It’s very hard to convict a cop:
A judge here on Wednesday declared a mistrial in the first case of an officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, bringing an irresolute end to this city’s first legal reckoning with the fatal police encounter that prompted a burst of violent protest last spring.
“You believe you’ve reached a point where you believe you will not come to a decision on any of the charges?” Judge Barry G. Williams of the Baltimore City Circuit Court said, shortly after 3 p.m., to the weary-looking group of seven women and five men, seven of whom are black, who had deliberated about 16 hours over three days.
The judge dismissed the jury, convened a brief private conference with lawyers, and then announced: “I do declare a mistrial.”
The jury’s inability to reach a verdict after two weeks of impassioned testimony threw into question the five other pending prosecutions and left officials and residents of this tense city frustrated and uncertain about what would come next in a drama that began in April.
Outside the courtroom, a demonstrator used a megaphone to announce the decision, shouting, “They just declared a mistrial!” He quickly added, “Justice has not been served,” and “the system has failed us once again.”
A handful of protesters began chanting: “No justice, no peace!” and “All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray!”
The officer, William G. Porter, 26, was charged with manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment and misconduct in office; the state accused him of “callous indifference” to Mr. Gray’s life for failing to call a medic after Mr. Gray asked for one, and for not buckling Mr. Gray into a police transport van, where he suffered a fatal injury to his spinal cord.
I hope they can keep the calm in Baltimore.
It wasn’t the ride that injured Freddie Gray. It was the wonk across the neck by the bicycle officers. He couldn’t move his legs when they put him in the van.
Anyone know what the rule is on retrials? How many shots does a prosecutor get?
Making law enforcement accountable is going to be a culture change of the kind that does not happen overnight.
Yes, one must start somewhere; and, no, this right here is not a start.
But, in my view, the most important thing that needs to happen is for the responsible authorities to lay down the marker that unaccountability is the problem and accountability is the goal. As long as this is only being done in subtexts (if at all), no one can be surprised at outcomes like this.
Also, too, law-enforcement accountability must go hand-in-hand with prosecutorial accountability — and at that point, the subjective interests diverge. But the marker is the same marker. Lay it down first, then you have standing to measure any progress.
How do you know that? Are you Bill Frist? Both of the medical examiners called by the prosecution testified that he was injured in the van.
@Betty Cracker: I’m not certain there are any limits regarding mistrials, except perhaps for the public’s patience in going through them.
I’m afraid a more pertinent query in this case is whether or not the feds can, or will seek, a crack at him.
@Betty Cracker: You get as many shots as you want. but usually your chances of winning go down each time. Most of the time, the prosecution will give up or offer a really generous plea. I don’t know how politically possible it is to do that in this situation.
Iowa Old Lady
@Anthony: I heard a report saying this defendant was the first trial because he’d agreed to give statements about the other four. But if his case still isn’t settled, his fifth amendment rights are still in play so he might not.
Its a rather long list of charges to come to no agreement about. Not a single one?
@Betty Cracker: The prosecutors will spend or have spent time with the jury in the jury room after the mistrial and will ask about what bits of evidence did/did not help their case.
They will take what they learned and move on. I suspect their inclination will be to retry.
Look forward to hearing numbers for the jury deadlocking. Maybe it’s one or two jurors who were never going to convict the cop, and were seated on the jury? Jury nullification.
I would think they will do a retrial, after finding out from this pool of jurors what was convincing and what was not. Curious if it’s a point of law or a runaway juror (or two or three).
@Elizabelle: Agreed. The problem with juries is that they are composed of a representative cross-section of the general public. So, you know, morons.
Not to sound too racist, but I always thought it would be tough to get a verdict other than a mistrial if the racial make-up of the jury reflected the racial make-up of Baltimore, which would mean about four white jurors. It only takes one, and getting four white people to unanimously agree to a guilty verdict for a cop killing a black man just wasn’t going to be easy.
John M. Burt
This is going to be hard, hard, hard for Freddie Gray’s family to take, and for a lot of other people as well.
I do believe that the arc of history bends towards justice, but oh, God, how long it is….
They can keep re-trying as long as they keep getting mistrials. Usually, though, prosecutors will give up after a couple of them because they figure they’re unlikely to get a verdict.
I am just waiting for all the legal folks that told us how we should feel about the justice system in light of the Oklahoma case to tell us how we should feel about this case. I expect when this happens I will be all right with it.
My sense was that they started with the least inflammatory but also weakest case. I have not seen a description of the reason for this.
Negligent homicide for not attaching the seat belt? Imagine if this was the only case; I.e., the guy was lawfully arrested without incident and then died during transport for this reason.
I wish I knew how clear the evidence was on exactly what injuries he suffered when. The other cops will use the evidence of death caused by transport to defend themselves.
Sweeping it under the carpet, Overlooking it, Dragging it out, o what a familiar dance. and with so many dancers wedded to the dream, the comforting illusion . . .
@Dmbeaster: They want/need Porter to testify in the later trials and don’t want him to be able to invoke his 5th amendment rights.
@patrick II: What the fuck does “too racist” mean? Is that like “Too pregnant”. damn
@patrick II: That’s not being racist. That’s just stating an obvious situation. Majority of white people vote Republican. And it ain’t because of tax policies.
If you are stupid enough to think that racist has an on/off switch like pregnancy, than figure it out for yourself. I doubt if anyone can explain it to you.
