Defense attorneys for Officer William G. Porter, the first officer being tried for the murder of 25-year old Freddie Gray, are asking the judge to sequester the jury during the trial. This would entail the jury spending nights in a hotel with no access to their cellphones, limited access to television and sheriff's deputies monitoring any interactions with friends and family, according to a motion filed on Oct 13.
As a result of the outcry and violence that erupted following the death of Gray, the defense expressed concerns of a tainted jury. Jurors’ names will be withheld from the outside world in the chance that they are sequestered. This would be done to lessen any pressure to convict Porter as a “sacrificial lamb” and to prevent more “civil unrest,” attorneys argued.
This motion comes after Judge Barry Williams made the decision not to move the trial out of Baltimore. Now, attorneys for Porter and officers Gary Proctor and Joseph Murtha agree that the “extra precautions” for the jurors are necessary, believing there is no way to seat an impartial jury.
However, Williams, firm in his stance, said that jurors can be screened for any biases beforehand in the legal process known as voir dire. Still, attorneys for Porter say that jurors may be swayed later on in the case if “bombarded with opinions, TV news, Facebook posts and the like,” while on trial.
Thus defense attorneys are also asking that as part of the sequester, after jury selection, jurors are escorted home by a sheriff, where they then will pack a suitcase and be transported to a hotel where they will stay during the remainder of the trial.
Gray suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody on April 12. The weeks following his death sparked outrage from the Baltimore community in the form of protests in which civilians demanded justice from the city. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby then filed individual criminal charges against the six Baltimore police officers. They will all be tried separately. The charges range from second-degree murder to misconduct in office, with all officers pleading not guilty.
Spokespersons from Mosby’s office have declined to comment on the defense attorney’s motion, citing the gag order set in place by Judge Barry Williams which bars prosecutors and defense attorneys from discussing the case with anyone outside their legal teams. However, they may comment in writing to the court before the decision on the motion is made.
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