( 4UMF NEWS ) Baltimore On Edge After Freddie Gray Case Mistrial:
A Baltimore judge declared a hung jury Wednesday in the trial of a police officer charged in the case of Freddie Gray, a young black man whose April death prompted “Black Lives Matter” protests across the city and sometimes brutally violent riots.
William H. “Billy” Murphy, the lawyer for the Gray family, stressed the outcome was not a disappointment for either side in the racially charged case that brought the country’s eyes on Baltimore.
“This is just a temporary bump on the road to justice,” Murphy said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference. “It happens. It’s part of how the system works.”
Most hung juries are retried, with 70% of going on to eventually result in a conviction, Murphy said. He added that the family is appealing for calm in the wake of the announcement.
NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks told USA TODAY he was “very disappointed” in the outcome, but added he feels all hope is not lost. The NAACP is based in Baltimore.
“If this were an aberrational incident, that might be one thing, but here we have someone who was arrested without probable cause … cuffed, without a seatbelt, having requested a medic — where in that set of facts is there lack of culpability or any evidence of compassion?” Brooks asked. He added, “Freddie Gray can’t get his life back, but there is an opportunity for a justice do over, so we’re encouraging people to pursue non-violent protest in the wake of a violent death and wait to see what happens.”
Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac, a cofounder of the Black Lives Matter Network and of #BlackLivesMatter, said her organization is “extremely disappointed in the same system that continues to allow for cops to kill black people without any sort of accountability.”
The network, which is part of the Black Lives Matter Movement, is extending condolences to the Gray family and believes it is time for society to begin redirecting public funds away from law enforcement agencies and toward jobs, education and health care in impoverished communities, Cullors-Brignac said.
“We cannot trust law enforcement to be the caregivers of our community,” she said. “I think our conversation … in this movement has to be redefining what public safety looks like.”
In the wake of tense emotions surrounding the outcome, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked for calm and promised to protect the city’s neighborhoods.
Prosecutors will retry Officer William Porter, 26, on the manslaughter, assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment charges, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said in a statement.
Porter’s case was considered crucial because he was the first of six officers facing trial in Gray’s death.
“Twelve Baltimore residents listened to the evidence presented and were unable to render a unanimous decision,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “As a unified city, we must respect the outcome of the judicial process.
“In the coming days, if some choose to demonstrate peacefully to express their opinion, that is their constitutional right. I urge everyone to remember that collectively, our reaction needs to be one of respect for our neighborhoods, and for the residents and businesses of our city.”
Said Cummings: “I know that many of my neighbors have been following this trial closely, and many may be disappointed by today’s outcome. Each of us will continue to struggle with the very raw, very real emotions the death of Mr. Freddie Gray invokes.”
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., also urged residents to work toward unity and practice peace. “As this process unfolds, let us reject violence that might hurt our communities and local businesses.”
The city had taken steps aimed at keeping the peace no matter what the verdict. The police department canceled leave for all officers this week while Rawlings-Blake opened an emergency operations center and pleaded for calm.
Public transit officials said they were coordinating with city officials to minimize service disruptions. But the Maryland Transportation Administration warned bus and rail riders that route diversions were possible if protests clog the city.
“MTA is closely monitoring the Officer Porter trial and travel conditions downtown and will adjust services as necessary due to the potential for heavy pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic,” MTA said in a statement.
Judge Barry Williams declared the mistrial during the third day of deliberations — and about 24 hours after the jury told him they were deadlocked on manslaughter and other charges. Williams told them then to keep trying. He relented Wednesday, sending them home for good.
Gray, 25, was injured while being transported after his arrest on minor charges April 12. Porter was not involved in the arrest, but was accused of failing to secure the shackled Gray into the seat belt of a police van and then failing to immediately seek medical assistance when Gray requested it. Gray died of his injuries one week later.
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