FEBRUARY 18, 2016
Watchdog Group Warns of Using Justice System to Appease Violent Protestors
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today it filed an amicus curiae brief with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, arguing that forcing Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter to testify against fellow officers before his retrial for manslaughter, assault, and other criminal charges over the police-custody death of Freddie Carlos Gray Jr., would have a significant, adverse chilling effect on his constitutional rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Judicial Watch asserts the unusual push to force Office Porter to testify while facing charges is part of an unjust effort “to quiet unrest and appease violent protesters.” Judicial Watch filed its friend of court brief on February 10, 2016 (Caesar Goodson v. State of Maryland (No. 2308)).
The Judicial Watch amicus brief states:
Judicial Watch seeks to participate as an amicus curiae in this matter to ensure that due care and the full protections of the law – not a hasty rush to judgment or short-sighted effort to placate angry protesters – are afforded to all persons and entities involved. Of particular concern to Judicial Watch are the “uncharted” questions of law raised by the State’s efforts to compel Officer William G. Porter to testify at the trials of his fellow officers following his mistrial and before his retrial.
In January, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City ordered Officer Porter to testify, over the assertion of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, in the trials of two police officer co-defendants. The matter is presently on appeal before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Additionally, the State of Maryland has petitioned the Court of Appeals to bypass the lower-level appeals process and expedite a review of the issue. If the Court of Appeals decides to step in and take the case from the lower appellate court, Judicial Watch’s amicus brief will follow for the Court of Appeals’ consideration in resolving the Fifth and Sixth Amendment issues surrounding Officer Porter’s compelled testimony. Judicial Watch attorneys argue to the appellate courts:
Under the unique circumstances presented by this case, the State cannot accuse Officer Porter of perjury, compel him to testify against his fellow officers, and seek to retry him without violating his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.
On April 12, 2015, Gray was arrested by the Baltimore City Police. One week later, Gray died on April 19, 2015, after sustaining spinal cord injuries while being transported in a police van on the day of his arrest. His death sparked violent rioting, leading to over 100 police officers being injured, multiple arrests, hundreds of businesses being destroyed, a state of emergency, and deployment of the National Guard. On May 1, less than two weeks after Gray’s death, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced charges against the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest. All have pleaded not guilty. In announcing the charges, State’s Attorney Mosby suggested the quick decision to prosecute the officers was in response to the demands of violent protestors:
“To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, 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.”
Officer Porter’s retrial is scheduled for June.
“Baltimore politicians don’t seem to care much about the constitutional rights of the police officers facing imprisonment in the Freddie Gray prosecution,” said President Tom Fitton. “This prosecution undermines the public’s faith in the fair administration of justice. Forcing defendants to testify in plain violation of their Fifth Amendment rights would turn our justice system on its head. It is looking more and more like these Baltimore police officers are in the dock for the death of Gray in order to appease a violent mob. Is this what justice in Maryland looks like?”