I was surprised by the hung jury in the William Porter trial

December 17, 2015

William Porter was charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment based on his failure to get medical help for a critically wounded Freddie Gray. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, so the judge declared a mistrial.

I was surprised by the hung jury because it seemed to me that Porter admitted that (1) he did not restrain a hand-cuffed Freddie Gray with a seat belt and (2) he ignored Gray’s request for medical assistance in violation of departmental rules. Those rules were specifically designed to prevent the type of harm that Gray suffered. Therefore, he was culpably negligent, if not reckless, for Gray’s injuries and death.

Consider, for example, what might happen to a parent whose infant child was killed in an auto accident because he failed to secure the child in a safety seat. That’s culpably negligent manslaughter.

What happens next?

The prosecution has the option of retrying Porter or dismissing the case against him. They also could offer him a plea bargain in which he pleads guilty to a lesser offense or they might immunize him from further prosecution in exchange for his testimony against some or all of the other five defendants.

The decision depends on the nature of the jury split and why they split. The prosecution is far more likely to retry the case, for example, if the majority of the jurors voted to convict Porter, than if the majority voted to acquit him. Also, they are likely to retry the case, if the jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict because they were confused about the evidence or a jury instruction. Confusion can be eliminated with a retrial.

We will not know the nature of or reason for the split because the judge has imposed a gag order to protect the right of each of the other five defendants to a fair trial.

What do you think?

Jubilation in Baltimore: Six police officers have been charged with crimes including murder and manslaughter

May 1, 2015

Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced this morning that she has charged six Baltimore police officers with crimes for the death of Freddie Gray, including second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, false imprisonment and misconduct in office.

Let’s break it down.

Mosby said Freddie Gray did not commit a crime and police did not have probable cause to arrest him for a crime. The knife they found in his pocked was not a switchblade knife, as reported by police. It was a closed fold-up knife that is legal to possess and carry. Therefore, the arrest was unlawful and his restraint constituted false imprisonment.

The second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and second degree assault charges are based on placing Gray in the back of the police van with his wrists handcuffed behind his back and his feet shackled together without protecting him from injury during the ‘rough ride’ that followed by buckling him into a seat with a seatbelt. He was no longer breathing when he was removed from the vehicle and the first medic who responded found him in cardiac arrest. He died one week later.

The cause of death was a fatal injury to his spinal cord while riding in the police van during the ‘rough ride.’

The Maryland State Medical Examiner concluded that Freddie Gray’s death was a homicide.

Here is a list of the six officers and their charges:

1. Officer Caesar R. Goodson, Jr., is the only one charged with second degree ‘depraved heart’ murder. He drove the police van in which Gray was riding. In fact, the vehicle is alleged to be the murder weapon. He is also charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) and misconduct in office.

2. Officer William G. Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault and misconduct in office.

3. Lieutenant Brian W. Rice is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

4. Officer Edward M. Nero is charged with second degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

5. Officer Garrett E. Miller is charged with second degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

6. Sergeant Alicia D. White is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault and misconduct in office.

Warrants have been issued for the arrests of the six police officers. Five of them are in custody.

Marilyn Mosby is a 35-year-old black woman. She was elected State’s Attorney in November. Her mother and father were police officers. In fact, she is the latest of five generations of police officers in her family. She began her press conference stating, “I have heard your call for no justice, no peace.”

With the assistance of the Sheriff’s Department, her office conducted its own independent investigation. That was a good thing because a report filed yesterday in the district court by the Baltimore Police Department claiming that Gray possessed an illegal switchblade with an automatic spring was a lie. The statement that he was banging his head repeatedly in an attempt to hurt himself also is a lie.

Mosby rejected the police union’s request for an independent prosecutor.

Jubilation in Baltimore is spreading like wildfire.

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