One of the six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray is arguing that a knife Gray was carrying was illegal and that officers therefore acted lawfully in arresting him.
Attorneys for indicted Officer Edward Nero filed the defense motion with a Baltimore court Tuesday, asking to see the knife to verify its status.
Gray died after suffering spinal injuries while riding in a police van April 12. He had been chased and arrested by police for carrying what was said to be an illegal, spring-loaded knife.
But in announcing criminal charges against Nero and the other officers last Friday, the Baltimore prosecutor said the knife Gray was carrying was a permissible pocketknife.
Nero, who was on bike patrol when Gray was apprehended, faces charges of second-degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
On Wednesday, Baltimore's mayor asked the top U.S. law enforcement agency to investigate whether the city's police department uses excessive force and violates the rights of criminal suspects.
Possible civil rights violations
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's request for a probe into possible civil rights violations by the city's police department came a day after new Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited the city.
The Justice Department said Lynch was considering Rawlings-Blake's request.
The agency has carried out probes of police conduct in other cities, often concluding that mostly white police forces have dealt harshly and illegally with people in minority communities, leading to deadly street confrontations.
The mayor said she wanted Justice investigators to determine "if our police department has engaged in a pattern or practice of stops, searches or arrests that violate" citizens' legal rights.
"Such an investigation is essential if we are going to build on the foundation of reforms that we have instituted over the past few years," Rawlings-Blake said. "At the end of this process, I will hold those accountable if change is not made. We cannot be timid in addressing this problem, and I'm a mayor that does not shy away from our city's big challenges."
The Justice Department is already investigating whether Gray's civil rights were violated.
The investigation is similar to one done in Ferguson, Missouri, after the death last summer of an unarmed African-American teen who was shot to death by a white police officer.
Material for this report came from Reuters and AP.