A judge in Baltimore on Wednesday declared a mistrial after jurors said they could not agree on the guilt or innocence of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter, charged on four separate counts related to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.
The jury deliberated the case for three days before coming to the conclusion they were hopelessly deadlocked and would not be able to reach an unanimous verdict. The mistrial declaration means that Porter’s trial is now over, but the prosecutors have the right to try the case again.
As the Baltimore Sun reports:
The panel had informed the judge on Tuesday that it was deadlocked, and Judge Barry G. Williams ordered them to continue deliberations.
Porter, 26, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He is the first of six police officers to stand trial in the death of Freddie Gray.
Gray, 25, suffered a broken neck and severe spinal cord injury in the back of a police transport van after his arrest on April 12.
In the wake of the announcement, law enforcement officers were lining up around the downtown courthouse where the trial was held as local residents began to gather.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby was widely praised for charging Porter and five other officers over Mr. Gray’s death. With Porter the first among the officers to stand trial, many people both inside Baltimore, and beyond, have watched the proceedings closely.
In prosecuting the case against Porter, the state’s attorneys alleged the officer disregarded his sworn duty by not strapping Gray into the van, which is proper department procedure, and also failed to provide or summon medical help. At one point, according to witness testimony, Gray had asked for help and claimed he couldn’t breathe. Later, however, when the van reached a local police station, Gray was found unresponsive. He died in a local hospital one week later and his death was ruled a homicide by the coroner.
During her closing argument, state prosecutor Janice Bledsoe alleged that Officer Porter had “abused his power” and “failed in his responsibility” to protect Gray from harm. She said that jurors should “hold him responsible” for what happened to Gray inside the van, which she at one point referred to as “his casket on wheels.”
Reaction to the verdict in the case which has received international media attention was trending on Twitter under the hashtag #PorterTrial:
Due to the gag order that pertains to all cases related Freddie Gray’s death, the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City said it was unable to make any comments regarding the mistrial.
Meanwhile, a rapid-response editorial by the Baltimore Sun declared that whether or not “justice for Freddie Gray” ultimately results from the trial of Officer Porter, or the other officers who face charges in the case, the city’s police department deserves the deep scrutiny it is now receiving:
Time will tell whether justice for Freddie Gray will involve criminal convictions of any of the officers involved in his arrest, but the process has already served as a stinging indictment of the police department. As the jurors in Baltimore were giving up, reports emerged from Ferguson, Mo., that officials were near an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on reforms related to the federal civil rights investigation into that city’s policing practices that stemmed from the killing of Michael Brown last year. It is expected to involve extensive re-training of officers and federal monitoring to ensure compliance. Baltimore is in the midst of its own federal civil rights investigation, and if the testimony we’ve heard in recent days is any indication, this city’s police force is in need of a major overhaul, too. Officer Porter may have gotten a mistrial, but the verdict on the department for which he serves could not be more clear.