Mistrial Declared in Officer William Porter Trial (Updated)

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mitchell_courthouse1After three days of deliberations, a hung jury resulted in a mistrial in Officer William Porter’s case. The jury was deadlocked on all four charges Porter faced in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.

Before 3:30 p.m., the jury reported they were hung, meaning they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on all four counts. Judge Barry G. Williams then declared a mistrial. According to the AP, Williams told the seven women and five men of the jury he felt they had “clearly been diligent.”

Going forward, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby will have the option of retrying the case. Porter is the first of six officers to be tried in connection with Gray’s death. The trial of Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver, is scheduled for Jan. 6, but there is a chance that could change if there is a retrial of Porter. A scheduling hearing is scheduled for Thursday to determine future court dates.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a statement immediately following the announcement.

“This is our American system of justice,” she said. “Twelve Baltimore residents listened to the evidence presented and were unable to render a unanimous decision. As a unified city, we must respect the outcome of the judicial process. In the coming days, if some choose to demonstrate peacefully to express their opinion, that is their constitutional right. I urge everyone to remember that collectively, our reaction needs to be one of respect for our neighborhoods, and for the residents and businesses of our city. In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond. We will protect our neighborhoods, our businesses and the people of our city.”

Gray was arrested on April 12, and died a week later after suffering a severed spine while being transported around West Baltimore in a police van.

Porter was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, assault and misconduct in office. Prosecutors said he failed to call for medical attention for Gray, and did not buckle Gray in with a seatbelt in the back of a police van. Jurors heard eight days of testimony, including testimony from Porter defending his actions.

4:45 p.m. Press Conferences Planned

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis are expected to speak at 4:45 p.m., and Gray’s family is expected to speak afterward. “I expect for there to be protest and support anyone who wants to exercise their right!” Councilman Brandon Scott said in a statement. “This trial and those that will follow are a part of a process that is a opportunity for Baltimore to heal and show the world how a community overcome challenges.”

5:22 pm. ‘A Bump on the Road to Justice’

Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake echoed much of her initial statement above, adding that, “We will not and cannot be defined by the unrest of last spring.”

In a statement, Congressman Elijah Cummings said, “We must continue to channel our emotions into strong, positive change, so that, as a city, we truly see our young men of color before it is too late.”

TV cameras showed small groups of protesters near City Hall, and a flier circulated for a protest there at 5:30 p.m. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said there were no indications of unrest. “We respect the rights of Americans to protest,” said Davis, who took over as top cop after Anthony Batts was fired over the summer. “Protesters that are lawfully assembled have a friend in the Baltimore Police Department We are here to serve as peacekeepers, quite frankly.”

Speaking in front of Gray’s family, Gray’s stepfather Richard Shipley called on Mosby’s office to retry the case. “We are calm, you should be calm, too” he said.

Attorney Billy Murphy, who is representing the family, said the family was disappointed, but not mad about the mistrial declaration.

“I don’t buy the nonsense that this is somehow a victory for either side, it’s not,” he said. “It’s just a bump on the road to justice.”

Murphy, who is a noted defense attorney in Baltimore, pointed out that when hung juries get retried, the majority end in convictions.

“If the family’s not angry no one else should be angry…They want everyone to remain calm, understand what just happened and to make sure their tempers don’t get the best of them,” he said.

6 p.m. Statements From Police Union, NAACP

Despite the decision, the NAACP said the trial showed the need to reform police departments.

“As we learned in this trial, the disdain police showed for Gray clearly demonstrates that the Baltimore Police Department must change the culture of its police force and address issues of police brutality, accountability and excessive use of force,” the organization said.

Baltimore NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston attended the trial, and the org said it would continue to monitor the trials.

“We still believe that Officer Porter and his fellow officers failed in their fundamental responsibility and we continue to wait for justice,” the civil rights organization tweeted.

In a statement, Baltimore police union president Lt. Gene Ryan said Porter was “no closer to a resolution” than when the charges were filed, and added that the decision was “obviously frustrating.”

“Officer Porter and his attorneys will continue, with the full support of the Fraternal Order of Police, to press for his acquittal,” Ryan said.

6:20 p.m. 2 Protesters in Custody

In a small march that started at City Hall after the verdict, CBS Baltimore is reporting that two protesters were taken into custody. One of the protesters was identified as activist Kwame Rose, according to his Twitter account. Video circulated of the second arrest. The Baltimore sheriff’s department said the arrests were for failure to obey a lawful order and using a bullhorn.

 



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