Baltimore jury was close to acquittal in police manslaughter trial: paper

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 15, 2016 12:35 PM

(Reuters) - The Baltimore jury that heard the first police trial connected with the death of a black man while in custody was one vote short of acquitting the officer of involuntary manslaughter when a judge declared a mistrial, the Baltimore Sun reported on Friday.

William Porter was the first of six officers to face trial on criminal charges in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died of a broken neck suffered while in police custody in April, setting off a day of riots and arson in Baltimore.

The Sun cited a juror it did not identify by name in saying 11 of the 12 jurors had been prepared to acquit Porter of the most serious charge he faced when Baltimore City Circuit Judge Barry Williams declared the jury was hung after 16 hours of deliberation last month.

Porter is scheduled to be retried in June.

Prosecutors have said they plan to ask Porter to testify against Officer Caesar Goodson, the driver of the van that Gray was injured in, who is charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, the most serious of the charges in the case.

Porter's attorneys have asked an appeals court to prevent him from testifying in Goodson's trial, saying that he risks incriminating himself. The appeal could delay the trials of the five other officers, which are scheduled to play out over the next few months.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the jury in Porter's trial, which was comprised of seven black people and five whites, had been leaning toward finding him guilty of the lesser charges he faced, including reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

Banning Straws
John Stossel

"Had we continued discussions, there's great likelihood that the numbers could have switched, but I couldn't say which way," the newspaper quoted the juror as saying.The judge in the case asked the jurors not to discuss their experiences publicly. Reuters was not able to reach the juror to confirm the account.

Gray's death was one of a series of police killings of black men in cities including New York, Ferguson, Missouri and Cleveland that sparked a nationwide wave of protests over race and justice.

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Bill Trott)