Many questions still remain in death of Freddie Gray
Many questions surrounding the death of Freddie Gray still remain as authorities refuse to provide more than a few sketchy details about its investigation into the Baltimore man’s death as many people in the city were finding it hard to be patient Thursday when police revealed next to nothing about the case they turned over to the Maryland attorney’s office.
The public still does not know much more than it did on Day One, nearly two weeks after Gray’s death. The central question – what caused his deadly spinal cord injury – still remains.
“The transparency is just not there,” the Rev. Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon said after Police Commissioner Anthony Batts refused to answer any questions Thursday.
Batts said his department’s report was delivered a day ahead of time to the State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and that any questions about it should go to her.
Mosby decline to speak publicly Thursday as she issued a statement asking for “for the public to remain patient and peaceful and to trust the process of the justice system.”
With rumors flying about how Gray’s spine was “80 percent severed,” as his family’s lawyer Billy Murphy put it, police did release a new piece of information Thursday, but it served mostly to raise more questions about how truthful the six suspended officers have been with investigators.
Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said investigators discovered a security camera recording showing that the police van carrying Gray had made a previously undisclosed, second stop, after the 25-year-old black man was put in leg irons and before the van driver made a third stop and called for help to check on his condition. The van then made a fourth stop, to pick up another passenger, before Gray arrived at the police station with the spinal-cord injury that left him unresponsive.
However, a new report from ABC affiliate WJLA said that Gray died after slamming his head inside a police van, breaking his neck. The station reported that the medical examiner’s report was consistent with the bolt inside the back of the police van.
Last week, Batts said the additional passenger who was picked up along the way had told investigators the driver did not speed, make sudden stops or “drive erratically” during the trip, and that Gray was “was still moving around, that he was kicking and making noises” up until the van arrived at the police station.
Other than the chronology of events, police have not discussed any evidence, details or statements from the six suspended officers.
“I understand there are questions people want to have answered, but unfortunately, we can’t release any more about it,” Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk said.
The forensic pathologists who studied Gray’s body for clues also aren’t making official statements.
Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Maryland State Medical Examiner’s Office, told the AP on Thursday that the office has completed Gray’s autopsy, but the forensic investigation is still in process and no conclusions have been sent to police or prosecutors. When the report is complete, Goldfarb said, a copy will be sent to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office.
“The autopsy has been done, it only takes about two and a half hours,” Goldfarb said. “The autopsy is only one part of the forensic investigation. The whole point is to determine cause and manner of death, and there are lab tests and lots of other things that have to be done.”
Legal experts and the Gray family lawyers say secrecy is appropriate at this point in the probe, when it’s still possible that some witnesses haven’t been questioned, or even found.
“By releasing too many details, you run the risk that witnesses’ testimony will change to mirror the details you have released,” said David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Miami. He said investigators must verify or corroborate much of the information they receive, and meanwhile the public could be misled that the probe is leading to a particular outcome.
Investigators are facing the challenge of determining whether an officer acted “reasonably” in the death of a civilian. Investigators cannot simply force officers to give statements because that would mean their testimony is coerced and would not hold up in court, Weinstein said.
If they are compelled to give a statement as a condition of their employment, you cannot then use those statements against them in a criminal proceeding,” he said. “This is where the decision to grant immunity comes into play.”
The Gray family’s lawyers sought to dispel the idea that the police report would be made public at this point.
“This family wants justice, and they want justice that comes at the right time and not too soon,” attorney Hassan Murphy said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, protesters over Gray’s death continue to spread across the nation. Aside from gatherings in Baltimore, demonstrations spread into Philadelphia and New York Thursday.
Philly.com reports that Philadelphia police made three or four arrests after hundreds of protesters marched through the city to show support for Gray.