Arguing that it would delay the upcoming trials of three other officers, Baltimore judge Barry Williams on Wednesday ruled that prosecutors cannot compel William Porter to testify at their trials, according to The Associated Press.
Porter’s testimony was the cornerstone of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s case against five other officers charged in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. He died of injuries from a broken neck suffered in the rear of a police transport van, touching off nationwide protests against police brutality.
A trial for Porter, the first of the officers to go to court, ended in a hung jury last month. Mosby’s team previously argued that Porter was an important witness in the upcoming trials of Officer Caesar Goodson, the van’s driver, and Sergeant Alicia White. Judge Williams ruled in December that Porter must testify against Goodson, despite his own pending retrial.
White’s trial, set for Feb. 8, has been delayed while awaiting a ruling by the appeals court.
Goodson’s trial on a second-degree murder charge had been set to begin last week, but was delayed as Maryland’s Court Of Special Appeals considers Porter’s legal bid to block Williams’ order that he testify for the state.
The trial of Officer Edward Nero for Feb. 22 will go on as planned. Those of Officer Garrett Miller and Lieutenant Brian Rice are scheduled for March 7 and March 9, respectively.
Lawyers for Nero, Miller and Rice had objected to prosecutors’ filings last week to compel Porter to testify in their trials. They had said that prosecutors wanted to avoid trying their weakest cases first.
Porter’s attorney, Joseph Murtha, told the judge that the state’s motion to order his testimony amounted to “subterfuge and ruse,” reports Fox News.
“They want to take a hostage for five trials and torture him at his own trial,” Murtha said, calling the motion “offensive.”
Williams called Porter’s testimony problematic due to “concerns this court has over speedy trial rights,” the report says.