A Baltimore judge on Thursday will hear arguments on a change of venue for six police officers facing trial in the death of Freddie Gray Jr., a black man who died from an injury in police custody.
Defense lawyers for the officers will argue before Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams that intense publicity makes it impossible to hold a fair trial in the city. Gray’s death in April triggered protests and fueled a U.S. debate on police treatment of minorities.
The hearing comes a day after the city’s financial control board approved a $6.4 million civil settlement to the Gray family.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the deal would help avoid a drawn-out legal process and resolve any civil claims against Baltimore and the officers.
The Fraternal Order of Police criticized the settlement because it had been reached before the officers’ cases were heard. Trial has been set for next month.
Police arrested Gray, 25, on April 12 after a foot chase in crime-ridden West Baltimore. He was bundled into a police transport van while shackled and handcuffed, and was not seatbelted. Officers ignored his request for medical aid.
He died a week later from a spinal injury, sparking protests and rioting in the largely black city of about 620,000 people. National Guard troops were sent in to restore order, and Rawlings-Blake imposed a curfew.
The officers face charges ranging from second-degree
depraved heart murder to assault and misconduct. Three of the officers are white and three are black, including one woman.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)