Both sides in the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William Porter, one of six officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody, delivered opening statements to a mostly black jury Wednesday, NBC News reports.
After Gray’s arrest in April, police officers put handcuffs and ankle shackles on the 25-year-old. They placed him in the back of a police van but failed to secure him in a seat belt. His spinal cord was severed during the “rough ride,” in which the driver made six stops before reaching the police station. Gray reportedly asked for help.
Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow told the jurors that Porter, 26, could easily have called for medical assistance to help Gray during one of the stops but “criminally neglected his duty to keep Mr. Gray safe.”
Gray was unresponsive when he finally arrived at the police station and died a week later at a hospital on April 9.
Gary Proctor, one of Porter’s lawyers, defended the officer’s character—describing him as good but inexperienced.
Proctor told the jury that his client assisted Gray by helping him stand up while handcuffed. “He thought, ‘He’s feigning injury to get out of going to jail today.’ There was no outward sign of injury,” Proctor told the jurors, according to NBC News.
The prosecutor said that Porter was taught always to put arrestees in a seat belt and to call for medical assistance when requested. Schatzow also noted that the officer received training on how to respond to medical emergencies.
Proctor countered that Porter was unaware of the department’s seat belt policy. He added that the officer did receive an email with new rules, which was buried amid 1,466 pages of emails that were accessible only from a slow computer at the Baltimore Police Department’s Western District headquarters.
The first prosecution witness, Officer Alice Carson-Johnson, said that she taught Porter at the police academy to call for medical help whenever an arrestee requested it. But the defense argued that Porter’s training was brief and inadequate.
The officer is charged with assault, manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. Porter, who pleaded not guilty, is expected to take the stand in his defense.
Read more at NBC News.