Freddie Gray mistrial tarnishes image of Baltimore police

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Appeal for calm in Baltimore police mistrial of William Porter for Freddie Gray murder.

Porter, whose trial ended Wednesday in a mistrial, is one of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. The jury in the first Freddie Gray case heard more than 20 witnesses, examined 100 pieces of evidence and deliberated for 16 hours but could not reach a verdict, leaving an anxious and weary Baltimore in limbo.Commissioner Kevin Davis gave his Baltimore police force an A+ on Thursday for how it handled the protests after a mistrial was declared Wednesday in the case against Officer William G. Prosecutors chose to try him first because they want to call him to testify in the subsequent trials of two of his fellow officers. “For a prosecutor to call a witness who the prosecutor has publicly identified as a liar undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system,” said Levin, now a defense attorney in Baltimore who has represented police officers in high-profile cases. “The optics are terrible, to say they want to use somebody that they’ve branded a liar in later trials to convict others.” Further complicating matters: After the mistrial, it’s unclear now whether Porter’s case will be resolved before the next trial begins.

Crowds protested along streets in the Maryland city lined with police but the situation was quiet at the junction where the worst rioting happened in April as parts of West Baltimore were set on fire. Porter complicates prosecutors’ carefully calibrated plan to secure convictions of all six officers accused in Gray’s death and could significantly weaken one or more of the cases. William Porter’s mistrial is a setback for prosecutors trying to respond to a population frustrated by violent crime and allegations of police misconduct. It occurs to me that as the death toll mounts, and after years of protests and funerals, trials and political stratagem, broken parents and enraged activists, the very meaning of justice has taken on a property of elasticity, stretching from those who simply want an arrest and a charge to those who want to indict and alter the system itself. Witherspoon, minister at the Judah Worship Center, paced a West Baltimore street corner late Wednesday night, imploring a small group gathered around him to stave off a feeling he believed city leaders wanted residents to have: apathy. “They wanted this to douse the fire,” Mr.

I spoke with Billy Murphy, an attorney for Freddie Gray’s family, in his posh offices high above the streets that had earlier been filled with protesters. Perhaps the most glaring–an order to seat belt prisoners, repeatedly ignored since it was put in place in 1997–cited as contributing to Freddie Gray’s death. Mosby charged Porter and five other Baltimore officers May 1 in Gray’s arrest and death, casting an intense spotlight on the Police Department and spurring a federal investigation of its patterns and practices by the Justice Department.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, acknowledging these downfalls, is now actively working to reverse the deficiencies and enforcing the seat belt order. Mosby, the state’s attorney here, will pursue the remaining five cases, and renewed doubts over whether she can deliver on the promise she made that first day of May. He was accused of failing to get medical help for critically injured Gray and was charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment, carrying maximum sentences totalling 25 years.

Davis said Thursday that he has since been drilling the idea of “negotiated management” — rather than confrontation — with protesters into the heads of his street commanders, and that they applied that concept Wednesday. “We’re not going to allow the city to be shut down. Other failures pointed out during Officer Porter’s trial include a breakdown in communication and technology, little accountability for orders disobeyed and lack of proper training or experience–revealing problems historically plaguing the department long before Davis was appointed top cop. “Shortcomings that exist right now, they didn’t happen overnight. Lawyer Billy Murphy, who obtained a $6.4m settlement for Mr Gray’s family from the city before Porter’s trial, called the mistrial “a temporary bump on the road to justice”. I’m certainly more than aware of them and we’re going to work very, very hard to fix them,” said Davis. “I like what Kevin Davis has done so far.

A gag order prevents Mosby and defense attorneys from discussing the case, but legal experts and Gray’s family said that they expect Mosby to mount another trial and that retrials often produce very different results. “You can’t read too much into a hung jury because you don’t know what the jury was thinking,” said local defense lawyer John Cox said. “It doesn’t necessarily tell you what is going to happen next time.” A juror reached Thursday declined to comment on the panel’s deliberations, saying she wanted to respect Williams’s request that they not speak until after the six trials are over. Gray was arrested while fleeing from officers and died on April 19, a week after his neck was broken inside a police van as a seven-street trip to the police station turned into a 45-minute journey around West Baltimore. Under a steady rain on Thursday, residents across the city, from the boarded-up townhomes on the west side to the sprawling manicured lawns in the north, found themselves caught in limbo.

He said he is determined to continue implementing improvements with the help of the department’s new director of strategic development, Jason Johnson. “I just wanted to get through this first trial, of six, in a way that sets a tone for the rest,” he said, referencing the five other officers that face charges in the Gray case. Did it mean that she had succeeded, against all expectations, in convincing at least some jurors that Officer Porter — who was not even involved in Mr.

But if Porter is still facing prosecution, he could decline to testify, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, said David Jaros, a University of Baltimore School of Law professor. Almost all, it seemed, were working through emotions as complex and unsatisfying as a mistrial. “I want it over,” said David Rugolo, 47, whose family has run a tavern in a largely white section of North Baltimore for nearly four decades. “I want peace.

Or did it simply mean 12 people could not agree? “It was a weak enough case that they didn’t win,” said Geoff Alpert, a professor of criminology and expert on police use of force at the University of South Carolina. “You can call it a mistrial, but the prosecution lost.” Not so, said Joanna C. During his trial, Porter testified that he told Goodson that Gray needed medical help during one of the van’s stops and interacted with him at others. Goodson’s trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 6 and White’s on Jan. 25, so prosecutors could try to delay them until after Porter’s retrial, but that move would probably stir opposition from attorneys for Goodson and White. We’ve never had this before.” This was just one of many cities across the country roiled by protests over police killings over the past year and a half. If he were tried and acquitted, he could still assert the same right, citing the Justice Department’s ongoing review of the case and the possibility that federal charges still could be filed.

