In Baltimore, the judge presiding over the trial of William Porter, the first police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, declared a mistrial on Wednesday. Gray died while in police custody in April. The jury twice decided it couldn’t come to a unanimous verdict. Porter was indicted for involuntary manslaughter and faces 10 years not including several other lesser offenses. The Freddie Gray case sparked anger among the black community which led to well-attended and televised protests.
Gray was arrested after he allegedly made eye contact with a police lieutenant and started running; which is not a crime. Eyewitness cell phone footage shows two white police officers physically restraining a screaming young man. It is clear that Gray is injured in the footage. He was shackled and put in a police van but police officers did not restrain him with a seat belt. The cops then took Gray on a 45 minute ride that included several stops. When the cops stopped the van and went to retrieve their suspect, Gray was unresponsive. An autopsy revealed he died of a severe spinal injury.
William Porter’s legal case is important because he is the first of six officers to face trial for the death of Freddie Gray. The incident prompted Black Lives Matter protests in April that garnered a great deal of media coverage. Rep. Elijah Cummings said he was informed the state’s attorney will retry Porter and that the other officers will go on trial as scheduled early next year. “I know that many of my neighbors have been following this trial closely, and many may be disappointed by today’s outcome,” Cummings said in a statement calling for reflection and calm, “Each of us will continue to struggle with the very raw, very real emotions the death of Mr. Freddie Gray invokes.”
After the verdict was announced, protests in Baltimore were mostly peaceful. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Black said she was grateful the “vast majority” of residents respected the jury’s decision. The driver of the police van, Caesar Goodson, faces second-degree depraved murder, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years. The trials for the other five officers, three of them white and two black, are planned for early next year.