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Baltimore braces as Freddie Gray jury wrestles with a deadlock

The jury in the first trial on the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray returned after two days of deliberations to say they are deadlocked. Gray’s fatal injuries while in Baltimore police custody exposed deep cracks in the city’s criminal justice system and sparked protests. Gwen Ifill speaks to Juliet Linderman of the Associated Press about the charges against Officer William Porter.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    In Baltimore, residents and officials are anxiously awaiting a verdict in the first trial in the death of Freddie Gray. It has exposed deep cracks in the city's criminal justice system, race relations and economic divide. The case has its roots in the April arrest of 25-year-old Freddie Gray and his death a week later.

    After police detained him on a North Baltimore street, Gray was handcuffed and loaded into a police van. Either then, or during the subsequent multiple-stop 45-minute ride, he suffered what would become a fatal spinal injury.

  • PROTESTER:

    Every day, every day!

  • PROTESTERS:

    We will fight for Freddie Gray!

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Gray's death galvanized large protests and neighborhood unrest, despite appeals for calm by his mother and community leaders.

    GLORIA DARDEN, Freddie Gray's mother: I want you all to get justice for my son, but don't do it like this here. Don't tear up the whole city, man. Just for him? It's wrong.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Eventually, thousands of National Guard troops were called in to stabilize the city and enforce a week-long curfew. State's attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six police officers in May, accusing them of failing to do anything to prevent Gray's death.

  • MARILYN MOSBY, State’s Attorney, Baltimore:

    At no point was he secured by a seat belt while in the wagon, contrary to a BPD general order. Despite Mr. Gray's seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summoned for Mr. Gray at that time by any officer.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Officer William Porter, the first of the six to go to court, stands accused of manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct.

    During his two-week trial, prosecutors blamed him for failing to buckle Gray into a seat belt, and for not calling for an ambulance. They told the jury of seven women and five men that Porter's inaction effectively turned the police van into a casket on wheels.

    In his own defense, Porter said, when he checked, Gray didn't seem injured, and his lawyers argued the vehicle's driver, not Porter, was supposed to ensure Gray was belted in. Now police are braced for potential trouble after a verdict, and the head of the city's public schools has issued a letter to the community warning students that, "Walkouts, vandalism, civil disorder and any form of violence are not acceptable."

    Right now, the larger issue is the potential for a mistrial. This afternoon, jurors sent out a note saying they are deadlocked. Judge Barry Williams ordered them to continue deliberating.

    That jury has gone home now after a second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict.

    Juliet Linderman covers Baltimore for the Associated Press. She has been at the trial, and she joins me now.

    Of course, we have to talk first about this deadlock. What do we know about it, Juliet?

  • JULIET LINDERMAN, Associated Press:

    So, the jury went home for the day around 5:30, and they had been deliberating for two days. This was the second day. They had been deliberating for about nine hours when they sent the judge a note saying that they were deadlocked.

    It's unclear on what charges they are deadlocked or how many jurors are disagreeing, but the judge did send them back into the jury room and said they should continue deliberations. So, they will continue tomorrow morning.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Has the jury signaled in any other way, sent out any other queries about what it is that they're curious about, what — that they could reach a deadlock kind of quickly after only two days of deliberation?

  • JULIET LINDERMAN:

    Sure. Sure.

    Well, they did request transcripts of William Porter's testimony that he gave to investigators on April 17. They also wanted the police transmission tapes. The judge denied their request for transcripts, but the jurors will be able to view those tapes.

    The jurors have also asked for clarification on certain terms, particularly in regards to the misconduct in office charge. They wanted clarification on, you know, what an evil motive might mean, so there's a chance that they are mulling over that charge, but beyond that would be speculative. We really don't know what they're doing so far.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    What does an evil motive mean in this legal case?

  • JULIET LINDERMAN:

    Sure.

    Well, there are four charges that William Porter faces. And that's reckless endangerment, which is basically a wanton disregard for human life, that William Porter's inaction caused the risk of injury and death. So the manslaughter charge stems from Freddie Gray's death and the assault charge stems from his injuries.

