The first trial in the death of 25-year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray ended in a mistrial today, with jurors saying they couldn’t determine whether a city police officer was criminally responsible for the man’s death. Officials called for calm in the aftermath of the mistrial, and small crowds of protesters demonstrated along streets lined with police officers.
William Porter’s trial was the first test of prosecutors’ case against six officers in a city struggling to rein in violent crime. The case hinged not on what Porter did, but what prosecutors said he didn’t do. He was accused of failing to get medical help for a critically wounded Gray and was charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. Gray’s injury in police custody sparked weeks of protests and fueled the nation’s scrutiny of how police treat black suspects.
The charges against Porter carried maximum prison terms totaling 25 years. It was not immediately clear whether Porter will be retried. An administrative hearing was scheduled for Thursday to discuss a possible retrial date. Porter waived his right to appear.
Today was the third day of deliberations for the jury of seven women and five men. They deliberated for a total of 15 hours. On Tuesday, they indicated they were deadlocked, but Circuit Judge Barry Williams told them to keep working.
Since they began deliberating Monday, the jurors made several requests, including one Wednesday for a copy of a transcript from a witness. Williams refused.
“It is clear you will not come to a unanimous agreement on any of the four charges,” Williams told the jurors before declaring a mistrial. Before dismissing them, he said, “You have clearly been diligent.”
During deliberations today, a handful of protesters gathered outside the courthouse, chanting “send those killer cops to jail.” Upon learning of the mistrial, about 30 people were gathered and chanted “No justice, no peace!” and “Black Lives Matter.” The demonstration spilled from the sidewalk onto the street. Police officers lined the streets.
At least one activist was arrested in the immediate aftermath of the mistrial. Television footage showed Baltimore sheriff’s deputies taking Kwame Rose into custody, putting his arms behind his back and marching him into the courthouse.
Earlier, he told The Associated Press: “This is an injustice, and we are going to fight for justice until it becomes a reality in our lives. A mistrial means that the prosecution did not do their jobs good enough.”
Gray, who was arrested while fleeing from police, died April 19, a week after his neck was broken while his seven-block trip turned into a 45-minute, police-van journey throughout West Baltimore. The autopsy concluded that Gray probably suffered the injury from being slammed against the compartment’s metal wall during cornering or braking.
Gray was black. Porter also is black, as are two of the other five officers charged.
It wasn’t clear how the mistrial would affect the state’s cases against the other officers. Prosecutors had planned to use Porter’s testimony against two of his fellow officers.
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