Baltimore Judge Denies Motion To Dismiss Charges In Freddie Gray Case

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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Freddie Gray died in a police van. He actually suffered a severe spinal injury in the van and died from his injury a week later.

Baltimore's chief prosecutor Marilyn Mosby scored a victory Wednesday at a pre-trial hearing for the six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

There were protests today in Baltimore as hearings got underway in the case of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Chanting) All night.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) All day. We goin' fight for Freddie Gray.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Chanting) All night.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) All day. We goin' fight for Freddie Gray.

SIEGEL: One person was arrested. Extra police were on hand to prevent a repeat of April's riots. Defense attorneys had asked for the case to be dismissed, and the city's lead prosecutor recused. But a judge has refused those motions. He also ruled that all six defendants will be tried separately. NPR's Jennifer Ludden was at the hearing, and I spoke to her during a break from outside the courthouse. She explained why defense attorneys had alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Basically, Robert, they say that state's attorney Marilyn Mosby made public statements that prejudiced potential jurors. And they point to a news conference when she announced the charges back on May 1. Remember, that was the week the riots broke out here after Freddie Gray's funeral. He, of course, died after suffering a severe spinal injury in the back of a police van. Let's listen to a bit of what State's Attorney Mosby said back then.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARILYN MOSBY: I heard your call for no justice, no peace. Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.

LUDDEN: Now, the defense contends that saying, you know, no justice, no peace, which was a refrain from marchers here, protestors here, is tantamount to saying, no convictions, no peace. They also said she violated rules of conduct by describing a lot of the evidence in the case, which, again, they say implied the officers were guilty.

SIEGEL: Well, that's the argument. Why did the judge dismiss that argument?

LUDDEN: Well, he agreed with the prosecutor's office that, you know, the defense is reading too much into Mosby's words. You know, you had to go exactly what she said, not anything inferred. And he said that the jury selection process already includes a way to weed out bias. He also said Mosby's job includes a law enforcement role, and so if her impassioned statements that day were aimed at calming a city and preventing more riots, that is OK.

But he did agree that one thing she said was troubling. In response to a reporter's question, she said the accused officers had been cooperating with the investigation. He said she should not done that, but it's not enough to dismiss the whole case over.

SIEGEL: Jennifer, I want you to remind us of the charges that these six officers face.

LUDDEN: The driver of the van faces the most severe charge - second-degree murder. Three others face manslaughter charges and two lesser charges of assault. Now, this case really has polarized relations between police and residents. Next week, there will be another pretrial hearing on whether to move the case out of the city of Baltimore.

SIEGEL: And those protesters we heard chanting a couple of minutes ago - was that an especially large group, or was it a small group of protesters, Jennifer?

LUDDEN: No, it was pretty small, Robert. It was a few dozen people. That said, they said they're going to schedule more protests, and the police here have canceled leave. They want more officers out on the streets to hopefully prevent a repeat of riots that we saw earlier this year.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Jennifer Ludden in Baltimore. Jennifer, thanks.

LUDDEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.