Mistrial declared in Baltimore police officer's trial

Mistrial Declared for First Officer Tried in Freddie Gray Death

BALTIMORE (Reuters) -- A Maryland judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday in the trial of the first of six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, whose killing sparked riots and arson in the city in April.

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The jury had deliberated for 16 hours on whether officer William Porter was guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Gray's death from injuries suffered while in police custody. After it reported it was unable to reach a verdict, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams issued his ruling.

"I do declare a mistrial," Williams said after the jury of seven women and five men said they were deadlocked on all charges. He said an administrative judge would set a new trial date as early as Thursday.

Asked by defense lawyer Joseph Murtha if he wanted to appear at Thursday's hearing, a relieved-looking Porter said, "No."

See Officer William Porter at court:

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William Porter, Freddie Gray cop at court
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Mistrial declared in Baltimore police officer's trial
Officers from the Baltimore Sheriff's Department arrest a protestor across the street from Courthouse East after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Officers from the Baltimore Sheriff's Department try to secure the area as they arrest a protestor across the street from Courthouse East after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Protesters react outside the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse after the hung-jury was announced in the trial of Police Officer William Porter, in Baltimore, Maryland on December 16, 2015. The manslaughter trial of a Baltimore policeman accused over the death in custody of African-American Freddie Gray was declared a mistrial after the jury failed to a reach a verdict, putting the city on edge. AFP PHOTO/ MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter arrives for trial at the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The jury is in its second full day of deliberations in Porter's trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 30: William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray earlier in the year, walks to a courthouse for jury selection in his trial on November 30, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Porter is the first to go to trial in the death of Gray who died from an injury incured in the back of a police transport van on April 19. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
A protester stands in front of Courthouse East in Baltimore prior to the start of day 9 of the trial of Officer William Porter on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Officer William Porter enters Courthouse East in Baltimore for the start of day 9 of his trial relating to the death of Freddie Gray on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD NOVEMBER 30: A handful of protesters gather outside the Baltimore Circuit Court on Monday, November 30, 2015, in Baltimore, MD. Today marks the first day of the trial of Baltimore officer William G. Porter, 26, who is one of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD NOVEMBER 30: Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West, was killed by police in Baltimore, lets her voice be heard outside the Baltimore Circuit Court on Monday, November 30, 2015, in Baltimore, MD. Today marks the first day of the trial of Baltimore officer William G. Porter, 26, who is one of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 30: William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray earlier in the year, walks to a courthouse for jury selection in his trial on November 30, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Porter is the first to go to trial in the death of Gray who died from an injury incured in the back of a police transport van on April 19. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
Officer William Porter enters Courthouse East in Baltimore for the start of day 9 of his trial relating to the death of Freddie Gray on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD NOVEMBER 30: A handful of protesters gather outside the Baltimore Circuit Court on Monday, November 30, 2015, in Baltimore, MD. Today marks the first day of the trial of Baltimore officer William G. Porter, 26, who is one of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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The panel had said on Tuesday that it was deadlocked, but Williams told the jurors to keep trying to reach a verdict.

Porter was the first of six officers to be tried in Gray's death, from a broken neck suffered while he was transported in the back of a police van.

His death triggered protests, rioting and arson in the majority black city of 620,000 people and intensified a U.S. debate on police treatment of minorities.

See how Baltimore reacted to the charges against the police officers:

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Baltimore, Officers charged in death of Freddie Gray
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Mistrial declared in Baltimore police officer's trial
BALTIMORE, MD- SEPTEMBER 02: Several protesters march and rally in downtown Baltimore. Some even blocked intersections impeding traffic. Today is the first hearing for six Baltimore police officers charged in the death Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on September 02, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD- SEPTEMBER 02: Several protesters march and rally in downtown Baltimore. Some even blocked intersections impeding traffic. Today is the first hearing for six Baltimore police officers charged in the death Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on September 02, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: City Sheriff's deputies form a perimeter around State's Attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby (C) as she leaves the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings were held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD- SEPTEMBER 02: Kwame Rose is arrested after he and several other protesters blocked various intersections in downtown Baltimore. The first hearing for six Baltimore police officers charged in the death Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on September 02, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: A small and peaceful group of demonstrators gather to protest in front of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings will be held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: A Baltimore City Sheriff's deputy moves among a small crowd of peaceful demonstrators in front of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings will be held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: A small and peacful group of demonstrators gather to protest in front of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings will be held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march through the streets in support of Maryland state attorney Marilyn Mosby's announcement that charges would be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray died in police custody after being arrested on April 12, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march through the streets in support of Maryland state attorney Marilyn Mosby's announcement that charges would be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray died in police custody after being arrested on April 12, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march on North Avenue after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges will be filed. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses 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. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: A man tears up on the street at North Ave., and Pennsylvania Ave., in West Baltimore a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes 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. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: People participate in a dance party on North Ave., a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes 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. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: People participate in a dance party on North Ave., on the street a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes 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. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: Protesters march on the street from City Hall a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes 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. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march through the streets in support of Maryland state attorney Marilyn Mosby's announcement that charges would be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray died in police custody after being arrested on April 12, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
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Three of the six officers charged in Gray's death, including Porter, are black. Charges against the other officers range from second-degree murder for the van's driver, to misconduct.

Warren Brown, a Baltimore defense lawyer who was in the courtroom, said of the decision, "I am not surprised at all. I think you will have the same scenario with the other trials."

He said he wanted to see if the jury broke down on racial lines. Seven of the jurors are African-American, and five are white.

Porter was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

Gray, 25, 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. He died a week later.

Porter, who was a backup officer, testified that Gray told him 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.

The defense argued that Porter did not believe Gray was seriously injured until the van's final stop. His lawyers have said that Porter acted as any reasonable officer would have.

Protesters angry over police violence swarmed the streets around the courthouse following the decision, though some expressed measured views on the outcome.

"In some ways, a hung jury might be better than an acquittal," said Deray McKesson, a prominent U.S. civil rights activist, on Twitter.

One legal expert said he was surprised to see a mistrial declared on just the third day of deliberations.

"I thought the judge would never declare a mistrial absent a fistfight until the jury had been deliberating for six or seven days," said Jim Cohen, a professor at Fordham Law School in New York. "They chose the wrong defendant to try first."

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