Baltimore Judge Declares Mistrial After Jury Deadlocks In Freddie Gray Case

Dec 16, 2015
Originally published on December 17, 2015 12:45 pm
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A jury has failed to reach a verdict in the trial of William Porter in Baltimore. He's the police officer who faced manslaughter and other charges in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray was a black man who sustained a broken neck while in police custody this April. Judge Barry Williams told the courtroom today that the jury could not reach agreement on any of the four charges against Porter. He thanked jurors for their time and dismissed them. Five more officers are to stand trial starting next month. NPR's Jennifer Ludden was there in Baltimore for the verdict. She joins us now from outside of the courthouse. Hi, Jennifer.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: The jury yesterday said they were deadlocked. You were there in the courtroom today when the mistrial was called. What exactly happened?

LUDDEN: Well, we were called in around 2:30 in the afternoon and waited for more than half an hour. And Marilyn Mosby, the state's attorney, came in - we got the sense that something was up. And finally, the jury came out and as you said, Judge Williams announced they could not agree on any of these four charges from involuntary manslaughter down to misconduct in office. They were deadlocked. Now it will be up to prosecutors to decide whether they're going to retry William Porter or not. They are going to meet privately with Judge Williams to - they and the defense attorneys - to figure that out.

SHAPIRO: Given the way that this trial unfolded, how much of a surprise is the outcome?

LUDDEN: Well, I mean, I don't think anyone, you know, plans for a mistrial. But I will say, legal analysts have always said this is a really tough case. You know, this is not an officer - police officer shooting someone in the back as some of these, you know, videos that we have seen come out. This was an officer charged for what he did not do - not buckling someone into a seatbelt in the police van, not calling a medic when the detainee, Freddie Gray, recommended one. Legal analysts said, you know, it was going to be a high bar to show the evil intent when he didn't do those things. Also, you know, we saw - heard two really different stories in that courtroom. We do not know what happened inside that police van despite two weeks of testimony. We had conflicting testimony from different forensic pathologists - you know, police trainers - really this jury was left to decide who they were going to believe.

SHAPIRO: As people may recall, the death of Freddie Gray led to protests and later riots in Baltimore. Talk about the scene in the city now. Night has fallen - what's happening?

LUDDEN: You know, it's still pretty calm. From what we know, there was a small band of protesters kind of arching around the courthouse in City Hall. They're small groups - we have community activists who are out walking and on bicycles. They say they'll be out all night to try and keep the peace. The city really has a high level of law enforcement, not just locally but neighboring jurisdictions have sent in officers as well. You know, people tell me that they're disappointed. A lot of activists see this as a loss. Freddie Gray's family spoke though. They say they're not upset. They don't want the public to be upset. They say, you know, this is a bump in the road to justice and there can be another trial. Also, the NAACP spokeswoman here said, look, at least we had a lot of information come out about police procedure like the fact that no one follows policy on seatbelts. And she thought that, you know, was a benefit.

SHAPIRO: And also, five more officers yet to stand trial, as we mentioned, so what next?

LUDDEN: Well, this mistrial could affect some of those. Prosecutors had said that William Porter is a material witness in at least two of those other cases. If he now has something pending and can plead the fifth, they may have to rethink their strategy.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Jennifer Ludden in Baltimore. Thanks, Jennifer.

LUDDEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.