Judge Declares Mistrial of Baltimore Cop in Freddie Gray Case

Halimah Abdullah and Katie Wall, NBC News, December 16, 2015

In what is a perceived legal blow for prosecutors, the jury was hung and the judge declared a mistrial in the trial of Baltimore police officer William Porter in the case of Freddie Gray’s death after sustaining injuries while in custody.

Porter was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office in the April 19 death of Gray, who died a week after his neck was broken during a ride in the back of a police van. Gray’s death and the subsequent unrest in Baltimore brought to the fore long simmering tensions in Baltimore and across the nation over socioeconomic disparity and the relationship between law enforcement and the minority communities they serve.

Prosecutors considered Porter’s case as key to help strengthening the case against van driver Caesar Goodson, Jr. It was also seen as a signal of how the trials of the other five officers could go.

The remaining trials are set for early next year. It is unclear how the mistrial will affect the prosecution’s approach on the other trials, if at all.

Jurors began deliberating on Monday afternoon.

There will be an administrative hearing on Thursday to determine a new court date. {snip}

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Over the past two days, the jury of four black women, three black men, three white women and two white men gave signals that they were locked in tense discussions. On Tuesday they told Judge Barry Williams that they were deadlocked and he sent them back to deliberate.

Earlier on Wednesday, the jurors asked for a transcript of witness testimony–a request the judge denied. Shortly after, jurors let the court know that they were hung.

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Porter, who took the stand in his defense, said Gray was “unable to give me a reason for a medical emergency” and that it was not his duty to seatbelt people who have been arrested in the van.

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Hours before the jury began its deliberations Monday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for people to respect the jury’s decision.

“In the coming days, if some choose to demonstrate peacefully to express their opinion, that is their constitutional right,” the mayor said. “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.”

Rawlings-Blake also announced the opening of an emergency operations center so authorities can coordinate any necessary response.

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