A mistrial was declared yesterday in the trial of Baltimore police officer, William Porter, who was charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. Porter is one of six police officers charged with second-degree assault, involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
Gray was a 25-year-old African American man who was stopped by police April 12 because he “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence,” according to police records. After Gray was stopped by police, video recorded by witnesses shows him being dragged into a van, crying out in pain.
It was reported by police that once in the van Gray repeatedly asked for medical help, but that the paramedics were not called until the end of the ride, by which time he was unresponsive. Gray was pronounced dead a week later after having been in a coma. He had three fractured neck vertabrae.
Porter pleaded not guilty to all the charges, as have the other five officers. It is unclear as of this week if the state will pursue a retrial. Porter’s trial lasted a little over two weeks. There were two days of jury selection and approximately two weeks of testimony. The jury took three days to deliberate on the charges.
Richard Shipley, Freddie Gray’s stepfather, spoke to the press and stated, “the jurors did the best that they could… We are confident there will be another trial with another jury.” Baltimore NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston remarked, “Even with this verdict, what we do know is that the change has begun. Certainly no suspect will be placed in police wagons without someone being responsible for making sure they are buckled… And the disconnected police culture and those who have benefited from it… has been put on notice that you will be charged for your action and you will be held accountable.”
Billy Murphy, the Gray family’s attorney, stressed that mistrial doesn’t mean the case is closed. “I don’t buy the nonsense that this is somehow a victory for either side. It’s not,” he told the press. “It’s just a bump on the road to justice, and you know, the road to justice has lot of bumps.”
After the verdict was announced Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake urged for calm in the city in both a press conference following the decision and on her Twitter account. “This is our American system of justice… 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,” she tweeted. On Monday, two days before the verdict, Blake tweeted that the city had activated its emergency operations center Monday “out of an abundance of caution.”
Although Commissioner Kevin Davis stated at a press conference following the verdict that the city respects the rights of protestors, there were a number of arrests made the night of the mistrial in what was reported to be a generally peaceful night of demonstrations. Baltimore Sun reporter Ken Rector tweeted “Sheriff’s dept comes over, tells me & Sun photog if we shoot pictures of court we’ll be in contempt of court order by admin judge… We said it’s a public street. Deputy says, and I quote, that the judge’s order has now made it a ‘privately public’ area.”
On Thursday, as reported by the Baltimore Sun, a coalition of civil rights, religious, and community leaders met to advise residents to push for significant reform of the Baltimore Police department. Rev. S. Todd Yeary, co-chair of the NAACP asked at the gathering, “What are we going to do about the structural issues that led to the pressure building that ended up being released because of a police encounter?” An organizer with the Baltimore group, West Baltimore, Ray Kelly, stated, “Somehow we must continue to channel this outrage.”
The Baltimore Police Department is currently undergoing a civil rights investigation by the U.S Department of Justice. All six officers charged have been suspended. Porter remains suspended without pay.
Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP