The Chatter

Hung Jury in Trial of Officer Charged in Freddie Gray Case

Judge declares mistrial; attorneys due in court tomorrow to discuss a retrial date.

By Ron Cassie | December 16, 2015, 3:32 pm

The trial Baltimore police officer William Porter (center, gray suit, black shirt), seen here leaving an earlier motion hearing, starts Monday. -Photography by Ron Cassie
The Chatter

Hung Jury in Trial of Officer Charged in Freddie Gray Case

Judge declares mistrial; attorneys due in court tomorrow to discuss a retrial date.

By Ron Cassie | December 16, 2015, 3:32 pm

The trial Baltimore police officer William Porter (center, gray suit, black shirt), seen here leaving an earlier motion hearing, starts Monday. -Photography by Ron Cassie

A Baltimore City jury could not reach a decision in the trial Officer William G. Porter on four charges related to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while being transported in a police wagon last April.

Judge Barry G. Williams declared a mistrial Wednesday afternoon after the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict to acquit or find Porter guilty of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, or reckless endangerment.

Attorneys are due in court tomorrow to discuss a retrial and date.

The case of Porter, 26, was sent Monday afternoon to the 12-person jury—made up of four black women, three white women, three black men, and two white men—for deliberation. The maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault is 10 years on each count; the maximum sentence for reckless endangerment is 5 years; and the penalty for misconduct in office is left to the judge, in this case, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry G. Williams. He has been free on bail since May when the charges were announced by City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued the following statement shortly after the mistrial was declared:

"A few minutes ago, Judge Barry G. Williams declared a mistrial in the criminal case of Officer William Porter because the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. It is now up to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to determine whether to further pursue criminal charges. This is our American system of justice. 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."

Retired nurse Rosemary Cosgrove, standing outside the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse on Monday, said she believed that Porter shared some blame for Gray’s death.

“It’s unjust trying to put it all on the van driver [Officer Caesar Goodson, who Porter’s attorney maintain had primary custody of Gray],” Cosgrove said. “[Goodson] didn’t have that visual contact with Freddie Gray. It’s definitely a shared responsibility.”

Arthur B. Johnson Sr., a retired Bethlehem Steel worker holding up a “Justice for Freddie Gray” sign, said that he didn’t think Porter should be held responsible for Gray’s death—but that the other officers who arrested Gray, their supervisor, and the van driver—should be convicted on some charges.

“I don’t think Mr. Porter is guilty,” Johnson said. “He checked on him several times.”

Shai Crawley, 20, of East Baltimore, saw it differently. “[Porter] needs to be found guilty,” Crawley said. “He may have not had an immediate role, but he told investigators that Freddie Gray asked him for help.”

Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, and other city officials and leaders (have) expressed concerns about potential protests leading up to the announcement of verdict if the jury returned ‘not guilty’ decisions on the charges.

Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Gregory E. Thornton sent out a letter to parents and families Monday asking for “help in preparing our students to act responsibility and safely in the event that disorders occur.” After the release of the letter, Porter’s defense attorneys asked for a mistrial in the case, claiming a reference to “potentially violent situations” could impact juror’s impartiality, especially if they had children in the school system. Williams denied that request.

Davis, in an open letter to the police department on Monday, implored officers to continue to “take the ideals of service and protection seriously and reject the notion that any particular circumstances or moment can sully our unconditional dedication to our police department, our profession, and our city.” Meanwhile, additional police officers from other jurisdictions were called into the city Tuesday as backup.

At a press availability at his midtown Baltimore office Tuesday, Rep. Elijah Cummings said the verdict has "as much legitimacy as our society can provide." A former practicing attorney, according to The Washington Post, Cummings said that the judicial system in Porter trial was working as well as it can:

"The state investigated thoroughly, he said, and Porter offered a vigorous defense. He noted that the jury was made up of 'our neighbors'—citizens of Baltimore—who had to be trusted to reach the right conclusion.

“We will all be on trial in the days and weeks ahead,” Cummings said. “Our future as a more just community will depend more upon our actions than it will upon the decision of Officer Porter's jury.”

Gray died from severe spinal injuries after suffering a broken neck at some point during a 45-minute, multi-stop ride in a police transport van last April. He was found unconscious and not breathing at the Western District police station. His death last spring after a week in a coma at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s R Adams Crowley Shock Trauma Center sparked arson, property destruction, and looting in the city on the night of April 27, as well as attacks on law enforcement.

Protests in the city over Gray’s death, police brutality, and criminal justice reform issues, in general, have continued since last spring. Meanwhile, homicides in Baltimore have reached unprecedented levels, totaling nearly 330 to date this year.

Five other Baltimore police officers have been charged in the Gray case, including Officer Caesar Goodson, the driver of the transport van, who faces a charge of second-degree depraved heart murder at his trial, scheduled for Jan. 6, 2016.

Closing arguments in Porter’s trial—the first of the six officers to go to trial—concluded Monday.

In Maryland, involuntary manslaughter is defined as the killing of another unintentionally while doing an unlawful act (not a felony), a negligent act, or by negligently failing to perform a legal duty.

Reckless endangerment is defined as conduct that creates a substantial risk of death of serious physical injury to another.

Second-degree assault in Maryland is defined by intentionally causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another.

Misconduct in office is described as “corrupt behavior by an officer in the exercise of the duties of his or her office or while acting under color of office,” in the Maryland's Public Ethics code.

*This story will be updated.




Meet The Author

Ron Cassie is a senior editor for Baltimore, where he covers the environment, education, medicine, politics, and city life.



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