When Will William G. Porter's New Trial Be? The Freddie Gray Case Has Sparked Several Trials
Monday brought good news to Baltimore. After last week's mistrial in the prosecution of William G. Porter, one of the officer's being tried in connection with Freddie Gray's death, tensions reignited in Baltimore. Protesters chanted, "No justice, no peace," and, "All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray," as they marched through the city following the announcement. There was little doubt that prosecutors would retry Porter, but Monday's announcement of the new trial date for the Baltimore officer should reassure activists that there is hope in the criminal justice system.
The second trial will start June 13. Porter was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. The state's case rested on the idea that Porter could have helped Gray but did not. At least one juror was not convinced, although it's unclear why the jury could not reach a verdict. The identities of the jurors have remained secret and the judge did not release any records of votes they may have taken.
The Baltimore Sun reported that the mistrial may ultimately help in the conviction of the officer. By June the prosecutors will have had time to analyze where they succeeded and where they had trouble reaching the jury. Also, they will have a videotape of what Porter said at the first trial, enabling them to better prepare a cross examination.
Meanwhile five other officers are set to be tried in connection with the 25-year-old's death. Gray died after suffering fatal injuries in police custody. He 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.
Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the van's driver, was set to be the next officer on trial. He faces the most serious charge of all the officers: second-degree murder. His trial is set to start Jan. 6, followed by the other four, separately but back-to-back.
Porter's mistrial could still affect these cases. He was scheduled to be a material witness in two of the other cases, including Goodson's. The Wall Street Journal reported that Porter could refuse to testify invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. One way around that would be to grant him immunity and drop charges, but they could also agree not to use the testimony against him in his own trial.
Given the protests that rocked Baltimore this spring, the State should carefully consider any offers to get Porter to testify in the other cases. As the protesters showed again on Wednesday, they will not accept a hung jury, so an immunity deal would likely face a similar reaction.