Freddie Gray Jury to Continue Deliberating Tuesday

The jury began deliberating the case of Baltimore police officer William Porter, the first officer to go on trial in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. 

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams told jurors Monday they could deliberate as long as they want and wouldn't be asked to stop at 5:30 p.m. if they wanted to keep working, but the jurors decided to go home. They will continue deliberating Tuesday.

Jurors left the courtroom at about 2:30 p.m. Monday to begin their discussions after the two-week trial. 

Porter faces charges of manslaughter, 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.

Porter faces a maximum penalty of about 25 years.

Prosecutors say he 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 defense said the prosecution's case was based on speculation, not evidence.

In his jury instructions, Judge Williams said violating police policies does not necessarily constitute negligence. He also told jurors how to determine each charge: Manslaughter means he acted in a "grossly negligent manner" and "created a high degree of risk to human life;" assault also requires a finding of gross negligence; reckless endangerment means disregarding a substantial risk of death; and misconduct requires "evil motive" and "bad faith."

The jurors later sought clarification of "evil motive" and other terms, but the judge said could not expand on his instructions.

The judge says the assault charge also requires jurors to find that Porter was grossly negligent, while the misconduct charge requires an "evil motive, bad faith" and "not merely an error in judgment."

Porter is in the first of six police officers charged in Gray's death.

As the city of Baltimore braced for a verdict, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said business should continue as usual and that people must respect the jury's decision, but the city also opened an emergency operations center as a precaution so that authorities can coordinate any necessary response.

Earlier Monday, prosecutors described Porter as indifferent to Gray's safety, repeatedly denying him medical care in the police wagon where his neck was broken after he was left handcuffed and shackled but unbuckled, making Gray vulnerable to being bounced around inside the metal compartment.

The wagon "became his casket on wheels" after Porter failed to belt him to the bench or call for a medic after Gray was injured, prosecutor Janice Bledsoe said Monday. Porter "just didn't care enough," she said.

Porter, who is charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment, testified that he did nothing wrong to Gray, who was arrested after running from officers in his neighborhood.

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

Demonstrations were initially peaceful following the young black man's death on April 19, a week after his arrest. But unrest broke out on the day of his funeral, bringing a curfew and the National Guard to the streets, and fueling the "Black Lives Matter'' movement that has increased scrutiny of how minorities are treated by police.

Prosecutors said Porter is partly responsible for Gray's death because Porter ignored a departmental policy requiring officers to buckle prisoners in with seat belts, and didn't call for an ambulance when Gray indicated he needed medical aid.

Porter, who lifted Gray off the van floor and sat him on the seat at one point during the trip to the police station, told jurors he didn't call a medic because Gray didn't show signs of injury, pain or distress and said only "yes" when Porter offered to take him to the hospital.

A defense attorney called Gray's death a "horrific tragedy" but said that "there is literally no evidence" that Porter's actions in any way caused it. The defense attorney said expert witnesses disagreed on the timeline of when Gray suffered the spinal injury that eventually killed him, and that constitutes "reasonable doubt."

Porter and other witnesses testified that it was the responsibility of the wagon driver, Caesar Goodson, to buckle Gray into the seat belt. Goodson faces the most serious charge: second-degree "depraved-heart" murder.

Porter's fate may influence the trials of the other officers and set the tone for the city's healing.

With that in mind, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis canceled leave for all officers through Friday, saying "the community has an expectation for us to be prepared for a variety of scenarios."

Authorities sought to prevent more trouble ahead of the verdict, opening an emergency operations center Monday and urging parents to control their children. A letter Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Gregory Thornton sent home with students warned that "student walkouts, vandalism, civil disorder and any form of violence are not acceptable."

The mayor urged residents to remain calm.

"Whatever the verdict, we need everyone in our city to respect the judicial process," Rawlings-Blake said. "We need everyone visiting our city to respect Baltimore."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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