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A Baltimore city board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a $6.4 million wrongful death settlement for the family of Freddie Gray, who sustained fatal neck injuries while in police custody in April.
The settlement was proposed Tuesday and approved Wednesday morning by Baltimore's Board of Estimates, which oversees city spending.
It comes a week after a judge ruled that the six officers charged in 25-year-old Gray's death should be tried separately on charges ranging from reckless endangerment to manslaughter and second-degree murder.
On Tuesday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement that the settlement "should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial" for the 25-year-old black man's death.
"This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city, and avoids costly and protracted litigation that would only make it more difficult for our city to heal and potentially cost taxpayers many millions more in damages," she said.
Gray's death, which came days after his April 12 arrest, during which he was transported in a police van where he was handcuffed and wearing no seatbelt, triggered riots across Baltimore.
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced charges against the officers in the case on May 1.
The settlement will be paid in two installments: $2.8 million in the current fiscal year, and $3.6 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.
Echoing Rawlings-Blake, the city of Baltimore said in a statement that the settlement isn't an admission of liability on the part of the officers or its city. But experts told the Associated Press that Baltimore's eagerness to pay out could affect whether the officers' receive a fair trial in Baltimore.
Defense attorneys, citing the large amount of publicity surrounding the case, have asked for a change of venue. Judge Barry Williams is set to rule on Thursday on whether the trials of the six officers, who are each being tried separately, should be moved.
"There's no doubt that this will figure in to the hearing for change of venue. If I was an attorney for a defendant, I'd be revising my motion right now to say the settlement was made to persuade the jury pool that the officers did something wrong," David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Associate Press.