The Maryland Court of Appeals — the highest court in the state — moved on Thursday to postpone the trials of five of the six Baltimore police officers charged with crimes in the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The court is putting the trials on hold while it considers whether one of the officers, William Porter, whose trial ended in a mistrial in December, can be compelled to testify against his colleagues. The move is highly unusual, as the higher court typically considers cases that have already concluded in lower courts, not pretrial rulings.
At issue are two orders from Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams, one forcing Porter to testify against two of his colleagues and another that prosecutors say prevents them from calling him as a witness in the trials of three other officers. Porter is contesting the former, and the Maryland attorney general’s office is appealing the latter.
Porter’s attorneys are arguing that compelling him to testify in the other cops’ trials before his own retrial in June would violate his Fifth Amendment rights. The prosecutors insist, however, that the state’s immunity statute is sufficient to protect his rights.
Baltimore state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby issued indictments last May against the six officers involved in Gray’s death. Gray, a 25-year-old African-American, was arrested on April 12 and died a week later from injuries he allegedly received while in police custody. His death led to protests and rioting in Baltimore, triggering a citywide curfew as well as deployment of the National Guard to help quiet the unrest. After an investigation, officials in Baltimore determined Gray suffered his ultimately fatal injury as a result of being unsafely transported in the back of a police van, and the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.