Maryland court officials recently announced plans to retry a Baltimore police officer, William G. Porter, in the controversial Freddie Gray case. Porter’s initial trial ended in a hung jury.
Gray died last April from a severe spinal injury while in police custody. His neck was allegedly broken while riding in the back of a police van while in route to the police station.
Porter was charged because he allegedly ignored pleas from Gray for medical assistance while being transported to the station.
The initial trial of Porter, one of several Baltimore police officers charged in connection with the death of Gray, came to a disappointing end on December 16, when the jury determined it was hopelessly deadlocked. Although the jury deliberated for three days—it failed to reach a verdict in the case.
Porter had pled not guilty to charges of second-degree assault, involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office in relation to Gray’s death.
The Gray case gained national prominence last year. It was viewed by many as just one more example of how the lives of Black men are reportedly and repeatedly treated with blatant disregard by law enforcement officers around the nation.
The outcome of Porter’s case was considered pivotal to the state’s ability to successfully prosecute the five other officers involved, each of which will be tried separately. Prosecutors had originally planned to call Porter as a material witness in the case against fellow officer Caesar R. Goods who drove the transport van that fateful day and is charged with murder. Goods is scheduled to go on trial January 6.
Unfortunately, the date set by the judge for Porter’s retrial is June 13. As a result, it is widely believed prosecutors must now rethink their strategy and approach to the trials of all six defendants.
The case against Porter was viewed as critically important relative to setting the prosecutorial tone for the remaining cases. A court-mandated gag order has prevented both prosecutors and attorneys from discussing their strategies. However, court observers and legal experts agree any plans the prosecutors may have had to compel Porter to testify in any of the other trials must now be set aside since the charges against him are still pending.
Experts also project prosecutors may now seek to make a deal with Porter in exchange for his testimony against the other officers.