BLACK VOICES

Jury Deadlocked In Case Of Officer Charged In Freddie Gray Death

BALTIMORE, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A Maryland judge on Tuesday ordered a deadlocked jury to continue deliberating in the trial of a Baltimore police officer facing a manslaughter charge in the April death of black detainee Freddie Gray, which triggered rioting and protests.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams said a note from the jury weighing the fate of Officer William Porter, 26, indicated it was unable to reach a decision after almost 10 hours of deliberations.

He ordered the jury of seven women and five men to keep trying. "Each juror has to decide for themselves," Williams said with the panel in the courtroom.

He did not say whether the jury was deadlocked on a single count or on all four that Porter faces from the Gray's death. Gray, 25, died from a broken neck sustained in the back of a police van.

Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. Gray's death triggered protests, arson and rioting in the majority black city of 620,000 people and intensified a U.S. debate on police treatment of minorities.

David Jaros, an associate law professor at the University of Baltimore, said it was not surprising that the panel had been unable to reach a decision, given the complexity of the legal issues.

"I have seen juries deadlocked and come back within 10 minutes, or go for days" without reaching a decision, he said.

Jaros added that Williams could issue a so-called Allen charge, pushing the jury to reach a verdict.

The jury started deliberations on Monday. Williams on Tuesday rejected a request by defense lawyer Gary Proctor to declare a mistrial and order a change of venue.

Proctor had cited a letter sent from the head of the city's public schools to students, staff and parents on Monday warning that violence and walk-outs would not be tolerated after a verdict. Defense attorneys have repeatedly asked that the trial be moved, saying the unrest and publicity tainted prospects for a fair trial.

Porter is the first of six officers to face trial. Three of them, including Porter, are black.

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 despite department policy to do so.

Gray told Porter he needed medical aid. Porter told the van's driver and a supervisor that Gray had asked for aid but none was summoned, according to testimony.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Donna Owens; Editing by Frances Kerry and Dan Grebler)

 

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