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Judge In Freddie Gray-Officer Trial Grills Prosecutors

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- €”Closing arguments in the case against Officer Edward Nero are now complete. The judge is expected to deliver his verdict on Monday morning.

Nero is the second of six officers to face charges in connection with the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.

WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren has more on Thursday's closing arguments.

After facing question after question from the judge, prosecutors admitted that the initial stop was legal. What crossed over into criminal territory, they say, was detaining Freddie Gray. The prosecution is asking for a charting of new legal ground.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys made their final arguments in Officer Edward Nero's trial and faced pointed questions from Judge Barry Williams, who alone will decide whether Nero's role in Freddie Gray's arrest was criminal. It sets the stage for the first verdict in this prominent case, with an impact beyond Baltimore.

"You really can't tell just from a judge's question because sometimes it reads the judge and the jury wrong and it can go the opposite way," said Debbie Hines, former Baltimore prosecutor.

Judge Williams particularly targeted the prosecution's unusual theory that this arrest amounted to a criminal assault.

Prosecutor Janice Bledsoe said: "An officer should be treated no differently than an ordinary citizen." She told the judge people get "jacked up" in the city all the time, prompting defense attorney Mark Zayon to argue: "Being detained is a horrible thing, but the law allows this. This is not jacking up people in Baltimore City."

"We're all not accustomed to hearing a prosecutor question the police and hold them responsible for what would occur after a detention," said Doug Colbert, University of Maryland law professor.

The judge also questioned whether it was Nero's responsibility to ensure Gray was secured in the wagon with a seat belt.

Prosecutors admitted they could not prove Nero ever read a general order, emailed to him just three days before the arrest, mandating seat belts.

"It's OK to get stopped and locked up, but not to die," said Tessa Hill-Aston, NAACP Baltimore president.

Judge Williams made it clear that he must base his verdict on the law. And while he appeared highly skeptical of the prosecution's legal theories, experts say that doesn't mean he's ready to acquit.

Prosecutors also pointed out it's common sense that Freddie Gray should have been seat belted into the van.

The judge says he will issue his ruling at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

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