that Gray appeared to need medical assistance, but none was provided at the time.
Goodson faces the most serious charge, second-degree depraved heart murder, as well as manslaughter, assault and misconduct counts. His trial is set to begin on Jan. 6.
White, Porter and Lieutenant Brian Rice are charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct. Williams set White's trial for Jan. 25, and Rice's for March 9.
Three of the officers are black and three are white. Porter was the only one not to appear at the hearing.
Doug Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor, told reporters that prosecutors apparently saw the Porter case as among their strongest and wanted to go with it first.
Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero are charged with second-degree assault and misconduct. Their trials will begin on Feb. 9 and 22, respectively.
Williams agreed last month to defense motions to hold individual trials. He rejected a defense request that the trials be moved because of intense publicity.
Police arrested Gray after a foot chase and he was bundled into a police transport van while shackled and handcuffed. He was not placed in a seat belt and officers ignored his request for medical aid.