Jury selection resumes in Baltimore's Freddie Gray killing trial

by Reuters
Tuesday, 1 December 2015 19:29 GMT

(Adds comment on jury selection, paragraphs 9-10)

By Ian Simpson

BALTIMORE, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Jury selection resumed on Tuesday in the trial of the first of six police officers charged in the death of a black man from an injury in police custody that triggered rioting and fueled a U.S. debate on police brutality.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams told a second batch of 75 potential jurors in the trial of Officer William Porter that opening statements could take place in the next few days. He has said the trial will run no later than Dec. 17.

Some jurors from a first pool questioned on Monday have been ordered to return for another round of questioning on Wednesday, a court spokeswoman said.

The death in April of Freddie Gray, 25, followed police killings of black men in other cities, including New York and Ferguson, Missouri. The deaths gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, which has staged more than year of mostly peaceful protests across the United States.

Porter, 26, faces charges including manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office. Gray died from a spinal injury suffered in the back of a police van after he was taken into custody for fleeing an officer and possessing a knife.

Baltimore officials imposed a curfew and National Guard troops were called in to quell rioting and arson that followed Gray's death. Porter's lawyers have unsuccessfully sought to have the trial moved from Baltimore, arguing that intense publicity prevented impaneling an impartial jury.

The other five officers are charged with offenses ranging from second-degree murder to misconduct.

Similar to Monday's session, all the prospective jurors said they were aware of the Gray case and the unrest that followed. Forty-five had been victims of crime or had run-ins with the law, and two said they had known Gray.

More than half the jury pool was black. The jury will have 12 members and a number of alternates, who will remain anonymous.

Doug Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor, said that although both Porter and Gray were black, race would play a factor in the trial since black jurors were more likely to have had negative encounters with police than white jurors.

"Race will play a part because the experiences of jurors help to inform the credibility of each and every witness," Colbert said.

After an open court session, Williams, prosecutors and defense lawyers questioned prospective jurors behind closed doors.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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