“Indict! Convict! Send those killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell,” is what protesters shouted outside the courthouse in Baltimore Wednesday after the trial of Police Officer William Porter ended in a hung jury. Porter, the first of six officers facing prosecution in the police-custody death of Freddie Gray, had his trial declared a mistrial by Judge Barry Williams when the jury came back deadlocked.
The protesters’ shouts nearly drowned out the whirring of helicopters overhead and the commands from sheriff’s deputies lined up in formation across from them.
“We’re not happy today with what happened,” said protester Westley West. “It’s not what we need; we need a conviction.”
As West spoke to the media and led protesters in chants, another protester, Kwame Rose, 21, talked about being arrested previously for protesting against police brutality and the message this mistrial sends to police officers who refuse to follow policies like seat-belting detainees.
“These police officers are hired to protect the citizens that pay their salary with our tax dollars. The system has failed us again,” said Rose. “We will disrupt any part of society that has gone complacent with the injustices of America—the world was watching Baltimore set a trend, and that didn’t happen today.”
As Rose continued to chant with other protesters, “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” he was suddenly arrested by sheriff’s deputies and taken into the courthouse in flex cuffs.
The crowd of protesters was a small, peaceful group that gathered outside the courthouse after Judge Williams announced that a jury made up of five whites and seven blacks that deliberated for approximately 16 hours could not come to a unanimous decision.
Experts agreed that this was a loss for the prosecution and that it faces an uphill battle in the upcoming trials of the five remaining officers as well as the potential retrial of Porter’s case. The intention was to convict Porter, grant him immunity and then use his statements against other defendants.
“I would not have tried them in that order,” said Russell Neverdon, executive director of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Inmate Grievance Office in Baltimore, who thinks Gray was injured before he even entered the police van. “I would have tried them in the order the officers came in contact with him. Those first two police officers as soon as they saw that leg dragging and him [Gray] yelling, Gray should have been immobilized to prevent further injury. They should have called a paramedic and had them collar him.
“This mistrial has increased the burden on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt for the next case,” Neverdon continued. “Now you have to show, at what point did Caesar Goodson, the van driver, do this rough ride—which will be a battle of medical experts.”
One expert, Doug Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor who has been in the courtroom every day since the trial began, felt that the bigger picture conclusion is that Baltimore has already set a precedent in a nationwide battle against police brutality.
“The important thing here is transparency,” said Colbert. “This is one of the rare prosecutions of a police officer throughout the whole country. There is progress that has been made here in terms of the public knowing what happened.”
Local activist Hassan Giordano agrees: “Justice was served when those responsible for the death of Freddie Gray were charged with crimes associated with his death; unfortunately, in this case, those charges were hard to prove based on there not being a smoking gun. I hope this doesn’t serve as a deterrent for [Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn] Mosby’s office continuing to seek justice by prosecuting law-enforcement officers with the same force she would an average citizen.”
Porter remains suspended without pay, according to Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
“Freddie did not die in vain,” said Rose before he was arrested. “Freddie Gray lives in all of us. We are fighting for more than Freddie Gray; we are fighting for our lives and we are fighting for people that look like Freddie Gray. For Tyrone Davis, Anthony Anderson, Tamir Rice, Keith Davis.”