Activist Judge Barry Williams gave activist Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby a big assist in her goal to convict six Baltimore police officers. Williams ruled against a venue change motion while saying there’s no evidence they will be unable to seat an impartial jury.
The pre-trial hearings continue this afternoon.
(Via Baltimore Sun) A Baltimore Circuit Court judge ruled Thursday morning that the trials of six police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray will stay in Baltimore, saying the defense had failed to prove that the officers cannot receive a fair trial in the city.
“The citizens of Baltimore are not monolithic,” Judge Barry Williams said in his ruling. “They think for themselves.”
Williams heard arguments from defense attorneys who said that intense media coverage and this week’s surprise multi-million dollar settlement with Gray’s family, along with fear of future unrest, created an atmosphere in which jurors would be biased.
Prosecutors, however, urged that moving the case before screening potential jurors would be premature.
Williams agreed, saying it was wrong to “assume they cannot be fair” without questioning potential jurors. Williams also was unconvinced that media coverage had influenced citizens — at least not any more than residents of other jurisdictions, saying the coverage had been “local, state, national, international.”
Williams, who previously ruled that each officer should be tried individually, left open the possibility that the trials could be moved if an impartial jury panel can’t be found. The officers could also elect to bypass a jury and have Williams decide their fate.
Warren Alperstein, a defense attorney and former prosecutor who is uninvolved in the case and attended the hearing, said there was “very much” still a chance the trials could be moved.
“He’s said, ‘Let’s give it a shot, and see where it goes,'” Alperstein said. “He’s putting, certainly, a lot of faith in the citizens of Baltimore City to not bring any preconceived opinions and biases into the [jury selection] process.” (read more)