Freddie Gray death: Baltimore officer faces retrial after 1st jury deadlocked

A Baltimore police officer will face retrial on a manslaughter charge over the death of black detainee Freddie Gray starting on June 13, a Maryland judge rules.

William Porter's retrial on manslaughter charge set for June

Baltimore police officer William Porter is accused of manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in the death of Freddie Gray. (Patrick Samansky/Reuters)

A Baltimore police officer will face retrial on a manslaughter charge over the death of black detainee Freddie Gray starting on June 13, a Maryland judge ruled on Monday, after the officer's first trial ended in a deadlocked jury.

Judge Barry Williams set the trial date after meeting prosecutors and defense lawyers, the Maryland state courts office said in a statement.

Gray's death in April caused protests and rioting in the majority black city of 620,000 people and intensified a U.S. debate on police treatment of minorities. 

The date for the retrial of Officer William Porter, 26, in Baltimore City Circuit Court could snarl prosecutors' strategy to use him as a key witness against other officers in the high-profile trial, legal analysts said.

Porter, who is also black, was the first of six officers to be tried in connection with Gray's death from a broken neck sustained while in police custody.

Gray was arrested after fleeing from police. He was put in a transport van, shackled and handcuffed, but was not secured by a seat belt, in violation of department policy. He died a week later.
Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switchblade knife outside a housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Family photo/Murphy, Falcon & Murphy) (Murphy, Falcon & Murphy)

A jury was unable to reach a decision last week and Williams declared a mistrial.

Porter faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

The trial of van driver Officer Caesar Goodson, who faces the most serious charge of second-degree depraved heart murder, is set to begin on Jan. 6.

Prosecutors had hoped to convict Porter and use him as a witness against Goodson and Sgt. Alicia White. Porter testified he passed Gray's request for medical help to them but none was summoned.

David Jaros, a University of Baltimore associate law professor, said that Porter was a potentially major witness against Goodson and without him prosecutors "know that the case against Officer Goodson is significantly weakened."

Jim Cohen, a law professor at New York's Fordham University, said prosecutors were facing a major difficulty since Porter could want immunity from prosecution to testify.

But prosecutors had labelled Porter a liar, giving the defence a perfect tool to use against him as a witness, Cohen said.

"I think they've got a big problem, whether it [the retrial] is set for June of '16 or June of '18," he said.


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