Freddie Gray would have survived with prompt treatment, experts testify

Baltimore (CNN)Freddie Gray likely would have survived the neck injury he received in the back of a police transport van had he gotten prompt medical treatment, two expert witnesses testified on Monday.

Gray, 25, succumbed to "brain death" because his oxygen supply was cut off, Dr. Morris Marc Soriano told a racially diverse jury of seven women and five men at the trial of Officer William Porter.
As the trial entered its second week, much of the testimony focused on medical evidence and what it reveals about the core issues presented by this racially and politically charged case: Did officers abandon their duty by leaving Gray shackled and without a seat belt in the back of a police van? And did they then fail to heed Gray's requests for medical help?
Porter, 26, is the first of six officers to go to trial in the case. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
    Officer William G. Porter, who joined Baltimore Police Department in 2012.
    Prosecutors have portrayed him and the other officers as callous, while the defense insists Porter was a young officer overwhelmed by the bureaucracy of a department that doesn't consistently follow its own policies.
    The medical testimony came from a trio of witnesses: The assistant medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Gray; a surgeon who specializes in neck injuries; and a city fire paramedic who was called to tend to Gray after he arrived unresponsive at a police station in West Baltimore.
    For Soriano, the surgeon, the evidence was clear. Gray could have survived his initial injury if somebody had been paying attention to him and immediately called for help.
    "If the paramedic had gotten there, he would not have suffered the brain injury that ultimately killed him," he testified. "His brain would have likely survived if that breathing tube had been put in immediately."
    Any movement after Gray's initial injury likely would have made it worse, Soriano testified.
    "It didn't help him at all and may have caused significantly more injury."
    He also testified that Gray could not have deliberately banged his head with enough force to cause such a severe injury. He compared it to injuries a person receives from diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool.
    Another prisoner who was in the van with Gray reported he'd heard banging at the end of the 45-minute van ride.
    But Dr. Carol Allan, the assistant state medical examiner, testified that Gray could not have been kicking or intentionally banging his head against the side of the van because of his injuries. However, she said the other prisoner may have overhead a seizure.
    Gray was taken into police custody on April 12; his arrest was captured on bystander video. Prosecutors say Porter was present for all but one of six stops on Gray's 45-minute ride to the Western Division police station.
    It remains unclear exactly how Gray was injured. But Allan testified that Gray likely received his neck injury between the van's second and fourth stops.
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    Although there is conflicting testimony about when, witnesses say Gray complained at least once of being unable to breathe. He asked Porter for medical assistance when the officer checked on him at the fourth stop, according to Allan's testimony and Porter's interview with department investigators. Allan said Gray likely was injured when the van stopped suddenly.
    The delay in getting Gray medical attention led Allan to classify Gray's death as a homicide.
    "If he had gotten prompt medical attention, it would not have been a homicide," she stated, adding Gray likely would have survived if van driver Caesar Goodson had rushed him straight to a hospital when he told Porter "I can't breathe."
    Allan said that occurred during the van's fourth stop, when Goodson summoned Porter to check on his passenger.
    Gray was unresponsive by the time the van arrived at the last of the six stops, the Western Division police station. He died in a hospital a week later, setting off several days of protests. On the afternoon of his funeral, April 27, the protests erupted in rioting, arson and looting in the worst unrest Baltimore had seen in half a century.
    City fire paramedic Angelique Herbert testified that she responded to a call for an arm injury and was directed to the van. She saw several officers standing around the van, and Gray in the back, his head turned to the side with his eyes staring straight ahead. He was unresponsive and not breathing.
    She added that Gray was on his knees, with Porter and another officer holding his head up. She called for backup.
    Herbert said she couldn't immediately discern what was wrong with Gray and gave him medication to start his heart and to counteract a possible drug overdose.
    As she took in what she saw, she said, "I think I yelled some obscenities. I might have said, 'What the hell?' or something like that."
    She asked the officers what happened, and they speculated Gray might have been banging his head on the side of the van.
    Before intubating Gray, putting him in a cervical collar and placing him on a backboard, the paramedic said she felt his neck.
    "It wasn't firm," Herbert told the jury. "It was more crumbly."
    Testimony resumes Tuesday, and the judge has said the case is expected to end by December 17. On Monday, one juror -- an African-American woman -- was dismissed because of a medical emergency and replaced by one of four alternates, a white man.