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Baltimore judge refuses to drop charges in Freddie Gray case

Protesters gathered throughout the day of a hearing for six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray

A Baltimore judge refused Wednesday to dismiss charges against six police officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died after suffering a spinal injury in custody. 

During a hearing, Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams denied a defense motion for the charges to be dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct on the part of State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

Williams said that while he was “troubled” by some of the comments Mosby made during a May 1 news conference, they did not compromise the defendants' right to a fair trial.

The judge said prosecutors’ chief responsibility is to investigate and prosecute cases, and that the office conducted an independent investigation is not unusual.

Williams also said the assertion that Mosby's judgment was affected by the fact that her husband, Nick Mosby, is a councilman in a district that experienced a disproportionate amount of violence during the riots that Gray's death sparked is “condescending. Being married to a councilman is not a reason for recusal.”

The officers are facing charges in connection with the death of Gray, a 25-year-old who received a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody on April 12. He died a week later.

Gray's death has become part of a national debate on police treatment of minorities in the United States.

At a protest Wednesday evening outside the Baltimore Circuit Court  Sharon Black, a protest organizer, said they had won a small but significant victory Wednesday, because the cases against the six officers were not dismissed. She urged protesters to return next week when a judge is to consider requests to move the trials out of the city.

"We have to keep pressing on," Black said.

Some of the dozens of speakers asked police officers monitoring the protest why they weren't out fighting crime.

After an hour-long protest at the courthouse, protesters marched to the front of nearby City Hall, chanting: "All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray."Protesters demonstrated outside Baltimore Circuit Court on Wednesday morning as the first court hearing was set to begin in the case of six police officers criminally charged in Gray's death.

Earlier in the day, as dozens of sheriff's deputies patrolled the streets around the courthouse and journalists and observers lined up waiting for the courthouse to open, protesters gathered outside carrying yellow signs with slogans such as, “Stop racism now.” They chanted, “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell,” and “Tell the truth and stop the lies, Freddie Gray didn't have to die.”

The Baltimore police department announced on its Facebook page that one arrest had been made during the day. 

Police spokesman T.J. Smith said Wednesday afternoon that charges were being filed against a person who was arrested for blocking a road and ignoring warnings to get back on the sidewalk.

The man arrested was identified by witnesses as Kwame Rose, a well-known local activist. Police records identified him as Darius Kwame Rosebrough, 21, of Baltimore. Online court records show he is charged with second-degree assault, disorderly conduct and resisting or interfering with an arrest. He was being held on $7,500 bail.

Rose said he was hit by a car and needed medical attention, although some witnesses said he was not struck. Police eventually took Rose away in an ambulance.

Separately, interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said a police officer was kicked in the face by a protester during an incident at Inner Harbor.

Davis told WBAL Radio Wednesday that the protester "kicked a police officer in the face, and that's unacceptable."

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are presenting arguments at Wednesday's hearing on three key issues: whether State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby should recuse herself, whether the officers should be tried separately and whether charges should be dismissed.

Prosecutors have disparaged the defense request for dismissal and for Mosby to step aside. “The motion bounces from one ridiculous allegation to another, like a pinball on a machine far past ‘TILT,’” they wrote in a filing.

Defense lawyers contend Mosby violated her obligation to assure a fair trial when she announced the charges during a public news conference, when the atmosphere the largely black city of 620,000 people was tense.

Prosecutors say defense lawyers are trying to divert attention from the officers' role in Gray's death.

Lawyers began making arguments Wednesday afternoon on whether the officers should be tried separately or in groups. The officers face charges that range from second-degree assault, a misdemeanor, to second-degree murder.

Prosecutors say they want four trials — one for Officer Edward Nero, Sgt. Alicia White and Officer Caesar Goodson; and separate trials for Lt. Brian Rice and officers William Porter and Garrett Miller.

All the officers other than Goodson have asked to be tried separately. He faces the most serious charge of second-degree "depraved-heart" murder.

Wire services

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