Prosecutor says Baltimore officer could have saved man's life in seconds

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All In Special Report: Back to Baltimore

(Reuters) - A Baltimore police officer charged with manslaughter in the death of a black detainee needed only a few seconds to save the man's life and changed his story about the death, a prosecutor said during closing arguments on Monday.

But a defense lawyer for Officer William Porter, charged in the death of Freddie Gray from a broken neck, told jurors that Porter had acted as any reasonable police officer would have. The high-profile case was expected to go to the jury later on Monday.

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Gray's death in April triggered rioting, arson and protests in the majority black city and fueled a U.S. debate on police tactics. Porter is the first of six officers, three of them black, to face trial.

Prosecutor Janice Bledsoe said that Porter, 26, could have prevented Gray's death in April by buckling his seat belt in a police van and calling for an ambulance when Gray said he needed help.

"Click - how long does it take to click a seat belt and click a radio and ask for a medic? Two seconds? Three seconds? Maybe four?" Bledsoe asked jurors in Baltimore City Circuit Court, holding a seat belt in her hands.

"Is two, three or maybe four seconds worth a life?"

See Porter and protesters outide court:

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William Porter, Freddie Gray cop at court
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Prosecutor says Baltimore officer could have saved man's life in seconds
Officer William Porter, right, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, arrives at a courthouse as jury deliberations continue in his trial, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
A demonstrators protest outside of the courthouse after a mistrial was declared in the manslaughter trial of Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators protest outside of the courthouse after a mistrial was declared in the manslaughter trial of Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
A demonstrator is detained outside of the courthouse after a mistrial of Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Sheriff officers stand guard in front of the courthouse main entrance as demonstrators protest outside of the courthouse after a mistrial of Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Officers from the Baltimore Sheriff's Department arrest a protestor across the street from Courthouse East after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Officers from the Baltimore Sheriff's Department try to secure the area as they arrest a protestor across the street from Courthouse East after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Protesters react outside the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse after the hung-jury was announced in the trial of Police Officer William Porter, in Baltimore, Maryland on December 16, 2015. The manslaughter trial of a Baltimore policeman accused over the death in custody of African-American Freddie Gray was declared a mistrial after the jury failed to a reach a verdict, putting the city on edge. AFP PHOTO/ MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Richard Shipley, Freddie Gray'stepfather, left, with Gray's mother Gloria Darden and lawyer Billy Murphy speaks with the media after a mistrial was declared in the manslaughter trial of Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter arrives for trial at the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The jury is in its second full day of deliberations in Porter's trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 30: William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray earlier in the year, walks to a courthouse for jury selection in his trial on November 30, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Porter is the first to go to trial in the death of Gray who died from an injury incured in the back of a police transport van on April 19. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
FILE - This file photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department on Friday, May 1, 2015 shows William G. Porter, one of six police officers charged with felonies ranging from assault to murder in the death of Freddie Gray. Porter took the stand Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 in his own defense. If convicted on all charges, the maximum penalty he faces is about 25 years. (Baltimore Police Department via AP, FILE)
This photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department on Friday, May 1, 2015 shows, top row from left, Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Garrett E. Miller and Edward M. Nero, and bottom row from left, William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice and Alicia D. White, the six police officers charged with felonies ranging from assault to murder in the death of Freddie Gray. (Baltimore Police Department via AP)
A protester stands in front of Courthouse East in Baltimore prior to the start of day 9 of the trial of Officer William Porter on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
William Porter, right, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, arrives at a courthouse with his attorney Joseph Murtha for jury selection in his trial, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Baltimore. Porter faces charges of manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. (Rob Carr/Pool Photo via AP)
Officer William Porter enters Courthouse East in Baltimore for the start of day 9 of his trial relating to the death of Freddie Gray on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD NOVEMBER 30: A handful of protesters gather outside the Baltimore Circuit Court on Monday, November 30, 2015, in Baltimore, MD. Today marks the first day of the trial of Baltimore officer William G. Porter, 26, who is one of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD NOVEMBER 30: Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West, was killed by police in Baltimore, lets her voice be heard outside the Baltimore Circuit Court on Monday, November 30, 2015, in Baltimore, MD. Today marks the first day of the trial of Baltimore officer William G. Porter, 26, who is one of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 30: William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray earlier in the year, walks to a courthouse for jury selection in his trial on November 30, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Porter is the first to go to trial in the death of Gray who died from an injury incured in the back of a police transport van on April 19. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
Officer William Porter enters Courthouse East in Baltimore for the start of day 9 of his trial relating to the death of Freddie Gray on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD NOVEMBER 30: A handful of protesters gather outside the Baltimore Circuit Court on Monday, November 30, 2015, in Baltimore, MD. Today marks the first day of the trial of Baltimore officer William G. Porter, 26, who is one of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Porter, who is black, faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. The charges against the other officers range from second-degree murder to misconduct in office.

Gray, 25, was arrested after fleeing from police. He was put in a transport van, shackled and handcuffed, but he was not secured by a seat belt despite department policy to do so.


Bledsoe said that Porter had changed his story several times, especially when he denied that he had told an investigator that Gray had told him he could not breathe.

Defense lawyer Joseph Murtha said that medical experts for both sides had disputed at what point Gray suffered his injury. Officers could not be expected to call for medical assistance every time a detainee wanted help, he said.

"You are judging Officer Porter from a reasonable officer standard," he said. Murtha said prosecutors had played on city residents' fears by bringing the charges against Porter and the other officers.

Porter was a backup officer and present at five of six stops the van made with Gray. At one stop Gray told Porter he needed medical aid and Porter put him onto a van bench.

According to testimony, Porter told the van driver and a supervisor that Gray had asked for aid, but none was summoned.

To prove that Porter committed involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors must show that his conduct differed widely from what an officer reasonably would have done.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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