After 16 hours of deliberation over three days, the jury in the first trial connected with the death of Freddie Gray returned to the courtroom deadlocked, unable to make a decision about whether or not they believed Officer William G. Porter was guilty. The judge declared a mistrial, and the first of six police officers charged in connection with the death of the 25-year-old was released. When the William Porter retrial will be is set to be decided Thursday.
Gray's death this spring set off protests — some violent — in Baltimore to protest against what community members deemed excessive police violence. Gray suffered a broken neck and severe spinal cord injuries that were sustained while being transported in the back of a police van without a seatbelt. The first officer who was charged, Porter, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office.
The state argued Porter could have helped Gray but did not. In the state's closing argument on Monday, prosecutor Janice Bledsoe claimed that if Porter had not ignored police department regulations to call a medic and put Gray in a seatbelt, Gray might still be alive today. The defense argued that Porter acted reasonably, given the information that he had.
The first case was supposed to be a building block in the prosecution of the other five officers. Porter was meant to be a material witness in the case against the van's driver, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. The New York Times reported that the mistrial would make getting Porter on the stand more difficult. Goodson's case was set to start Jan. 6, followed by the other four, separately but back-to-back.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the main prosecutor on the case, was in court and appeared visibly upset when the mistrial was announced. On Wednesday, Richard Shipley, Gray's stepfather, called on Mosby to retry Porter, as the decision could be made to actually not schedule a retrial. "We are hopeful that Mosby will retry Officer Porter as soon as possible, and that his next jury will reach a verdict," Shipley said. The police union said Porter's attorney would continue to push for an acquittal.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake released a statement calling on the city to respect the judicial process. "This is our American system of justice. Twelve Baltimore residents listened to the evidence presented and were unable to render a unanimous decision," Rawlings-Blake said in her statement. She said peaceful protests would of course be allowed but that the neighborhoods of the city must be respected.
The forthcoming trial schedule will show protestors that justice will prevail. Meanwhile peaceful protests will keep the pressure on the state to carry on with prosecution.