The highest court in Maryland has agreed to hear appeals in the trials of five of the six Baltimore police officers charged in the Freddie Gray case, preventing any lower court proceedings from moving forward for the foreseeable future.
The Maryland attorney general’s office, representing the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office, had petitioned the Court of Appeals to bypass the lower-level appeals process and expedite a review regarding questions over whether Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter can be compelled to testify against other officers while still facing his own charges.
Porter was ordered by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams to testify in two of the officers’ cases — Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. and Sgt. Alicia White — and Porter’s lawyers have been seeking to overturn the decision. In the three other cases — of Officers Edward Nero, Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice — prosecutors failed to convince Williams that Porter is a necessary witness, and they are seeking to overturn that decision.
The Court of Appeals’ decision to take the cases means that all lower court proceedings — including the pre-trial motions hearing scheduled for Friday in Nero’s trial, which was set to begin Monday with jury selection — are canceled.
In petitioning the Court of Appeals to take up the cases, the attorney general’s office wrote that all five cases should be reviewed “because they provide an appropriate vehicle for this court to consider the application of [the state immunity statute] from all sides.”
At issue is whether the state’s immunity statute can protect Porter’s right against self-incrimination. Attorneys for the state argue Williams applied the immunity statute differently in the two instances being appealed, and asked the court to resolve the issue “before Maryland’s witness immunity scheme fails to function as the legislature intended.”
In orders handed down Thursday, Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera agreed that the high court should consider the cases, but outlined separate legal questions for the court to consider in the two cases appealed by Porter and the three appealed by the state.
In the Goodson and White cases, Barbera wrote, the question at hand is: Does the state’s immunity statute provide “Porter sufficient protection against self-incrimination to allow his testimony to be compelled” to the stand?
Source: The LA Times | Kevin Rector and Justin Fenton