A judge rejected a motion from the defence to drop charges against six officers in the case of Freddie Gray who died in April from injuries in police custody. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams also rejected on 2 September a move from the defence calling for prosecutor Marilyn Mosby and her office to excuse themselves from the case.

The death of Gray, 25, drew worldwide attention when it triggered protests and a day of rioting, arson and looting in Baltimore. The case became part of a national debate on police treatment of minorities in the US. Prosecutors had disagreed with the defence request for dismissal and for Mosby to step aside.

Defence lawyers had contended Mosby violated her obligation to assure a fair trial when she announced the charges at a news conference as the largely black city of 620,000 people was in turmoil. Outside the court, an attorney representing some of the demonstrators applauded the judge's decision to move forward with the charge.

"This judge is particularly good at cutting through all of the fat and getting to the meat of the case ...I think what we can look forward to is this case being tried in Baltimore city by the citizens of Baltimore," attorney J Wyndal Gordon said.

Prosecutors say defence lawyers are trying to divert attention from the officers' role in Gray's death. Charges against the officers range from second-degree murder for the driver to manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct. Prosecutors contend Gray was arrested illegally since he was put in handcuffs before officers found a banned switchblade knife in his pocket.