LI: Freddie Gray Trial: Jury Selection Begins Amid Protests


From my post today over at Legal Insurrection:

Yesterday jury selection began in the first of the six expected trials over the in-custody death of Freddie Gray.

This first case tries 26-year-old Officer William Porter, who like Gray is black. The trial is being presided over by Judge Barry G. Williams, who is also black. (I mention the races of those involved only because the case has been racially-charged from the first riots.)

Unfortunately, Maryland does not allow cameras in the court room, and even reporters who are present are permitted to access electronics (and thus tweet, etc.) only on breaks, so we don't expect there will be much of the blow-by-blow coverage we've done in other high-profile trials. (Reporters in the overflow room also cannot use electronics, but are permitted to enter and exit as they please.)

Nevertheless, a few general observations can be made based on yesterday's reporting.

Protestors Chants Heard Clearly in Court Room

A major issue in all these trials has been whether, due to the extensive riots and looting that erupted in Baltimore a week after Gray's death and continuing for many days thereafter, it would be in the interests of justice to change the venue of the trial to a location outside of the city. Defense attorneys for the six police officers to be tried have made repeated motions for a change of venue.

The most comprehensive of the defense motions for a change of venue, on behalf of all six officers, is embedded at the bottom of this post, and lays out the defense rationale in great detail.

All defense motions for a change of venue have been rejected by Judge Williams, whose position is that it cannot be known if an impartial jury can be found in the city until the effort has been made.  That effort began yesterday with voire dire of 75 prospective jurors, and continues to day with a similar number. Ultimately 12 primary jurors and about 4 alternates will be chosen.

Yesterday's reporting, however, notes that the protestors' chants (presumably electronically amplified) outside of the court house could be heard inside the courtroom. As noted by the Washington Post:

Chants from demonstrators — standing outside in the cold, light rain — filtered into the marbled courtroom: “We won’t stop until killer cops are in cellblocks.”

And by CNN:

Inside the courtroom, the chants of protesters outside could be heard clearly ...

And also noted in this tweet by Justin Fenton of The Baltimore Sun:

Protestor chants 12-1-15

To read the whole thing, click over to Legal Insurrection.