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Schools limit trips as Freddie Gray trial draws to close

BALTIMORE - A judge has denied defense motions for a mistrial and change of venue as the jury deliberates in the manslaughter trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

Meanwhile, Baltimore County Public School spokesman Mychael Dickerson said Tuesday that the school system is postponing, and in some cases canceling, field trips and events in Baltimore city through Friday. The county surrounds most of the city and extends north to Maryland's border with Pennsylvania.

Dickerson said the precaution is being taken after officials consulted with law enforcement partners.

Dickerson said the school system took similar steps in the spring, when unrest broke out in the city after Gray's death.

Jury deliberations begin in first Freddie Gray trial

In the trial, Circuit Judge Barry Williams said Tuesday the renewed defense motions were not appropriate at this stage of Officer William Porter's trial.

The judge also denied a defense request to ask jurors whether they have seen a letter that the city schools chief sent home with children, warning of consequences for violent responses to the eventual verdict.

The jury sent out notes asking for water, highlighters, sticky notes and paper. They also requested the clerk's list of exhibits in evidence.

Gray died April 19, a week after his neck was broken in the back of a police van with his wrists and ankles shackled. Porter is charged with manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct.

Tuesday is the second day of deliberations. The panel spent three hours deliberating Monday.

Prosecutors described Officer William Porter as indifferent to Gray's safety, repeatedly denying him medical care in the police wagon where his neck was broken after he was left handcuffed and shackled but unbuckled on the floor of the van, vulnerable to a serious injury if the brakes were slammed.

The wagon "became his casket on wheels" after Porter failed to belt him to the bench or call for a medic after he was injured, prosecutor Janice Bledsoe said in her closing arguments. Gray was arrested about seven city blocks from the station, and yet police stopped the van repeatedly and the trip became a 45-minute journey.

"With great power comes great responsibility," Bledsoe said. "Porter had the opportunity on four or five occasions to wield his power to save Freddie Gray. He abused his power. He failed his responsibility."

Defense attorney Joseph Murtha countered that nothing more than conjecture and speculation implicates his client.

Gray's death was a "horrific tragedy," Murtha said, but "there is literally no evidence" that Porter caused it.

"The absence of real evidence raises much more than reasonable doubt," Murtha told jurors. "This case is based on rush to judgment and fear. What's an acronym for fear? False evidence appears real."

Porter faces up to 25 years in prison.

Prosecutors described Officer William Porter as indifferent to Gray's safety, repeatedly denying him medical care in the police wagon where his neck was broken after he was left handcuffed and shackled but unbuckled on the floor of the van, vulnerable to a serious injury if the brakes were slammed.

The wagon "became his casket on wheels" after Porter failed to belt him to the bench or call for a medic after he was injured, prosecutor Janice Bledsoe said in her closing arguments. Gray was arrested about seven city blocks from the station, and yet police stopped the van repeatedly and the trip became a 45-minute journey.

"With great power comes great responsibility," Bledsoe said. "Porter had the opportunity on four or five occasions to wield his power to save Freddie Gray. He abused his power. He failed his responsibility."

Defense attorney Joseph Murtha countered that nothing more than conjecture and speculation implicates his client.

Gray's death was a "horrific tragedy," Murtha said, but "there is literally no evidence" that Porter caused it.

"The absence of real evidence raises much more than reasonable doubt," Murtha told jurors. "This case is based on rush to judgment and fear. What's an acronym for fear? False evidence appears real."

Porter faces up to 25 years in prison