Baltimore's WBAL-TV investigative reporter Jayne Miller highlighted serious concerns with a Washington Post report that a prisoner who was in the van with Freddie Gray heard Gray trying to injure himself, pointing to WBAL's reporting from medical experts on Gray's injuries.
On April 29, The Washington Post published a report, based on a police document obtained by the paper, that said a prisoner who was in the police van with Gray heard him “banging against the walls” and thought he “was intentionally trying to injure himself.” The paper noted that the prisoner “was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him,” and included comment from Gray's family attorney.
But WBAL-TV's Jayne Miller says her reporting undermines this claim. She appeared on the April 30 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, where she explained that “according to our sources familiar with this investigation, at that stop when that prisoner is loaded, Gray is unresponsive -- not able to bang his head against the wall.” Miller went on to say that the preliminary autopsy findings indicated no injury to Gray other than to his spine, although the family says his voice box was injured. The Baltimore Sun reported on April 25 that "[p]olice have said that a preliminary report on Gray's autopsy showed he had no injuries except to his spinal cord." Miller also noted that their reporting indicated “the medical evidence does not suggest at all that he was able to injure himself,” because “the force of this injury” was “akin to have the force involved in a car accident.” This was also reported in the Baltimore Sun.
Miller had previously tweeted on April 23 that the Baltimore police commissioner said the other prisoner reported Gray was “mostly quiet.”
The report was also called into question by Dr. Marc Siegel on Fox News' Fox & Friends, who said there was “no way that you could sever your spine by bashing your head against a wall or side of a car,” and added there was “no chance” that Gray could have injured himself “to the extent where he would sever his spine.”
The Daily Beast's Michael Daly suggested that the “banging” the prisoner says he heard might have been Gray “signaling his need for help.” Daly said the “purpose of that banging seems to have been made clear when Gray asked for medical assistance.”
The story has been widely reported by other outlets, including CNN, Business Insider, CBS and The Hill. The report was also covered on Fox News. On The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly described the report as “explosive,” and on Hannity, Sean Hannity suggested this report indicated there was a “rush to judgment without any facts by the president and others.”
The Post story said that it's “not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner's version.” What is clear is that there is available, credible information that contradicts the other prisoner's account, which the Post could have included before the story was uncritically repeated in other mainstream outlets. And as Salon's Joan Walsh pointed out, this sort of caution is even more necessary in the absence of an official police report on the incident.