December 11, 2015 / 11:41 AM / in 4 years

Defense rests in trial of Baltimore officer charged in man's death

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Lawyers for a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of a black detainee rested their case on Friday after arguing that he had acted reasonably in failing to call for medical aid or to secure the man in a police van.

Baltimore Police officer William Porter approaches the court House in Baltimore, Maryland, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Patrick Samansky/Pool

Attorneys for Officer William Porter, who faces involuntary manslaughter and other charges in Freddie Gray’s death from a spinal injury in April, wrapped up their case after calling 12 witnesses over 2-1/2 days.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams excused the seven-woman, five-man jury until Monday, when closing arguments are scheduled to be heard.

Gray’s death from injuries sustained in a police van triggered rioting in the largely black city. It also intensified a U.S. debate on police tactics, especially treatment of minorities.

Baltimore Police Captain Justin Reynolds testified that Porter had acted within reason in not calling an ambulance for Gray since he had told the van’s driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, and his superior Sergeant Alicia White that Gray had asked for help.

“It’s totally reasonable for an officer to expect that a superior is going to do what they are supposed to do,” said Reynolds, a former head of the city’s police academy.

Gray, 25, who was arrested after he fled from officers, was put into a transport van while shackled and handcuffed. He was not secured by a seat belt and died a week later from injuries sustained in the vehicle.

Reynolds was among a series of defense witnesses, including Baltimore officers, who testified that Porter had acted responsibly and that detainees were rarely secured in transport vans despite department guidelines to do so.

To prove that Porter committed involuntary manslaughter, his attorneys have said, prosecutors must show that his conduct differed widely from what an officer reasonably would have done.

Porter is the first of six officers to face trial and is also charged with assault, endangerment and misconduct. Charges against the other officers range from second-degree murder to misconduct.

The defense has argued that Porter, who is black, did not believe Gray was seriously injured until the van’s final stop.

Helena Porter, the officer’s mother, was among four character witnesses who appeared for him. “He’s always been the peacemaker in any situation that goes down,” she said.

Baltimore agreed in September to pay Gray’s family a $6.4 million civil settlement over his death.

Editing by Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio

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