Thursday, December 17, 2015

Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney, Mistrial Declared in Freddie Gray Case

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Judge Barry Williams of the Baltimore City Circuit Court has declared a mistrial in the Freddie Gray case after the jury in the trial of William Porter deadlocked Wednesday.  Porter is one of six Baltimore City Police officers facing charges after detainee Freddie Gray suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody in April, which led to his death days later.  Porter was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.  The Baltimore City State’s Attorney chose to try Officer Porter first as he is a material witness in the trials of the other five officers.  If the other trials took place before Officer Porter’s trial, he would be able to plead the fifth and refuse to testify in the trials of the other officers.

The jury was unable to agree on any of the four charges on which they deliberated in Porter’s case.  In Maryland, a verdict in a criminal case must be unanimous.  If even one juror disagrees with the majority’s opinion, the jury will be considered deadlocked and a mistrial will be declared.  The Office of the State’s Attorney will decide whether it will retry Officer Porter or simply move on with the remaining cases.  If the State’s Attorney decides to retry Officer Porter, the other trials may have to be postponed awaiting a resolution.  As of now, the next trial set to go forward is that of Officer Cesar Goodson, scheduled for January 6, 2016.  Officer Goodson was the driver of the van in which Freddie Gray was detained, and he faces the most serious charges of all the officers involved, including second-degree “depraved heart” murder.

Unlike most criminal cases, the charges against the officers involved in the Gray case require proof that the officers failed to do something, in this case, obtain medical attention for Gray, and that the failure to act amounts to a criminal omission.   Proving a crime of omission is notoriously difficult, and many are not surprised that the jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision on the charges facing Officer Porter.  When news of Gray’s death reached the public in April, the City of Baltimore erupted in protests, some of which became violent.  Baltimore’s Police Commissioner has canceled all leave for officers through the end of the week as the city stands on alert pending further developments.

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