BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After deliberating for three days, the jury in the trial of Officer William Porter simply could not agree. Porter is the first of six officers to be tried in the death of Freddie Gray.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren has more on the hung jury, and what’s next for Officer Porter.
This was an emotional and exhausting day, with deliberations ending with no unanimous verdict. It is that indecision that may well have a lasting impact on the cases of the other six officers charged.
Chaos erupted outside the courthouse minutes after the judge declared a mistrial for Officer William Porter in the death of Freddie Gray.
Gray’s stepfather, Richard Shipley, pleaded for peace.
“We want to thank this hard-working jury for their service to the public, their quest for justice and their personal sacrifice and their time and effort. We are not at all upset with them and neither should the public be upset,” Shipley said.
“They did the best they could,” he added. “We are hopeful Ms. Mosby will retry Officer Porter as soon as possible, and that his next jury will reach a verdict. Once again, we ask the public to remain calm.”
WATCH: Family Of Freddie Gray Thanks Jurors, Requests Peace
Jurors first told the judge they were deadlocked in the first full day of deliberations. It’s unclear how they split.
“The prosecution and the defense learned a great deal about the other side’s evidence, and I think that will serve them well in future trials,” said Andrew Levy, University of Maryland law professor.
“A hung jury, mistrial, is certainly much better than a conviction,” said Warren Alperstein, lawyer and courtroom observer.
Prosecutors may well retry Officer William Porter and are expected to pick a new date in private with the judge Thursday morning.
This could also impact trials for the other officers charged in Gray’s death.
“And I think you’re going to have a number of hung juries as you go along,” said Warren Brown, lawyer and courtroom observer.
The case has been an emotional flashpoint in Baltimore, with prosecutors arguing Porter cared so little about Gray’s life, he failed to call a medic and left him to die inside the police wagon.
“I’m said for Freddie because he didn’t get help,” said Baltimore NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston.
The defense painted Porter as a good cop, who went beyond what most officers would do.
The Fraternal Order of Police says they back his acquittal:
“When Officer Porter began this journey through the judicial process, we asked that everyone allow him his day in court as is promised to all citizens. Today, seven months later, Officer Porter is no closer to a resolution than he was at that time. Our legal system, however, allows for outcomes of this nature, and we must respect the decision of the Jury, despite the fact that it is obviously frustrating to everyone involved. Officer Porter and his attorneys will continue, with the full support of the Fraternal Order of Police, to press for his acquittal. While certainly nothing will return Freddie Gray to his family, we ask that the public continue to allow the judicial process to find its way to a final resolution.”
The Gray family says they’ll wait for justice.
“This family wants only justice. They don’t want a guilty or a not guilty. They want a just verdict. They want a verdict of some kind,” said Billy Murphy, Gray family attorney.
LIVE BLOG: The Latest Developments In The Porter Trial
After leaving the courthouse, Officer Porter did pick up his phone.
Thursday night, Porter told CNN: “I’m doing well.”
When asked for his reaction to the hung jury, he said: “You know I can’t comment on that, but I can’t blame you for trying.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued the following statement:
“A few minutes ago, Judge Barry G. Williams declared a mistrial in the criminal case of Officer William Porter because the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. It is now up to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to determine whether to further pursue criminal charges. This is our American system of justice. Twelve Baltimore residents listened to the evidence presented and were unable to render a unanimous decision. As a unified city, we must respect the outcome of the judicial process. 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. In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond. We will protect our neighborhoods, our businesses and the people of our city.”
WATCH: Mayor, Police Commissioner Hold Press Conference On Porter Trial
Deadlocked since Tuesday afternoon, the jurors sent another note to Judge Barry Williams that they could not come to a decision on any of the four charges: manslaughter, assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment.
“I didn’t see that there was going to be any movement towards unanimity based on their first contact with the court being we are hopelessly deadlocked,” said Brown.
“We do know that Freddie’s dead, and someone did it, and that six officers were involved, so it’s a very sad situation,” said Hill-Aston.
Both sides will meet Thursday to set a date for a retrial, but it’s far from a certainty whether there will be one.
“The state very much wants to use Officer Porter’s testimony against Officer Goodson. And so, with that in mind, it’s going to be difficult for Officer Porter to be called as a witness in the case against Officer Goodson so long as Officer Porter remains a defendant.”
The trial lasted two weeks. Jurors deliberated for less than 20 hours over three days.
Congressman Elijah Cummings issued the following statement:
“It is my understanding that the jury in Officer Porter’s trial was deadlocked – unable to reach a unanimous verdict of either guilt or innocence on all four charges. This is why Judge Barry G. Williams declared a mistrial.
“I have also been informed that the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office intends to retry Officer Porter. There will also be the trials of the other officers who have been charged.
“I know that many of my neighbors have been following this trial closely, and many may be disappointed by today’s outcome. Each of us will continue to struggle with the very raw, very real emotions the death of Mr. Freddie Gray invokes.
“I commend Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in her efforts to pursue justice; the jurors for faithfully carrying out their civic duty; and all who have worked to ensure full and fair trials for each defendant involved.
“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.
“This is the road to more equal justice in our community.”
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said that Porter is still suspended without pay.
Officer Caesar Goodson, who was the driver of the police transport van and who Officer Porter’s attorneys say had primary responsibility for Freddie Gray’s safety, he is scheduled to go on trial next on January 6.
That date could now change.
“When you go into these trials, what you don’t want to hear is guilty. We’d love to hear not guilty, but at least not hear guilty. This is a hung jury, deprives the state of a conviction. If they try to decide to try Porter again, then Porter only needs one juror next time to hang the jury because I doubt they would try him a third time. So where he needed to conclude this matter definitively with 12 jurors saying not guilty, next time he only needs one juror to hold out in his favor to cause another hung jury. The state is not likely to try this a third time,” Brown said.
Former mayor Sheila Dixon had this to say about the mistrial:
“We still feel the pain of the loss of Freddie Gray, and we must continue our efforts to build a stronger city where every person is respected and valued. With the judge’s announcement today that the jury is hung on all counts, the work of creating a system of justice remains unfinished. It is now our job as a community to engage in and improve that process positively and constructively.”
Mayoral candidate and city councilman Carl Stokes says he is not concerned about what could happen in the city.
“Nothing of any major consequence will happen. I will say that. I’m a guy on the street every day, all day long. People want justice to happen, both in the case here and in their neighborhoods. I think the bigger issue is–will we get peace and justice in the community? That’s how we got here,” said Stokes. “I think the people want very much to re-engage with the police, and I think the police ought to want to re-engage with the community. I think that’s happening. I think the current commissioner is working toward that. I think that’s what people in this town want. They don’t want to be at each other’s throats. They don’t want that at all. They really want this to be a city that moves forward positively, but they want the conditions that got us here to be addressed by the politicians and others sooner rather than later.”