Baltimore officer waives jury trial in death of Freddie Gray

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Freddie Gray Arresting Officer Edward Nero Will Not Face Jury

BALTIMORE, May 10 (Reuters) - A Baltimore police officer will be tried by a judge instead of a jury on charges stemming from the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died in police custody, a Maryland judge ruled on Tuesday.

SEE ALSO: Baltimore police shoot 13-year-old boy who was carrying fake gun

Edward Nero, 30, is the second officer to face trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court over Gray's death from a neck injury suffered in a police transport van. The incident sparked rioting and protests across the city of 620,000 and is one of those highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Nero is charged with second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. All are misdemeanors. Five other officers also face charges over Gray's death, ranging from misconduct in office to second-degree murder.

See protests in response to mistrial in Gray's case:

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Protests in response to mistrial in Freddie Gray case, Baltimore
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Baltimore officer waives jury trial in death of Freddie Gray
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Protesters march through the streets after a mistrial was declared in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on the third 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Protesters confront Baltimore City Police officers as they march through the streets after a mistrial was declared in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on the third 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
A protester speaks to policeman in reaction to a mistrial declared 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 reach a verdict, putting the city on edge. Police were out in force in parts of the gritty East Coast city in a bid to avoid a repeat of the riots and looting that erupted after the death in April of the 25-year-old Gray, the latest in a series of high-profile cases of perceived police brutality in the United States. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters march in Baltimore after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Protesters gather at the site of last Aprils riots after todays mistrial in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on third day of deliberations in PorterÃs trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray.Ã (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: A protester holds a sign at the site of last Aprils riots after todays mistrial in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on third day of deliberations in PorterÃs trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray.Ã (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Police stand guard as protesters march through the streets hours after a mistrial was declared in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on the third 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 - DECEMBER 16: Protesters march through the streets hours after a mistrial was declared in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on third 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)
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)
The Rev. C.D. Witherspoon speaks during a peaceful protest at the intersection of North and Pennsylvania Avenues, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore, the site of unrest following the funeral of Freddie Gray. Peaceful protests took place in response to a hung jury and mistrial for Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to Gray's death. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Demonstrators protest outside of the city hall in response to a hung jury and mistrial for Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Protesters march in Baltimore after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
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)
BALTIMORE MD- DECEMBER 16: Law enforcement warns the displeased protesters that they are breaking the law as they react to the mistrial declared in the Freddie Gray Case at the Baltimore City Circuit County Court for Baltimore officer William G. Porter accused of involuntary manslaughter in Baltimore, Maryland on December 16, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, left, and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, right, during a news conference at police headquarters with other city officials to discuss plans for dealing with the reaction to the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Protesters march around City Hall in Baltimore after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Police stand 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)
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)
Demonstrators protest outside of the courthouse in response to a hung jury and mistrial for Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: A protester yells at members of the Baltimore City Sheriffs Department in front of the Baltimore City City Circuit Courthouse East, after a mistrial was declared in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on third 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
One protestor tries to calm another after officers from the Baltimore Sheriff's Department arrested a protestor across the street from Courthouse East following the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter, 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)
A demonstrator holds a sign during the trial of Police Officer William Porter at Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters react outside 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)
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)
A demonstrator holds a sign during the trial of Police Officer William Porter at Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Police arrest a protester outside 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)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Protesters hold signs in front of the Baltimore City City Circuit Courthouse East, while a jury continues deliberations in Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter's trial, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The jury is in its third 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)
Protesters march along Calver Street in Baltimore, outside the courthouse after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddy Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Police stand 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)
CORRECTS WORD MISDEMEANOR TO MANSLAUGHTER - Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis, left, urges calm as he speaks at a press conference alongside Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore, following a hung jury and mistrial in the manslaughter trial Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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In a pre-trial hearing, Judge Barry Williams granted a request by Nero's lawyers to waive his right to a jury and have Williams decide his fate in a bench trial. Williams warned Nero that it was difficult to reverse his decision.

"You generally can't turn around and have a jury trial," he said.

Legal experts have said police officers normally waive their rights to a jury because they think judges are more likely to render a not guilty verdict or impose a lighter sentence.

Defense lawyers had tried to have the trials moved from Baltimore, saying media coverage had made it impossible to find an impartial jury in the majority black city.

Williams said he was granting "at this stage" a defense motion for no discussion of a spring-assisted knife found on Gray. Prosecutors and the defense have sparred over whether the knife was illegal under state or city law.

Testimony was set to start on Wednesday, but Williams allowed a one-day delay because of electrical work in prosecutors' offices. He said the trial could run through at least May 18.

Nero was among officers who arrested Gray, 25, in April 2015, when he ran from them, unprovoked. Gray was not secured by a seatbelt in the police van and an autopsy showed he died from a neck injury incurred during transport.

The first trial, that of Officer William Porter, ended in a hung jury in December.

Williams also denied a motion brought by media groups for access to sealed court records, trial transcripts and other documents. But he eased his restriction over transcripts, saying reporters could order them with the exception of bench conferences.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Anthony Lin and Dan Grebler)


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