Freddie Gray case: Judge challenges prosecution claim

Officer Edward M. Nero was a bicycle officer involved in apprehending Freddie Gray.

Story highlights

  • Officer Edward Nero is charged with second-degree intentional assault and other charges
  • A verdict on his trial on charges stemming from death of Freddie Gray is expected Monday
  • Gray's April 19, 2015 death became a symbol of the black community's distrust of police

Baltimore, Maryland (CNN)A Baltimore judge deciding the fate of one of six officers charged in the Freddie Gray case on Thursday challenged prosecutors' claim that the takedown and subsequent arrest of Gray without probable cause amounted to a criminal assault.

The 25-year-old black prisoner died from spinal injuries last year after being shackled without a seat belt in a police van, sparking days of racial unrest in the city.
    Closing arguments in the trial of Police Officer Edward Nero concluded Thursday. He is the second officer to be tried.
    Judge Barry Williams said he will deliver his verdict in the bench trial on Monday -- more than a year after Gray's death on April 19, 2015, became a symbol of the black community's distrust of police and triggered days of violent protests. Three of the officers charged are white, three are black.
    Nero is charged with second-degree intentional assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment in connection with Gray's arrest and death in police custody.
    On Thursday, Williams aggressively questioned prosecutors about their assertion that Nero and other officers assaulted Gray by touching him without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
    Prosecutor Janice Bledsoe argued that searching and handcuffing Gray constituted an assault.
    "You are saying an arrest without probable cause is a misconduct in office charge -- is a crime?" the judge asked. "So you say if you arrest someone without probable cause, it's a crime?"
    "Yes," Bledsoe responded.
    Williams at one point said: "If you touch someone, it could be assault, it could be a hug."
    Michael Schatzow, chief deputy state's attorney, later told the judge that "not every arrest that occurs without probable cause is a crime." But he added that arrests in which the actions of the officer "are not objectively reasonable" are criminal.
    The prosecutor said Nero and his partner turned a routine "Terry stop" -- a brief detention based on reasonable suspicion of a crime -- into a full-blown arrest requiring probable cause.
    In her closing, Bledsoe cited statements in which Nero and his partner both used the word "we" to describe putting Gray on the ground and handcuffing him.