Mistrial Declared for First Baltimore Officer Accused in Freddie Gray's Death

Protesters gather in Baltimore streets as city calls for calm

A hung jury has been declared in the trial of William Porter, the first of six Baltimore police officers to go on trial in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured in a police van in April.

After more than 16 hours of deliberations over three days, the jury told Judge Barry Williams about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday that it couldn't reach a unanimous decision on any of the four charges against Porter. On Tuesday, the jurors were deadlocked and Williams urged them to continue.

Williams thanked jurors for their service and dismissed them, saying, "The court finds you are a hung jury."

Protesters began a march after sundown, walking through Baltimore streets and chanting. Some, reportedly including Freddie Gray's twin sister Fredericka, gathered in front of police headquarters. Protests through midnight were peaceful, with one group silently linking arms and just two related arrests. 

Porter was reached by phone by The Baltimore Sun after the case was declared a mistrial.

"It's not over yet," he said, according to the paper.

Porter May Be Tried Again by a New Jury

Porter may be tried by a new jury. Attorneys will speak privately with Williams on Thursday to discuss a new trial date.

Porter was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office in the April 19 death of Gray, who died a week after his neck was broken during a ride in the back of a police van.

Five other officers are also facing various charges, the most serious of which is second-degree "depraved heart" murder in the case of Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who was driving the van. His trial, the next on the calendar, is scheduled for January.

During Porter's trial, prosecutors claimed Porter was criminally negligent for ignoring a policy requiring officers to strap prisoners in with a seat belt and for not calling an ambulance immediately after Gray indicated he needed medical aid.

The wagon "became his casket on wheels," prosecutor Janice Bledsoe said during her closing argument. Porter "just didn't care enough," she said.

But Porter and other witnesses testified that it was Goodson's responsibility to buckle Gray into the seat belt, and the defense said the prosecution's case was based on speculation and called Gray's death a "horrific tragedy." 

"There is literally no evidence" that Porter's actions in any way caused it, the defense argued.

The mistrial was declared a day after jurors first informed Williams that they were deadlocked. On Tuesday afternoon, the judge told the jury it was their responsibility to reach a verdict, and asked them to continue deliberating. The jury resumed work and left for the day without a verdict Tuesday.

The 12-member jury was comprised of four black women, three white women, three black men and two white men.

Legal analyst Warren Brown said he was not surprised the jury was hung.

"When you look at the law, which calls for a callous mindset, a callous disregard for human life ... they said that it's just not there," he said.

Calling for Order in Baltimore

Shortly after a mistrial was declared, Gray's stepfather, Richard Shipley, spoke outside the courthouse and asked Baltimore residents to be peaceful.

"We ask the public to remain calm and patient, because we are confident there will be another trial with another jury," he said. "We are calm. You should be calm."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also urged protesters to be respectful.

"We have a chance to show the country how to be heard peacefully, respectfully and effectively," she said Wednesday evening. "I know that as a community, we are up to the task."

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said officers would allow peaceful protests.

"We respect the right of Americans to protest," he said. "We are here to serve as peacekeepers."

"You lose your ability to call yourself a protester when you choose to harm people and destroy property," he continued.

Gray's stepfather appeared with Gray's mother, Gloria Darden, and their lawyer, Billy Murphy. The lawyer urged Baltimore residents to accept the decision of the jury and seek justice.

"We of all people, as members of the black community, should be interested in justice, not our predetermined opinion that someone should be found either guilty or not guilty," Murphy said. "And likewise, there are elements in the white community who believe that the police are right all the time.

"They're used to Officer Friendly. We're used to Officer Unfriendly," he continued. "They're used to being served. We're used to being disserved."

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said via a representative, "the administration respects the legal progress that is currently underway and will continue to monitor activity in the city," the governor's office told WTOP.

The mistrial announcement reopened old wounds in many communities, organizer Dominic Nell said Wednesday night.

"We're still in the healing process," he said. 

In the days leading to the end of the trial, the city began preparing for the possibility of unrest similar to the riots that left parts of West Baltimore in chaos in April. A number of groups took to the streets of Baltimore following Gray's death, including members of the ever-growing Black Lives Matter movement.

The demonstrations were peaceful for several days, but on the day Gray was buried, looting began. Some businesses were burned down. At one point, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard. The city also was placed on a 10 p.m. curfew, which was lifted May 3.

The troubles forced Rawlings-Blake to end her re-election campaign, toppled the career of Baltimore police commissioner Anthony Batts and increased scrutiny nationwide of how minorities are treated by police.

Earlier this week, Rawlings-Blake called for people to respect the jury's decision. She also announced the opening of an emergency operations center as a precaution so that authorities can coordinate any necessary response.

The calls for peace ahead of Porter's verdict also have reached the White House.

A reporter asked spokesman Josh Earnest at a Monday briefing whether there was a message from the White House to people in Baltimore. Earnest said President Barack Obama's comments after Chicago police recently released video of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald were relevant. Earnest says the president was proud of how the community responded with a "forceful but peaceful display of concern."

Earnest says the administration is "hopeful that as activists and individuals in other communities have similar concerns to express, that they do so peacefully."

Pastor Angel Nunez said Wednesday that Baltimore residents don't want a repeat of the damage they saw this spring.

"We will not tolerate our city to be burned up like it was in April," he said. "We want to make sure that people have the right to protest but not to destroy and not burn down our city."

Preparing for the Outcome

Baltimore's mayor said in a letter to community leaders that she has "no doubt" city officials are prepared for anything, and that the city is also communicating with outside law enforcement agency partners.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who replaced Batts, also called for the city's officers to continue their commitment to protect and serve.

"Regardless of the outcome of this trial or any future trial, we refuse to surrender to the low expectation of those who wish to see us fail," Davis said in a letter to the police department.

Davis also canceled leave for all officers through Friday, saying "the community has an expectation for us to be prepared for a variety of scenarios."

Armored vehicles and police were stationed around the city ahead of the verdict.

Maryland State Police had troopers and large vehicles, including a Humvee, in a park Tuesday afternoon near The Maryland Zoo. There were also reports of officers with helmets and shields.

Officers from other jurisdictions have also offered their help. Lori Boone, a spokeswoman with the Howard County Police Department, says the county has officers prepared to assist. The Carroll County Sheriff's Office also is prepared to help.

Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith said officers from out of town and tactical equipment will be used only "if absolutely necessary."

Students in the city's public schools have also been warned to avoid participation in any response that leads to destruction.

Baltimore City Public Schools Schools CEO Gregory Thornton said Monday that schools will facilitate student expression but warned of consequences for "walkouts, vandalism, civil disorder and any form of violence."

Some school systems in the surrounding area have canceled field trips to Baltimore.

Baltimore County Public School spokesman Mychael Dickerson said Tuesday that the school system is postponing, and in some cases canceling, field trips and events in Baltimore city through Friday.

Schools in Harford and Howard counties have also canceled field trips, The Baltimore Sun reports.

Stay with NBCWashington.com for more details on this developing story.

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