US & Canada

Freddie Gray's police van was 'coffin on wheels' - prosecutor

William Porter Image copyright AP
Image caption A prosecutor argued that Mr Porter "didn't care enough" to save Freddie Gray's life

A Baltimore officer on trial over a death in custody has been accused of turning a police van into a coffin on wheels, prosecutors have argued.

Officer William Porter, charged with manslaughter, has said he did not call for a medic for Freddie Gray because he had no reason to do so.

A prosecutor said Mr Porter could have easily called for a medic or used a seatbelt in the back of a police van.

Gray died a week after sustaining a spinal cord injury in the van.

The jury will now decide Mr Porter's fate after closing arguments wrapped up. Deliberations will resume on Tuesday.

His death sparked protests over police brutality, with the city of Baltimore erupting in rioting, looting and arson on the day of his funeral.

Prosecutor Janice Bledsoe said during closing arguments that Mr Porter "just didn't care enough" to secure Gray with a seatbelt or call for medical attention.

Mr Porter said he checked on Gray during the stops, and he had no signs of injury.

He is charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment and could receive up to 25 years in prison.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Gray died from injuries sustained while in the back of the police van

Other officers' saying they do not use seat belts on prisoners is not an excuse, she said.

Mr Porter said Gray asked for help getting off of the floor of the van and denied claims that Gray told him he could not breathe.

However Mr Porter did say he heard Gray say something about needing an inhaler upon his arrest.

He said in 200 arrests involving the van, he has never belted a prisoner because the wagon is "pretty tight".

"External facts" show Mr Porter is telling the truth, his lawyer Joseph Murtha said, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Mr Murtha said Gray's death was a "horrible tragedy" but that there is no evidence Mr Porter is responsible for it.

Concerned about possible unrest after the verdict, Baltimore is opening an emergency operations centre as the trial wraps up.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has said she is sure city officials are prepared for any protests that may arise.

Five other Baltimore police officers will go on trial in Gray's death. All have pleaded not guilty. They will be tried separately and prosecutors hope to use Mr Porter as a witness in the other trials.


The officers' charges

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The six police officers who have been charged (top row from left): Caesar Goodson Jr, Garrett Miller and Edward Nero; bottom row from left: William Porter, Brian Rice and Alicia White
  • Officer Caesar Goodson: 2nd-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, 2nd degree negligent assault, manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence, misconduct in office for failure to secure prisoner and failure to render aid
  • Officer William Porter: Involuntary manslaughter, assault in the 2nd degree, misconduct in office
  • Lieutenant Brian Rice: Involuntary manslaughter, assault in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd degree [second of two similar charges], misconduct in office, false imprisonment
  • Officer Edward Nero: Assault in the 2nd degree (intentional), assault in the 2nd degree (negligent), misconduct in office, false imprisonment
  • Sergeant Alicia White: Involuntary manslaughter, 2nd degree assault, misconduct in office
  • Officer Garrett Miller: Intentional Assault in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd degree, negligent misconduct in office, false imprisonment