Hung Jury For Officer On Trial In Death Of Freddie Gray

Officer William Porter, 26, was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

12/16/2015 03:24 pm ET | Updated Dec 16, 2015
William Porter, right, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, arrives at a courthouse with his attorney Joseph Murtha for jury selection in his trial, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Baltimore.

The jury could not reach a verdict in the case of Officer William Porter, the Baltimore cop charged in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

Porter, 26, is one of six officers who will stand trial in connection to the death of Gray, a black man who died after a “rough ride” in police custody in April. Porter was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

After deliberating for three days, the jury informed Judge Barry G. Williams that they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the four charges, including the most serious charge of manslaughter. Williams declared a mistrial. The judge will hold a scheduling conference Thursday to discuss a new trial date.

Legal experts told The New York Times this month that the verdict in Porter’s case could possibly set the tone for the trials of the five other officers. Prosecutors seek to use Porter as a material witness against at least two of them.

Gray sustained a spinal cord injury while riding in the police van in April. During the ride, his feet and hands were shackled, but he was not buckled in with a seatbelt. Medical experts who spoke with The Baltimore Sun about Gray’s injuries likened them to those seen in “victims of high-speed crashes.”

The prosecution has argued that Porter's failure to buckle Gray's seatbelt before the van pulled away makes him partially responsible for Gray's death. Porter admitted that he did not buckle Gray into the van because he had never seen another officer do so in approximately 150 other arrests during his time on the force.

Porter and his attorneys maintained that Officer Caesar Goodson, one of the officers charged and the driver of the van, ignored Porter’s advice that Gray needed medical assistance. 

Porter took the witness stand on Dec. 9 and informed the jury of seven women and five men that he has never discharged his firearm, or used mace or a taser while on duty.  

“People had negative views of police,” Porter said. “I wanted to give people a different view to police … I was always fair.”

Unrest rocked the city following Gray’s funeral on April 27 -- a situation that the Baltimore Police Department was ill-prepared to handle.

Authorities prepared this week for a verdict that could set off riots again. On Friday, Commissioner Kevin Davis canceled leave for officers “as part of preparations and out of an abundance of caution,” said police spokesman T.J. Smith. From Dec. 14 until Dec. 18, officers are scheduled to work 12-hour shifts.

After the mistrial announcement, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake explained to residents that their “reaction needs to be one of respect.”

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) also released a statement saying his administration "respects the legal progress that is currently underway and will continue to monitor activity in the city." 

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) weighed in on the need for peace as well.

"With the eyes of the world on Baltimore City, we must ensure that any protests that take place are peaceful, and we must ensure that the process of healing our community continues. We must continue to channel our emotions into strong, positive change, so that, as a city, we truly see our young men of color before it is too late," he said.

All six officers involved in Gray's death were indicted in May, and all face charges of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

In addition, Goodson was charged with second-degree "depraved-heart" murder, manslaughter, two counts of vehicular manslaughter and second-degree assault. Sgt. Alicia White and Lt. Brian Rice were charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault. Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller also face charges of second-degree assault.

All of the officers pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Suggest a correction