A policeman charged over the death of a black man in Baltimore could have saved his life, a court has heard.A prosecutor said William Porter could have called for a medic to help Freddie Gray as he lay stricken in the back of a police van.
Instead of calling for help, prosecutor Michael Schatzow said Mr Porter placed Gray upright without a seatbelt.
The death of Gray in April set off days of unrest and renewed a national debate about police use of force.
He died after suffering a severe spinal injury that occurred when he was riding in the back of the police van.
William Porter is the first of six officers to be tried, and opening statements were read out on Wednesday.
His lawyer said the officer suspected Gray was faking an injury to avoid going to jail, when he complained he couldn’t breathe.
And when Gray became quiet, the officer assumed he had exhausted himself by rocking the vehicle early on in the ride.
Mr Porter told defence lawyers in a pre-trial filing that Gray was always “banging around”, referring to a previous arrest in which he allegedly tried to kick windows out of a police car.
The prosecutor disagreed. “He has a duty to keep safe persons in custody,” said Mr Schatzow.
“Evidence will show this defendant criminally neglected that duty.”
All officers charged over Gray’s death have pleaded not guilty.
Mr Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
“The defendant alone is on trial for what he did, or more importantly, what he did not do,” said Mr Schatzow.
The case has already shaken Baltimore. After the riots, some police union officials said the Gray case made officers “hesitant” to stop crime.
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