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by Peter Moskos

December 13, 2015

Why the stops matter

These stops are confusing and the numbering system is never consistent, but they still matter. Here are some maps from WBAL:


The summary from WBAL:
Prosecutors contend Porter is criminally negligent for Gray's death, because he didn't call a medic when Gray requested one, and he didn't buckle Gray into a seat belt at the police van's fourth stop [labeled 5, above] at Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street, the stop where Porter testified he helped Gray from the van floor onto the bench.

Porter said he didn't call a medic, because Gray wasn't specific about an injury, and he didn't see any signs of external distress. Porter told the jury, at this point, he assisted Gray, who used his legs and could support his own weight.
Officer Mark Gladhill testified for the defense Thursday and said at the van's fifth stop [I'm not clear if this is 5 or 6 above] he saw Gray leaning, but he was supporting his back and his head:
“You are positive that Mr. Gray was holding his own head up?” [Gladhill] was asked, to which he replied, “Yes. I’m positive.”
This wouldn't be possible if Gray had already broken his neck. If Gray wasn't seriously hurt when Porter dealt with Gray, Porter can't be neglectful for not taking care of an injury that hadn't yet happened. There's still the seat belt issue, but that's weak in relation to Porter. Prosecutors contend Gray got hurt earlier. (I'm not exactly certain how the prosecution asserts how they know that the injury happened earlier.) Gladhill's statement is important.

From the Washington Post:
Porter responded after the police van’s driver, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., put out a call for a welfare check on Gray. Porter testified this week that he helped Gray off the floor of the van, asked him if he needed a medic (but never called one) and told Goodson to take him to a hospital. Those actions, [Baltimore police Capt. Justin] Reynolds testified, go “beyond what many officers would have done.”
From WBAL:
Porter said he asked Gray at the fourth stop if he needed to go to the hospital and Gray said yes. Porter said he told van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, that Gray needed to go to a hospital. He said, "I could not order Goodson to do that."
Gray wasn't Porter's prisoner. That matters. Again from the Post:
At the fifth van stop, Gray again told Porter that he needed a medic, and Porter told his supervisor, Sgt. Alicia White, that Gray needed to go to a hospital. Reynolds said it was “absolutely reasonable” for Porter to expect the supervisor to get help. White has also been charged in Gray’s death.

Reynolds said that Goodson was ultimately responsible for Gray’s well-being and that the department’s general orders are “guidelines,” not strict requirements.

“There are parts of general orders you have to violate to do your job,” Reynolds said. He cited a much-ignored rule that officers be quiet and civil at all times as an example. He added: “Common sense prevails over everything else.”
If I were on the jury, I'd have more than reasonable doubt.

If Baltimore were a white-majority city with a white political power structure, the political Left would be screaming at the racism and injustice of prosecutors charging an innocent black man.

4 comments:

campbell said...

Prosecutors contend Gray got hurt earlier. (I'm not exactly certain how the prosecution asserts how they know that the injury happened earlier.)

I honestly don't want to believe that Mosby pressured a medical examiner and that that examiner caved to that pressure. But given the totality of the case I'm having a hard time finding a charitable explanation for the initial ME report.

direwolfc said...

You write: “You are positive that Mr. Gray was holding his own head up?” [Gladhill] was asked, to which he replied, “Yes. I’m positive.”

This wouldn't be possible if Gray had already broken his neck.
***

This isn't true. It's common for symptoms of a spinal cord or brain injury to worsen over time - minutes, hours, even days following the injury. This is because the symptoms are often not a result of the immediate damage itself (i.e. a fractured bone) but from the swelling and inflammation that results (bruised spinal cord).

As an EMT you are always trained to immobilize someone's head or neck at any suspicion of head/neck injury because it's very difficult to ascertain the extent of such an injury (or even if an injury is present) on-site, immediately after the trauma has occurred. Furthermore, the possibility of additional injury if the patient is unrestrained is very high.

I know little of the details of Freddie Gray's medical condition, I'm only refuting your implication that it should be immediately obvious whether or not someone has suffered a spinal cord injury.

Peter Moskos said...

I see what you're saying. Thanks. I think my mistake is to use "broken his neck" as synonymous with "completely paralyzed" from a spinal cord injury. The issue at that point is whether his spinal cord had been functionally severed. If that were the case, would he then be able to hold his head up?

direwolfc said...

Yes, that's for a medical expert to testify to based on the evidence. But it's common for a seemingly minor spinal cord injury (fracture/bruised) to worsen over time and/or to become further damaged ('functionally severed'/paralyzed) due to the lack of restraint (by restraint I don't mean seat belts, but full head/neck restraint+body board).

The fact that he could lift his head and was talking at that point in time does not mean he was uninjured then. The incident that caused injury could have been before he was even loaded into the van, even if the symptoms and general deterioration happened later.

Again, as an EMT we were taught, when in doubt, board 'em, because you just can't tell. The patient often can't tell. In fact, one of the reasons for the restraints is that the patient can further injure themselves simply by moving their own head/neck.