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Defense seeks to exclude seatbelt argument in Freddie Gray case

With less than six weeks until the trial for Officer William Porter is set to begin in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, his lawyers have asked a Baltimore judge to dismiss one charge against the officer and preclude an anticipated prosecution argument.

Porter’s attorneys, Joseph Murtha and Gary L. Proctor, filed Tuesday a motion to dismiss the second-degree assault against their client because the charge “constitutes a legally unfounded theory of criminal prosecution that stretches and contorts the crime of assault to an unreasonable end.”

The same motion was filed by attorneys for Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White.

The state’s theory, according to the motion, rests on the argument that Porter’s failure to secure Gray with a seat belt in the police transport van April 12 was a reckless act and caused the van to come into harmful contact with Gray. That reckless act, according to the defense, does not rise to the level of gross or criminal negligence required.

Attorneys for three of the other officers have previously filed a motion to dismiss the reckless endangerment charges against their clients because there is no case law to support the argument that failure to buckle in a person for transport is a reckless act. Baltimore City Circuit Judge Barry Williams has not ruled on that motion and did not hear arguments at a hearing last week.

Porter’s attorneys also filed Tuesday a motion seeking to prohibit prosecutors from arguing the failure of a police officer to seatbelt an arrestee is tantamount to gross or criminal negligence.

Porter’s attorneys recently filed a motion requesting sequestration of jurors during his trial. They propose that jurors, once selected, be taken home by a member of the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office to pack a bag and then be put in a hotel with controlled television and no phones. Interactions with family and friends would be monitored under the plan.

A response from prosecutors to any of the motions has not been docketed on the Baltimore City Circuit Court website as of Wednesday afternoon.

Attorneys involved in the cases are prohibited from speaking outside of their legal teams after Williams issued a gag order last week.

Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He is the first of the six officers scheduled for trial beginning Nov. 30.

Porter’s case is State of Maryland v. William Porter, 115141037.