The trial is underway for the second police officer charged with the April 2015 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.
The Huffington Post reports that opening statements began yesterday for Officer Edward Nero, who was patrolling the neighborhood where Gray was arrested and who has been charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
During yesterday’s trial, attorneys for Nero said that it would have been dangerous to have had buckled Gray into the van.
“There are times when it is impossible to seatbelt,” Nero defense attorney Marc Zayon said. “This is one of those times.”
Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said that the officers’ actions were in direct violation of the department’s protocol. Coincidentally, an email went out to officers two weeks before Gray’s death explaining that there are “no exceptions to the requirement that officers seatbelt anyone that traveled in [a] patrol vehicle.”
Attorneys for Nero say that their client was off-duty when that email was sent; however, policy requires all officers to read their emails on a daily basis.
Despite the department’s policies, Nero’s attorneys say that strapping Gray in would have been dangerous for all parties involved. Nero claims Gray was resisting arrest and could have injured himself in the small confined space while also harming an officer.
“There is always discretion for officer safety,” Zayon said.
Gray was arrested on April 12 for allegedly possessing an illegal switchblade. He was placed in the back of a police van, but officers failed to buckle him in. Upon arriving at the police station, he was found unresponsive. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died a week later from a severed spinal cord and injuries similar to that of a car crash victim. Six officers have been charged in his death. The case's first trial for William Porter was declared a mistrial.