Jury deadlocked on criminal charges for first officer tried in Freddie Gray's death

Baltimore police officer William Porter is the first of six facing trial for his role in the spine-injury death of Gray

Midway through its second day of deliberations, the jury reported it was deadlocked on criminal charges against Baltimore police officer William Porter for the death of Freddie Gray, signaling a lack of certainty in the closely watched trial.

Judge Barry Williams told the jury to go back and continue deliberating. He reread the instructions to the jurors and told them they must reach a unanimous decision on each of four counts, the most serious of which is involuntary manslaughter. Porter is the first of six officers facing trial for his role in the spine-injury death of Gray, who was dragged by officers and transported in restraints but without a seatbelt in the back of a police van.

The majority-black jury had been deliberating for nine hours when they sent a note to Williams indicating a deadlock. City officials are preparing for widespread protest should Porter be acquitted. In a motion Tuesday, defense lawyers went so far as to ask for a mistrial and a change of venue, citing a letter from the CEO of Baltimore schools, who noted that unrest might follow from a verdict. The motion was quickly dismissed.

In closing arguments Monday, prosecutors argued that Porter had several opportunities to prevent Gray’s death and failed to do so.

Janice Bledsoe, deputy state’s attorney, punctuated her argument for convicting Porter of involuntary manslaughter and other charges with the refrain “I need a medic,” returning again and again to Gray’s requests for medical assistance.

“‘I need a medic.’ How long does it take to click a seatbelt and click a radio and ask for a medic?” Bledsoe said. “Is two, three, four seconds worth a life? That’s all it would have taken.”

Defense lawyers stressed that the state had failed to produce a witness to show that Porter had not acted as a “reasonable officer”, the standard by which jurors were instructed to judge Porter’s actions.

“I understand that there is a need to find someone accountable, to hold someone responsible for the death of Freddie Gray,” defense attorney Joseph Murtha said.

“Whether you may be offended by the way the police put him in [the van], it isn’t part of your consideration.”

Contributor

Baynard Woods in Baltimore

The GuardianTramp

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