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Top Ranking Officer Charged In Freddie Gray's Death Elects Trial By Judge

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Lieutenant Brian Rice, the highest-ranking Baltimore officer charged in connection with the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, chose a bench trial.

Investigator Mike Hellgren explains Rice's decision in court follows the lead of two of his fellow officers, who were acquitted.

This bench trial decision shows just how comfortable officers are with this judge, who has expressed the problems that he clearly has with the state's past cases.

The judge ruled Tuesday that the state cannot use thousands of pages of documents related to Lt. Rice's training because they failed to obtain them and turn them over in a timely manner.

All charges will stand against Lt. Rice. His trial is set to start on Thursday. Rice made the original call to pursue Freddie Gray; he also helped load him into the van. Prosecutors argue that as the highest ranking officer, it was his duty to make sure Gray was secured with a seat belt.

"As the supervising officer, one would expect that he knew of his duty to protect and safeguard Freddie Gray," said University of Maryland Law Professor Doug Colbert.

State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby is coming under fire for continuing to pursue the cases after failing to get convictions in the previous trials. The same judge, Barry Williams, will decide Lt. Rice's fate.

"She is continuing to pursue a conviction with the same zeal that she had before," said David Jaros, University of Baltimore School of Law.

Prosecutors got scolded for failing to turn over evidence, something they've done in past trials---this time, 4,000 pages documenting Lt. Rice's training since he joined the force 16 years ago. They gave it to the defense just last week, blaming the police department for failing to provide the materials sooner. The judge, calling it a clear discovery violation, ruled none of the documents can be used in this trial.

"That never looks good. Prosecutors have to take the discovery obligations very seriously but at the same time, it's not such a dramatic one," said Jaros.

WEB EXTRA: Legal Expert Adam Ruther Discusses Tuesday's Developments

The judge left open the possibility the defense could call prosecutors to the witness stand, which could provide something new in a case where most of the evidence has been seen before.

The big wild card here: What did Lt. Rice say in his recorded statement to police investigators shortly after all of this happened? We will know more about the prosecution's strategy when they present their arguments during opening statements Thursday morning.

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