A Baltimore judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday as a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the high-profile case involving issues of race and accusations of police brutality following the death of a 25-year-old suspect, Freddie Gray, who died in police custody.

The death and the city’s handling of investigation triggered rioting in the city in April resulting in a state of emergency being declared and the deployment of the Maryland National Guard.

Tension was high this week as news spread that the jury had informed Judge Barry Williams that they were unable to reach a decision after three days of deliberation in the case of Baltimore Police Officer William Porter who was charged, along with five other officers, in the death.

City and law enforcement officials, as well as community leaders feared the failure of the jury to reach a guilty verdict would re-ignite the rage that gripped the neighborhood last spring after Gray’s death and although protesters gathered, surrounding officers menacingly, rioting did not occur.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked residents to respect the legal process and to keep protests peaceful, a far cry from her statements last spring when she said rioters had been “given a space to destroy.”

At the intersection that lie at the heart of last spring’s riots, a block-long line of people, joined by Gray’s twin sister, lined arms chanting, “One city! One purpose! Whose city? Our city!”

One protester told reporters, “I'm stunned. I'm speechless. When are we going to get justice?”

Gray’s stepfather, however, said that although the family remains hopeful Porter would be retried, he did not have any animosity toward the hung jury.

“We thank this hard-working jury for their service to the public… and their personal sacrifice of their time and effort. We are not at all upset with them, neither should the public be upset. They did the best that they could.”

Porter, 26, the only black officer among the six, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

Critics argued that the charges were political grandstanding by the District Attorney and had predicted that the prosecution would be unable to meet the standard of proof required for a guilty verdict.

Evidence surrounding Gray’s death following a severe spinal cord injury has not been tied directly to any overt action of any of the police officers charged with varying decrees of culpability in the death of the 25-year-old black.

The violence that broke out after Gray’s funeral resulted in arson and looting that destroyed a CVS store, as well as 26 other drugstores and damaged over 300 hundred small businesses primarily owned by Korean, Chinese and Arab-Americans in an African-American neighborhood.

At least twenty police were injured in the days-long riots.

Porter, who was acquainted with Gray from contact on the street, was the officer who found the suspect unresponsive.

“It was a very traumatic thing for me also,” Porter testified during the trial. “Just seeing him in the neighborhood every day, and calling his name and not getting a response.”

The prosecution can decide to retry Porter’s case, thought to be the strongest of the six cases.

 

 

 

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