BALTIMORE, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The trial for the first of six Baltimore police officers charged in the April death of Freddie Gray is set to begin Monday with jury selection.
William G. Porter, 26, will be the first officer to stand trial, in individual cases for each of the accused. The trials are expected to be closely watched as the death of 25-year-old Gray from a spinal injury allegedly sustained while shackled in the back of a police van is at the forefront of nationwide outcry over police brutality against black men detained by police.
A week of protests and some rioting broke out in Baltimore after Gray's death, and the quick announcement of criminal charges against the police officers surprised the nation.
Judge Barry G. Williams said 75 to 80 prospective jurors were expected for Monday's screening. It is unclear when opening arguments will begin, or how long the trial is expected to last.
"We just want fairness and justice for Freddie Gray in a legal, calm way, and the courtroom is where it's happening. We want the prosecutors to do the right thing and continue to press forward and get results. This is a different day for Baltimore citizens, to have police go to trial," said Tessa Hill-Alston, president of the NAACP local chapter. "This is a monumental thing."
The group intends to have an observer in the courtroom throughout the trial.
Court documents indicate Porter placed Gray in the back seat of the police van, shackled but not restrained in the vehicle by a seat belt or other device. Porter left to assist in another arrest, then returned to the van. After the van drove for about 45 minutes, Gray was found unresponsive. He died a week later from a severe spinal cord injury.
Prosecutors say Porter should have sought medical attention for Gray. Porter is charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment, as has pleaded not guilty. The city of Baltimore has agreed to a $6.4 million civil settlement to Gray's family.