On Wednesday, Judge Barry G. Williams declared a mistrial in the trial of William Porter, the first of six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray died in April from injuries suffered after Baltimore police left him unbuckled but shackled in the back of a police van during a ride to a booking station, sparking turbulent protests throughout the city.
Jurors said on Wednesday that they were deadlocked on all counts. Porter had pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault, involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. After deliberating for about a day, jurors had told the court that they were deadlocked; the judge instructed them to continue to try to reach a unanimous verdict. It didn’t happen.
Prosecutors argued that Porter criminally neglected his duties by failing to buckle Gray into a seat, or to get him medical attention when it was clear that he needed it. But Porter’s lawyers said it was the driver’s responsibility to make sure Gray was buckled in, and that Porter fulfilled his responsibility to Gray’s safety when he told his supervisor that Gray needed to go to the hospital.
City officials were again on edge as Baltimore awaited a verdict. Last April, Mayor Stephanie Rawlins-Blake declared a weeklong curfew and called in the National Guard after riots broke out around the city. Rawlins-Blake issued a statement following the judge’s decision on Wednesday calling on protesters to show “respect for our neighborhoods” and saying that the city was “prepared to respond” to any unrest.
The Harford and Howard county school districts canceled all field trips to Baltimore this week in anticipation of possible protests. The CEO of Baltimore schools also sent a letter to parents Monday saying he was “very concerned” about how students might respond. The letter drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, which said it was wrong to equate students’ desire to demonstrate with potential violence.
Judge Williams is expected to set a date for Porter’s new trial on Thursday. Trials for the other five officers charged in Gray’s death are also expected to begin soon.