Freddie Gray Mistrial: What Happens Now
Freddie Gray mistrial: Still a ‘huge step forward’ in how cities try cops (+video).
BALTIMORE (AP) — The latest on the mistrial for a Baltimore police officer charged with manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was injured in the back of a police transport van (all times local). On Wednesday, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced that Michael Jackson’s has become the first album to be certified 30-times platinum in the U.S., meaning it has sold more than 30 million copies domestically since its release in 1982. The description of the events that led to Gray’s death highlighted the lack of empathy many people have for poor black communities and their residents, even other black people. The outcome – or lack of an outcome – may complicate prosecutions of the other five officers, and protests quickly spread across Baltimore Wednesday night. A group of about two dozen demonstrators carrying signs and chanting “Send those killer cops to jail,” “No justice, no peace!” and “Black lives matter” marched through traffic last night, hours after Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams announced a hung jury in the first effort to convict an officer arrested in connection with Gray’s death.
RIAA chief executive Cary Sherman called the sales record “an exceptional achievement and testament to Thriller’s enduring spot in our hearts and musical history.” With more than 100 million in sales globally, Thriller is recognized by Guinness World Records as the highest-selling album ever. At the time, the police commissioner was a black man, the mayor was a black woman and over half of the police department was composed of black officers.
Of the six officers charged in the case, Officer Porter faced some of the more severe charges: manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct. Makayla Gilliam-Price, an activist in Baltimore, stood in front of those remaining demonstrators and looked right into their eyes, trying to remind them why they were here. “If I make a wrong move, my life is gone,” she said. Sabrina Tapp-Harper, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office, said both were charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a law enforcement officer’s command, and disturbing the peace by using a bullhorn outside the courthouse while court was in session.
This is significant because unlike Ferguson and many other places that have seen incidents of police brutality, the balance of political power (but not economic resources) and law enforcement is in the hands of black people. A 16-year-old protester was arrested earlier, she said, and now he has been sucked into a system that has ruined thousands of black lives in this city. The trial, then, underscores the need for officers to spend time in the vulnerable communities they police doing activities not related to police work, as well as time communicating with the public. Officers often begin to view the communities they serve by the socially engineered pathology and white supremacist, capitalist-nurtured dysfunction in which they live.
Alicia White face the same charges, while Officer Caesar Goodson, Jr. – who was driving the van – faces a maximum of 68 years for charges that include manslaughter and second-degree depraved-heart murder. Reports have suggested that prosecutors may have wanted to use Porter’s testimony against Officer Goodson, but Porter could now invoke his Fifth Amendment right to not testify. After the hung jury was announced, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who took over the post after protesters rioted last April, warned against more violence. “Protesters who are lawfully assembled have a friend in the Baltimore Police Department,” Davis said. “Folks who choose to commit crimes and break things and hurt people are no longer protesters.” The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about 16 hours over three days. And a few days after that, the Justice Department announced it was launching a civil investigation into the city’s police department. “You have days when you think you know the answer, you know the solutions,” said Kelly Holsey, 31. “But then you have days like these, where you realize that you’re working against a corrupt system.” — Kelly Holsey has been protesting in Baltimore over the case of her fiancé Keith Davis Jr. Although they indicated they were deadlocked on Tuesday, Williams told them to keep at it. “It is clear you will not come to a unanimous agreement on any of the four charges,” Williams told jurors yesterday. “You have clearly been diligent.” “We are going to fight for justice until it becomes a reality in our lives,” Rose said. “A mistrial means that the prosecution did not do their jobs good enough.”
During the two-week trial, prosecutors argued that Porter’s indifference made him criminally responsible for Gray’s death. “When you have the rare instance of a prosecution against a police officer based on his failure to protect a prisoner, some people on the jury may have a more difficult time with holding the officer responsible,” he says. “The first trial has demonstrated you can pick a jury in Baltimore city,” says Mr. Pettit. “The fact that the jury’s hung [means] the jurors were looking at the issues very objectively.” The Freddie Gray trials have an added historical significance in the context of America’s ongoing debate over police use of force. I suspect this is why media outlets, both conservative and liberal cheered when they saw “Baltimore mom” Toya Graham repeatedly punch and slap her son in the head.
University of Maryland law school professor Douglas Colbert said Thursday that “because of the strength of the prosecution’s evidence, Officer Porter must give serious consideration to what’s best for him. That includes consideration of negotiations and seeking immunity.” Colbert says that unless prosecutors are determined to retry Porter, they’d likely prefer a plea bargain over granting him immunity from prosecution.
I refuse to judge Ms Graham’s actions, as she was just taking desperate measures to keep her son safe, and has endured challenges many of us probably can’t fathom. Even under a grant of immunity, Porter might be reluctant to break what Colbert calls an “officers’ code of silence.” Baltimore has for months braced for a dramatic verdict in a case of alleged police abuse that shook its residents to the core. Anthony Anderson in 2012, Tyrone West in 2013, and George Vonn King Jr., last year all died in confrontations with police, but no charges were filed. While some think simply recruiting officers of color will change things, Baltimore has forced everyone to recognize that the media racial narrative of the white cop abusing his power in a black community is far too unsophisticated.
Davis’s desire to “change mindsets” of law enforcement officials in the city is admirable, but it is an uphill battle, after years of poor relations. He was a victim of the inadequate housing for the impoverished residents of Baltimore; housing that resulted in him having elevated levels of lead in his bloodstream. Yet, the rightwing media insist it was his own fault and argued that the frustrations of the people involved in the protests and unrest, which were carried out in the spring without a single fatality, were due to their own depravity and lack of decency.
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