UPDATE: Tuesday, Dec. 15, 3:50 PM: The jurorscame back and said they aredeadlocked; the judge ordered more deliberations.
The jury is still out in the case of William Porter, the 26-year-old police officer who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office in regards to Freddie Gray’s death.
Gray was arrested in April and endured a “rough ride” at the hands of Porter and five other officers. He was not secured in the back of the police van and was denied medical assistance when he asked. He suffered a spinal cord injury and succumbed to his injuries several days later.
During closing arguments Monday morning, prosecutor Janice Bledsoe urged the jury to “hold [Porter] responsible” for his actions, which directly contributed to Gray’s death.
“He abused his power,” Bledsoe said. “He failed in his responsibility.”
Defense attorney Joseph Murtha said that while the case brought up a “horrific tragedy,” the jury could not take this into consideration while deliberating.
“You’re making a legal decision not a moral, not a philosophical a legal decision,” Murtha told the jury. “You set aside the sympathies, you set aside the passions, you look at the cold, hard facts that aren’t there in this case.”
According to Bledsoe, though, the facts that are there show that Porter had several chances to help Gray chances that he did not take, which led to Gray’s untimely death.
“How long does it take” Bledsoe questioned. “How long does it take to click a eat belt And click a radio and ask for a medic Two seconds Three seconds Maybe four.”
Bledsoe also named the most important fact in the case.
“Freddie Gray went into the van healthy,” she said, “and Freddie Gray came out dead.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has been bracing herself and the city for a potential riot following the verdict since the start of the trial on Dec. 2.
“Whether you agree or whether you disagree with the jury’s ultimate verdict, our reaction has to be one of respect in Baltimore’s neighborhoods,” she said.
Rawlings-Blake’s concern stems from the riots that followed Gray’s death eight months ago.
Baltimore City Schools CEO Gregory Thorton warned students and their parents against any type of violent response to the verdict, saying, “walkouts, vandalism, civil disorder, and any form of violence are not acceptable.” This prompted the defense team to call for a mistrial and request that jurors be asked if they received the letter. Porter’s team has also asked numerous times for a venue change, insisting that Porter cannot receive a fair trial in Baltimore. The judge denied these motions.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis sent a letter to the Baltimore Police Department’s 3,000 officers on Monday, saying, “We will serve as peace keepers for those wishing to exercise their right to protest. We will allow the lawful assembly of those gathered to question the government. We will protect homes, businesses, residents and police officers from harm and mayhem.”
The city has already called for reinforcements from police in nearby jurisdictions, Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith revealed, adding that these extra officers would only be utilized if completely necessary.
“The citizens of Baltimore have an expectation for us to be prepared and not be reactive,” Smith said.
Protestors were already outside the courthouse Monday evening, including Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, who said, “We will respect the jury’s verdict, but it will not take away the pain of the death of Freddie Gray.”
But Bmore Bloc had already taken to social media to threaten a potential protest. The group has previously conducted protests in response to police brutality.
“If Porter walks, shut it down,” the group posted online.