After a evidentiary hearing today in Baltimore, the judge ruled that statements from two of the six officers charged with murder in the killing of Freddie Gray were admissible. Three other officers also withdrew motions they had filed to suppress their own statements. Judge Barry Williams ruled against motions by Sgt. Alicia D. White and Officer William G. Porter, which sought to have those statements excluded from being used as evidence in their trials and the trials of the other officers charged. The attempt to have them excluded was based on the fact that those statements had been made during internal interviews conducted by Baltimore Police Department Internal Affairs investigators. Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who was the driver that day, refused to provide a statement to investigators.
Lawyers for White and Porter had argued that the BPD policy is that officers are required to give voluntary statements when they are under internal investigation, which normally is not admissible. However, White signed waver stating that she was waving her Miranda rights, as well as additional rights relating to statement given to internal affairs investigators.
Via the Baltimore Sun:
Ivan Bates, one of White’s attorneys, suggested that investigators on the Baltimore Police Force Investigation Team had “tricked” White into providing a statement by making her think she was a witness — not a suspect — and by suggesting to her during her interrogation that signing two sheets waiving her Miranda rights and her rights under the state Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights was not tantamount to giving up her rights when it was.
Gary Proctor, one of Porter’s attorneys, argued investigators violated Porter’s rights as a law enforcement officer by discussing the case with him multiple times prior to advising him of his rights, and by not following protocols outlined in the officers’ bill of rights.
Prosecutors said the statements were obtained properly. At one point in the hearing, Deputy State’s Attorney Jan Bledsoe called Bates’ suggestion that a police sergeant did not understand her rights when agreeing to give a statement “a serious problem.”
Williams said there was no evidence that White or Porter had been coerced, compelled or threatened prior to giving their statements, and that the state had met its burden of proving they did so voluntarily.
“Sgt. White had the opportunity to say ‘No'” to police investigators multiple times, but she didn’t choose to do so, Williams said. He also said there was no evidence that investigators had used “undue influence” to compel Porter to speak to them.
Sgt. White had given an initial statement on April 12th and then a second statement on April 17th after investigators questioned inconsistencies in her initial statement. Gray had been arrested April 12th and died April 19th, as a result of spinal cord injuries sustained during what is known as a “rough ride” while being transported to the Baltimore jail.
Lt. Brian W. Rice and Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller all withdrew motions their lawyers had filed to suppress their statements on similar grounds. Judge Williams had rejected requests by them to postpone the hearings on those motions until closer to their own trials. It’s expected that statements from the officers will be used against each other in the trials, including Porter whose trial begins on November 30th.
Judge Williams also instituted a gag order in the case. As part of that order, attorneys on both sides are precluded from discussing the case with anyone outside their own legal teams.
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