    Misconduct in office is a little bit more complicated, because jurors are going to have to determine whether William Porter acted in a corrupt manner and whether he, you know, failed in his duty as an officer, knowingly failed in that duty. So it's a bit more complicated, and jurors are probably really considering that charge very carefully.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And I gather there has been no lack of drama in the courtroom, including the putting down of a seat belt on the table to demonstrate to the jurors.

  • JULIET LINDERMAN:

    Sure.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Tell me about that.

  • JULIET LINDERMAN:

    Absolutely.

    Prosecutors — the prosecutor, Jan Bledsoe, she did dangle the bloody seat belt in front of jurors. They say that William Porter was criminally negligent when he failed to seat belt Freddie Gray in the back of the van, and they wanted to convey to jurors that that was an intentional decision that he made, and that he ignored Freddie Gray when he was asking for medical attention.

    Of course, William Porter told jurors that he didn't think that Freddie Gray was injured, that he was showing no signs of distress at all, and that he told his supervisor that he needed to go to the hospital.

    So that's basically how it's playing out right now. And jurors are going to have to decide what to believe. William Porter did take the stand in his own defense for more than four hours. And during closing arguments, prosecutors portrayed William Porter as perhaps not telling the truth. And so jurors are going to have to decide whether they believed his testimony.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Whether he was credible or not.

    But remind us. Since there are six people charged, what exact role was William Porter? He wasn't the driver of the van.

  • JULIET LINDERMAN:

    He wasn't the driver of the van.

    So, William Porter basically responded to a call for help. He was present at five of the six stops that the transport vehicle carrying Freddie Gray made on its almost 45-minute trip from the site of the arrest at the Gilmor Homes in West Baltimore to the Western District police station, where Freddie Gray arrived unresponsive.

    Basically, the stop that is really at the center of this trial is the van's fourth stop at Druid Hill and Dolphin, when William Porter checked on Gray, and he picked Gray up from the floor of the transport van, where he was lying on his stomach with his legs shackled and his wrists restrained in flexi-cuffs, and he put him on a bench, upright onto a bench.

    And in Porter's words, he told the van driver, Caesar Goodson, whose trial is coming up early next year, that Mr. Gray needed to go to a hospital. But prosecutors say that Porter should have called for a medic immediately after Gray indicated that he was in any sort of distress.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, OK, let's talk about what effect this has had on the city of Baltimore. We know what the immediate impact was right after — just before the charges were brought, right after the charges were brought. But what kind of — where is the city tonight, I guess?

  • JULIET LINDERMAN:

    Sure.

    Well, the city is absolutely bracing for a verdict. Police — there is a police presence in Baltimore. There was a presence in Baltimore today. Police officers from Baltimore and from surrounding jurisdictions were seen staging around the city.

    There is a crowd of protesters that had gathered outside of the courthouse this evening. There are demonstrations planned for whenever the verdict does come down and also for the following day.

    So I think the city can absolutely expect demonstrations. And the police department is preparing for any sort of civil unrest that we might see in the coming days.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Are any of the people who are organizing these protests are counseling peaceful protests over violent protests?

  • JULIET LINDERMAN:

    Absolutely.

    As we — you discussed before, the public school CEO sent a letter to all families, public school families, basically saying that civil disobedience was not going to be tolerated, that there would be consequences. And that included student walkouts.

    There have been peaceful protests. And students have played a large role in those protests. In October, students — students staged a sit-in, in city hall that went late into the night. Some were arrested. Several students were arrested, but it was a peaceful demonstration.

    And so the students are urging for that kind of peaceful civil disobedience, I think, in the coming days. And the mayor has also been outspoken, urging residents to remain peaceful as we come into the verdict whenever it comes down.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    OK.

    Well, I know that you will be in the courtroom watching for that.

    Juliet Linderman of the Associated Press, thank you.

  • JULIET LINDERMAN:

    Thank you.

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