Ever since the trial of Officer William Porter in connection with Freddy Gray’s death ended with a hung jury, I’ve been dying to know how the jury voted. Now, the the Baltimore Sun, tells us:
The jury in the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter was one vote from acquitting him of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray, the most serious charge he faced, according to sources familiar with the deliberations. . . .Jurors were two votes from convicting Porter of misconduct in office. . . sources said
On the two other charges, the vote reportedly was as follows:
The [jury] voted 8-2 in favor of acquittal on second-degree assault, with two jurors remaining undecided.
On reckless endangerment, the jury split 7-3 in favor of conviction, with two jurors undecided.
The jury consisted of four black women, three black men, three white women and two white men.
Porter is set to be retried later this year. Neither the prosecution nor the defense will comment on how news of the jury vote affects their thinking. As I understand it, the parties are under a court-imposed gag order.
The news should persuade the prosecution of the futility of winning a conviction for manslaughter, and probably assault, in a new trial. But the prosecution probably thought all along that these charges — especially manslaughter — were long shots. Given the politics of this case, the prosecution might very well be willing to take another shot unless there’s a price to pay (about this, see below).
The prosecution may be encouraged that a majority favored convicting Porter on the two lesser counts. In particular, it will think it has a good shot at convicting Porter of misconduct in office, having obtained 10 votes for conviction against only one for acquittal (with one undecided) the first time around.
The prosecution hopes to call Porter as a witness in the upcoming trial of Caesar Goodson, as well as at least one other officer. The trial judge decided that Porter can be called, notwithstanding his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. This ruling has been stayed pending appellate review.
If the appeals court says that Porter can’t be called as long as he is in legal jeopardy, the prosecution will have to weigh the value of Porter’s testimony in light of (a) the slim likelihood of making its big charges against Porter stick at a new trial and (b) the value of convicting him on lesser charges, discounted by the uncertainty of getting even these convictions.