William G. Porter (1989- ), a Black American police officer, is one of six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in April 2015. He is the first to be tried. The trial started two weeks ago on November 30th. The jury’s decision is expected any day now. The police are prepared for riots.
- Involuntary manslaughter (up to ten years)
- Second-degree assault (up to ten years)
- Misconduct in office (no term listed)
In the state of Maryland, only 2% of killer cops are charged with a crime. This case is the exception, not the rule.
- eight Blacks, four Whites;
- seven women, five men.
Porter was called in to help transport Freddie Gray to jail. Gray went into the police van alive and, a half hour later, came out close to dead.
The prosecution said Porter caused Gray’s death:
- By not putting on his seat belt in the back of the police van. That is against Maryland state law, against police policy and against police training. It is also against common sense: Porter himself admitted that when he drives his own car, he makes sure people have their seat belts on. Because Gray’s hands and feet were bound, he could not keep his neck from getting broken when the van suddenly stopped or started.
- By not calling a medic when Gray said, “I can’t breathe.”
- By not giving first aid when Gray stopped breathing.
The defence argued:
- Police officers often do not put on seat belts.
- Gray suffered from “jailitis” – suddenly needing medical attention when sent to jail. Porter knew this from Gray’s past arrests.
- The fatal injuries took place later than when the medical examiner said.
The judge said that for manslaughter the jury must find that Porter “acted in a grossly negligent manner,” severely out of line with the behaviour of “a reasonable police officer.”
- The defence said Porter acted reasonably – in a police culture that did not enforce its own policies, that did not train its officers well, that did not have enough officers to police properly.
- The prosecutor held up the seat belt in question – it still had Freddie Gray’s blood on it – and showed how long it took to fasten it: a few seconds. Likewise, calling a medic takes only a few seconds. Either one would have saved Gray’s life.
Porter grew up in the city. He joined the police force in 2012 to make the city a better place. He has no use-of-force complaints. He has never fired his gun. His neighbours see him as a straight arrow.
Porter is being tried first in hopes that if he is found guilty he will turn state’s witness against the others to reduce his prison time. At this point, they all apparently think they will get off.
If Porter is found guilty, others will likely fall. If he gets off, they all might walk.
– Abagond, 2015.
Update (December 15th): The jury ended their first full day in a deadlock. They will meet again tomorrow morning.
Update (December 16th): The jury is still deadlocked. The judge declared a mistrial. The date for a new trial will be set tomorrow. More: Baltimore Sun.
Update (May 24th 2016): Porter will be retried in September.
- Freddie Gray
- Edward Nero – the next officer to go on trial
- police brutality in Baltimore
- Michael Wood – a retired Baltimore police officer
- Marilyn Mosby – the state’s attorney for Baltimore