BALTIMORE — When six police officers were indicted last year in the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody, it was a watershed moment for activists and residents who wanted to see this city's police force held accountable. Many people were eager for the legal reckoning to begin.
"I had the date written down," said Shai Crawley, 21, referring to the first officer's trial, late last year, "and I was excited about it."
But that case, against Officer William G. Porter, ended in a mistrial, dimming some residents' hopes for a conviction of any of the officers and setting off months of legal maneuvering and delays.
This week, more than a year after the charges were announced, the prosecution is set to begin anew with the trial of Officer Edward M. Nero, who was present for the initial arrest of Gray. Trials of the remaining four officers, in addition to a retrial for Porter, will follow on a schedule that stretches into fall.
"I don't get the sense that a lot of folks here in Baltimore are focused a lot on the trial," said Dayvon Love, the director of public policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a policy organization. He said, however, that close attention would be paid to the verdict.
Gray's death last April touched off widespread unrest in Baltimore, making ever more pressing the nation's, and this city's, discussion of the use of force by police, especially against minorities. With Nero's trial, a city that is working to move forward will find itself looking back into the first moments of Gray's arrest — some caught on widely circulated videos, taken by bystanders, that fueled public outrage.
"We're going to finally be talking about actually some of the circumstances that gave rise to the video that has been the focus of so much attention in this case," said David Jaros, a law professor at the University of Baltimore. Nero was one of the officers who arrested Gray last year, and his trial may yield more information about the circumstances of the arrest.
At Porter's trial, which ended in December with a hung jury, prosecutors and defense lawyers said Gray, 25, sustained a fatal spinal injury during his ride in the police van. Nero's trial will focus on a different part of officers' encounter with Gray: his initial arrest.
Nero faces charges of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.