Jaros said prosecutors might decide to offer Porter immunity in exchange for his testimony against Goodson, but that might also have to involve federal prosecutors since they could decide at some point to file a case claiming Porter violated Gray’s civil rights. When the streets of Baltimore exploded in the worst unrest in decades following Gray’s death, his mother, Gloria Darden, appealed to protesters: “I want you all to get justice for my son, but don’t do it like this here. In an era of intense controversy over whether prosecutors are moving aggressively enough to root out police misconduct in cities like Ferguson, Mo., New York and Chicago, legal experts agree that Ms.

Legal experts say the mistrial will likely spur both prosecution and defense to evaluate their tactics, knowing they convinced some jurors but not others. His death from a broken neck after the police arrested him in April sparked unrest that some say ultimately raised public awareness about the treatment of blacks. But the accountability many want is proving harder to obtain. “I feel like I’m losing hope,” said Tiffany Cameron, 34, who lives here and manages a Popeyes. “I don’t see what’s going to be different. It’s wrong.” After the officers were charged in May, Darden told BuzzFeed, “I feel good because we got all six of them.” She continued: “You can rest, Freddie.

During Porter’s trial, prosecutors replayed the recorded statement he gave to detectives investigating Gray’s death, then pointed out ways in which they said Porter had added new information in his court testimony to benefit his defense. If it was a conviction, I’d feel a whole lot different — it means we’re getting somewhere.” Prosecutors and lawyers for Officer Porter met privately with the judge but no announcement was made about if and when a new trial would be held. Mosby may win plaudits for trying, she now faces complex questions about how to proceed — and whether it will be necessary to make a deal with Officer Porter to save her other cases. Another defense lawyer, Victor Del Pino, said that even if the jury had voted 10 to 2 or 11 to 1 to acquit Porter, prosecutors would face enormous pressure to redo the case. “This is such a high-profile case, I think they’re going to retry it no matter what the count was,” said Del Pino, a former prosecutor. They also said Porter told Teel and another investigator that he lifted Gray off the floor of the van at that stop and placed him on a bench, without saying that Gray had helped.

When Porter took the stand in his trial, he said Gray told him he couldn’t breathe at an earlier stop, when he was not yet injured, and had participated in the effort to get him onto the bench. It is unclear whether the jury believed the prosecutors or Porter, but analysts said the fact that they were hung implies they were split on the issue. But Officer Porter cannot be compelled to testify if there is a pending case against him. “In some respects, it’s a worst-case scenario,” for the state, said Warren S. Alperstein, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor. “If the prosecution is not able to use Porter as a witness, it appears that they are at a significant disadvantage.” Ms. As Bryant put it, justice is a “level playing field where what is good for black people is good for those wearing blue.” Later on Thursday, I spoke by phone to Kwame Rose, the young activist who was arrested by police during the protests on Wednesday.

Rose’s concept of justice was the broadest, and he stated his position this way: “To me, justice looks like dismantling white supremacy and systemic racism, and improving the lives of black people.” I asked how he positions this case in the frame of white supremacy if the mayor, the Baltimore state’s attorney and half of the officers charged were black. The claims that Porter lied could be allowed into evidence in Goodson’s and White’s trials as “admissions” by the prosecutors, Cohen said, then used by the defense to attack Porter’s credibility. He concluded: “The history of America tells us that if you kill an unarmed black person in this country you are congratulated rather than punished.” This is a viewpoint America cannot allow to persist, one in which communities already beset by interpersonal violence struggle to contextualize the exponentially more corrosive effect of state violence. Personalities on 92Q, a local hip-hop and R&B radio station, warned Wednesday that unrest might give the defense grounds to get the trials moved out of Baltimore. “There’s a lot of pain” among black residents, said Eddie Curbeam, a chef working as a private caterer. “It’s been here for some time. But even if they were, he said, the prosecutors never said Porter was lying about his general knowledge of the events — which could be all they need from him.

In Goodson’s case, for instance, the prosecution likely only needs “where Officer Porter places Officer Goodson throughout the narrative and what Officer Goodson saw or what he was told,” Jaros said. “And as far as those things go, I don’t think they said he was lying.” Judge Charles G. They asserted that her marriage posed a conflict — Judge Williams strongly disagreed — and that her impassioned May 1 statement amounted to prosecutorial misconduct and jeopardized their client’s right to a fair trial. “To the people of Baltimore and demonstrators across America,” Ms.

Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.” In a black majority city whose Police Department has a long history of aggressive, even brutal treatment of black residents, those were stunning words. They have likely planned to deal with his credibility and their own erosion of it by using Porter’s initial statement to police if he strays from his basic testimony about the sequence of events. “The issue can be responded to,” Bernstein said. Mosby — who won election last year with a pledge to pursue police misconduct cases — did not win a conviction against Officer Porter, she benefits from low expectations. Her backers praise her for bringing a prosecution at all. “Even if it had been an unfavorable verdict, people have seen the process play out,” said A.

Now, with Officer Goodson scheduled to go on trial Jan. 6 on charges including murder— and the other trials scheduled one after the other through March — Ms. Whether the mistrial means juries will not convict the other officers is still unclear. “I think it’s too early to tell, because it’s only one jury,” said Mr.

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