Jury selection for the trial of the first of six Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death is underway, and the jurors’ responses to the judge’s questions speak volumes about the context of the case.
More than half of the 75 potential jurors questioned by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry G. Williams on Monday have been victims of a crime, investigated, or incarcerated. They have witnessed the operations of the city’s police department first hand, and their experiences offer a window into the daily life of Baltimore’s residents.
That Gray’s death haunts the city—whether in media coverage or in murals—was made evident when all the potential jurors said they were aware of the case, the city’s settlement of civil claims, and the protests it sparked. Jurors wouldn’t necessarily be disqualified for encountering police in the past or for their knowledge of the case, but they have to prove that they can view the evidence “fairly and objectively,” said Andrew Ferguson, a professor at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law.
But they’re still being screened on their experiences in an effort to surface biases, whether positive or negative. It’s a strange twist in the process that typically vets for people that are “prosecution friendly” meaning they have a positive view of the police. Instead, prosecutors may look for those that are more skeptical of the police, Ferguson said.