@patrick II: No, I think you saying “Not to sound TOO racist” is about as fucking stupid as it gets. You don’t have shit to explain to me, asshole. Like that better?
All of these cases have one fundamental question, that, if answered, would unravel the case.
In this case, for me, it is:
WHY they arrested Freddie Gray
…they couldn’t tell you. …
BECAUSE THERE WAS NO FUCKING REASON.
10 MINUTES before encountered the police, he was a healthy man.
WHO WOUND UP DEAD WITH 80 PERCENT OF SPINE SEVERED.
Self-examination is the key to wisdom, so if you really want to understand, look in the mirror, since you do seem to have an on/off asshole switch, which seems to more or less permanently set to on.
Le sigh, another day, another trial, another Black life taken by policemen, with probably no justice..
Not at all surprised…Rinse, lather, repeat.
Feels like I was literally just having a conversation about the justice system and how it’s viewed by alot of people of color…
Not planning on having that conversation again, I’ll just say and hopefully believe that one day it’ll be true for the majority as well as us minorites….BLACK LIVES MATTER.
@patrick II: I’m kidding, sort of, but how many years of keeping white people (like me) off juries, or even underrepresented on juries, should there be before one can say we’re “even”?
(Yes, this does.bring out the bitter cynic in me, even with my privilege.)
Or years, even. More like decades. This society has been utterly, completely propagandized on this issue, just look at our most popular television shows; police and forensic dramas produced with near uniformity, 99% of police presented as good and sympathetic with the rare bad apple apprehended and punished by fellow police. These shows are comically moralistic, populated with impossibly saintly police and unimaginably sadistic criminals. This is how the majority of people perceive this issue.
J R in WV
Off Topic – is everyone/anyone aware that if you just type in “Balloon-Juice.com” you get the error page?
I got here by typing in today’s date like so: “www.balloon-juice.com/2015/12/16/” which got me here at today’s page..
But typing just “https://balloon-juice.com” into the address bar
gets me this error page: ”https://balloon-juice.com/cgi-sys/defaultwebpage.cgi”
@patrick II: Oh no, the guy that doesn’t want to seem too racist doesn’t like me. What will I do?
I know this will sound crazy, but has anyone here actually considered the idea that Porter might be innocent?
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
@raven: If you still drank you could cry in your beer.
J R in WV
And on topic: I seem to recall that the Baltimore police dept has a tradition of putting a restrained prisoner in a van, no seatbelt, and then driving the hell out of that van, over speed bumps at speed, braking suddenly, accelerating suddenly, basically “tuning up” the prisoner without laying a hand on them.
No shock to me that eventually one got killed by the random bouncing around. How evil is that tradition? Not even booked yet, much less arraigned or convicted, and subject to random physical damage up to and including a broken neck and spine severed.
And for this particular prisoner they can’t answer the simple question “Why did you arrest him?” because the true answer is “Because we could. We think it’s a lot of fun to put a helpless person in the back of the van and give them a serious trip to hell and back.”
How do you fix that attitude? Monsters in uniform are still monsters. These guys, their spiritual ancestors had a uniform, it was a white gown and pointed hood, and they mostly used rope and fire to torture people to death. Black folks, Jews, Native Americans, Chinese and Japanese people, anyone they decided wouldn’t be missed, really.
@Heliopause: Thank you! I have been pointing this out for years and no one seems to get it. All popular culture is didactic and the didactic purpose must necessarily be something that flies in the face of universal experience, else there would be no need for it. Hence, as you say, “cop shows” — and by the same token, “doctor shows”.
@J R in WV:
It’s working fine for me. Have you tried clearing your cache?
I’m a white guy too. I don’t think there is a solution, we all live in the context of our lives, and have empathy for those most like us.
@a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): The World Surfing Championship is on live from the Pipeline. It’s incredible.
I didn’t say I didn’t like you. I said you’re an ignorant asshole. I have friends who are ignorant assholes, but they sometimes have other redeeming qualities. Like perhaps giving links to surfing sites.
@patrick II: That’s funny, I have friends who aren’t “too racist” as well. There are really smart just like you.
And I bet the can’t spell “They” either.
With a hung jury, as many as you want. Practically, one more if you’re feeling particularly righteous.
(If government causes mistrial, you’re usually done).
mike in dc
Yeah, one re-trial is fairly typical. Two retrials is the most I’ve ever heard of. Generally a plea deal for a lesser charge is struck between trials. But in the case of a police officer defendant that seems less likely. I’d be very curious to know what the jury split was(either a majority were pro-conviction, or pro-acquittal). That would likely influence the prosecution. (If, e.g., there was a 10-2 split for conviction, re-trial is a no-brainer. 10-2 for acquittal, time to cut your losses and offer a deal. More ambiguous if there’s more than 3 holdouts.)
There is a small but profound difference between “not guilty” and “innocent.” It’s entirely possible that the prosecution will ultimately not be able to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt on every element of the offense. That won’t necessarily mean that the defendant didn’t behave reprehensibly.
The thing that nobody seems to want to acknowledge, in the context of the conversation about “changing the culture” of urban police departments, is this: that culture doesn’t get made (at least not entirely) within police stations or police academies. It starts with who you recruit. Brutal, racist cops don’t show up for their first day of training pure as the driven snow. They start out as racist teenagers, and many of them acquire a taste for brutality (Cole won’t want to hear this) in the Army or the Marine Corps.