Every once in a while our society surprises me and that’s what happened in Baltimore recently. When the first police officer in the Freddie Gray case went to court it ended in a mistrial. That was surprising enough in and of itself. I’m fairly sure that when the city, led by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, decided to put the officers on trial they were fairly sure that any jury they seated would bring back a conviction. That’s probably why they fought so hard against moving the case out to an area where they might find a slightly more impartial panel. But the story has taken a turn.
This first trial against Officer William Porter didn’t bring back a verdict, but I’d been assuming that they just ran into one recalcitrant person who wouldn’t vote for a conviction. As it turned out, however, when they considered the most serious charge against him, the opposite was true. (Baltimore Sun)
The jury in the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter was one vote from acquitting him of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray, the most serious charge he faced, according to sources familiar with the deliberations.
Judge Barry G. Williams declared a mistrial because the jury deadlocked on all four charges last month. Jurors were two votes from convicting Porter of misconduct in office, and more divided on charges of assault and reckless endangerment, sources said.
How the jury voted was not publicly revealed, and the judge ruled that jurors’ names should not be revealed.
In the end, it would appear that everything came down to the concept of “evil motive and bad faith.” The jurors seemed almost willing to bring in Porter guilty on some form of negligence for not buckling Freddie Gray into his seat in the police van, but all but one of them rejected the idea that he had acted in malice, seeking to harm the suspect.
I have to give the people of Baltimore credit. I was being rather cynical and simply assumed that the avalanche of press reports blaming the police and the lack of support from their own city government would ensure a quick guilty verdict. We won’t know what deliberations went on regarding the evidence presented any time soon (if ever) but clearly the jurors dug into it and attempted to do their jobs.
The remaining question now is what happens to Porter next. The city wants him to testify in the trials of the five remaining police involved in the case, but he’s not interested in doing so. Had he been acquitted on all charges he might have been compelled to testify because Double Jeopardy rules would have prevented him from being tried again and he wouldn’t be giving evidence against himself. Conversely, if he’d been found guilty, a bit of cooperation might have seen a better deal cut for him. But now, with the possibility of another trial looming, it looks as if they won’t be able to force him to the stand to bear witness against his fellow officers.
This story will drag on all through the year, so I’m sure we’ve not seen the last of it here.