Anchorwoman: …the protests and rioting. So, let’s discuss, now, these trials, particularly the one that begins tomorrow of Officer Porter. Joining me right now is criminal defense attorney and constitutional attorney, Page Pate. All right, Page, so this is very fascinating because we’re now going to see six separate trials, as opposed to one trial involving these six officers. To whose advantage is this set up?
Page: Well, I think it’s to the advantage of the defense team. In fact, they asked for this. They wanted the trials separated so that the jury could focus on each individual officer and what involvement that officer had in the death. When you bring a bunch of people together and you’re trying them in a very serious, high-profile case like this, there’s always the chance that there could be some prejudice, some overspill. “We really think Freddie Gray’s death should be…somebody should be held accountable for it, and we’re going to hold them all accountable.” This helps the jury focus on each individual officer.
Anchorwoman: And something else, potentially, or maybe answer, does it help the jury, and the jury selection, that you’ve got the judge, Judge Barry, who is now ordering that the identities of the jurors, the prospective jurors, be kept secret? And is this in large part because if you have any jurors who come from the area, the neighborhood where Freddie died or sustained his injuries? Many people have already said, in so much of the reporting that we’ve done and other networks have done, that people don’t trust the police, they feel intimidated by, they don’t want to be forthright with information. So now, identities are being kept secret.
Anchorwoman: Does that assist in selecting jurors who are indeed that of the peers?
Page: Well, the idea is, it will help the jury make a fair and unbiased decision at the end of the day. If you’re on that jury and you’re concerned that, “Hey, if we acquit this officer and the public responds by protest, or they’re upset, are they going to direct that at me because they know who I am and I was on the jury that let this officer go?” If you protect their identity and the public doesn’t know the individual jurors, then I think they’ll feel more, not relaxed, but at least comfortable that they won’t be personally accountable for whatever decision is at the end of the trial.
Anchorwoman: Okay. And so, now, you’re representing…so, you’re representing Officer William Porter, and he is accused of refusing medical help to Freddie Gray and did not give him a seatbelt although he was handcuffed and shackled. So, if you’re the attorney, jury is seated, what is your best defense? How do you defend those allegations?
Page: Well, the State has to prove that Officer Porter knew that Freddie Gray was injured and he didn’t do anything about it. Some of the good facts for Officer Porter is that he did report what Freddie Gray told him about his injuries, both to the driver and another officer who arrived on the scene. So, if I’m representing Officer Porter, I’m going to remind the jury that he didn’t keep quiet. He did tell somebody else.
Anchorwoman: So, that relays some responsibility, now, to someone else.
Page: Exactly, and that’s why the prosecution wanted to try this officer first. They want to use him as a witness against the other officers in these trials that are going to come forward next year. They were hoping, I think, that he would agree to a guilty plea, to testify on behalf of the prosecution. So, they’re thinking, “Maybe if we can convict him, that he will agree to be a witness for us.”
Anchorwoman: And lastly, real quick, this, whatever the outcome is, you see it impacting the other five, no matter what?
Page: Oh, no question. I think the first thing is, in jury selection, “Can we get a fair and unbiased jury? If not, are we going to have to move the trial for the other officers? And, if we convict Porter,” and I think they have the weakest case against Porter, “will the other officers plead guilty?”
Anchorwoman: All right, Page Pate, thanks so much. We’ll talk again about this because, again, jury selection tomorrow.
Anchorwoman: Appreciate it. All right, we’ll be right back.
Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of our firm’s “The Federal Docket” and a contributor to Mercer Law Review’s Annual Survey in the areas of federal law. Tom was named a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer by The National Trial Lawyers, and is a recognized expert in federal sentencing law. He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom’s reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.