Next Freddie Gray officer on trial could forego jury

Officer Edward Nero, one of the six officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, may be planning to elect for a trial before a judge rather than a jury of his peers based on recent scheduling announcements.

Officer Edward Nero

Officer Edward Nero

A motions hearing in Nero’s case is set for Tuesday, and trial is scheduled to begin the next day in Courthouse East of the Baltimore City Circuit Court. Past media advisories in the officers’ trials specifically have announced jury selection, which occurs in the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse. (The Mitchell Courthouse has been closed since April 27 following an electrical fire but is scheduled to reopen Monday.)

A spokeswoman for the Maryland Judiciary said she could not confirm that Nero is forgoing a jury trial because nothing has been stated in formal filings and a defendant has until the date of trial to make the election.

Last fall, attorneys following the officers’ cases said opting for a bench trial was a reasonable strategy after Judge Barry Williams repeatedly denied requests to move the cases outside of Baltimore based on concerns about locating impartial jurors.

Williams has been critical of both prosecutors and defense attorneys throughout proceedings, which court watchers said should reassure the defendants that he is not biased for or against either side.

A jury could not reach a consensus on any of the charges in the case against Officer William Porter in December, resulting in a hung jury after several days of deliberation. He will be retried in September.

Officer Caesar Goodson, scheduled to go to trial after Porter in January, had his trial delayed after Porter appealed Williams’ order compelling him to testify at Goodson’s trial. Prior to the postponement, the parties appeared to be in a jury trial posture.

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