Now that the jury is deliberating the first case in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, no one is taking any chances in Baltimore with possibility of a repeat of violence from April.
Baltimore Public School Superintendent, Dr. Gregory Thornton, put the entire system on notice in a letter sent home Monday. The Superintendent said he “supported the right (of students) to express their emotions.” Conversely, he said, “we need to make it clear that student walkouts, vandalism, civil disobedience, and any violence are not acceptable under any circumstances and any student who participate in such endeavors will face consequences.”
It’s a message that was reinforced in a similar event by Congressman Elijah Cummings. The Congressman will urge residents to respect trial’s outcome. He’ll also address what comes after the verdict.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams sent the jury home Tuesday afternoon after they were reportedly deadlocked. Deliberations are expected to continue Wednesday morning.
The city held its breath on Monday as 12 jurors heard the closing arguments from the case State of Maryland v. William Porter. In the last three weeks the jury has heard many details of what happened Sunday April 12. Porter is charged with manslaughter, second degree assault, misconduct, and reckless endangerment.
The prosecution used Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe to tie all the facts together in the case. She began with a simple question, “How long does it take to put on a seat belt? 3-4-5 seconds?” A reference to Porter’s indifference to Gray who was not put in a restraining belt as he was being transported in a police van.
For the prosecution, it was all about Porter’s inconsistencies. The prosecution placed a lot of burden on the internal police investigation video tape and how he changed his story when he testified live before the court.
During testimony, Detective Syreeta Teel told the jury she had talked to Porter on the phone after the event. There were six police van stops and Officer Porter was present at five. The prosecution hammered, she took notes during the conversation. Porter told her that at the van’s fourth stop (Dolphin and Druid Hill Avenue) he went to check on Gray. In the phone call Teel asks what happened to Gray, but Porter said Gray told him that he couldn’t breathe. Porter’s story prompts her to ask him to come in for a full interview. On the stand he would change his testimony, saying Gray only “asked if I could help him up.”
Other inconsistencies pointed to why he didn’t put Gray in a seat belt. During live testimony he said he was concerned about his gun being available to Gray if he reached over to secure the strap him in. However, in the video deposition he admits Gray was docile and wasn’t combative” inside the van. The prosecutor says Porter “just didn’t care to seat belt.” Bledsoe describes the vehicle transporting Gray as “a casket on wheels.”
Defense Attorney William Murtha told the jury there is a presumption of innocence, and the state has not met the burden of proof. According to the defense, the state has not put a on a single witness or piece of evidence to convict Porter. Murtha said the state is asking the jury to use “speculation to fill in the blanks.”
Their most searing argument for not convicting their client was leveled against Assistant Medical Examiner, Dr. Carol Allan. Dr. Allen called what happen to Gray a homicide which they charged was a “rush to judgment.” They called into question her scientific findings as “speculation.” They point to their own expert, retired Medical Examiner Dr. Vincent DiMaio. He looked at the evidence called it an “accident.” Dr. DiMaio also questioned when Gray broke his neck, pointing to stops 5 and 6. Murtha reiterated, “conjecture and speculation is what caused Gray’s death.” Regarding how two highly trained individuals can come to two different conclusions? “Reasonable doubt.” The defense attorney cautioned the jury not to let emotions get the better of them, “You’re making a legal decision, not moral, philosophical decisions.”