LDF Statement on Mistrial in Case against William Porter for the In-Custody Death of Freddie Gray

Today, Judge Barry G. Williams declared a mistrial in the case against police officer William Porter for the in-custody death of Freddie Gray because the Baltimore jury that spent weeks hearing evidence of Officer Porter’s involvement in Gray’s death was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. The prosecutor must now decide whether to convene a new jury to try Porter again.  

“We should remember that a hung jury is not an acquittal.” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF.) “It is now up to State’s Attorney to explore all avenues to ensure that justice is served in this case.” 

In addition, the mistrial in the Porter case does not settle the question of guilt for the five other officers involved in Gray’s in-custody death, whose trials are pending.

Evidence presented at trial, including officer testimony, exposed systemic flaws in the Baltimore Police Department’s (BPD) policing of Baltimore residents. “The testimony at trial and record evidence revealed that the BPD had a written policy requiring officers to secure with seat belts persons who are arrested and transported in police vans, and that most officers routinely ignored this policy,” said Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of LDF. “Officer Porter and other police officers, who took an oath to protect and serve, have been allowed to disregard important department safety policy with impunity.” While the officers involved were reportedly suspended without pay, LDF urges BPD officials to further discipline the officers involved in Gray’s death for their failure to comply with department policy, which resulted in a loss of life.  

LDF, whose legal team observed several days of the Porter trial, joined clergy, advocates and activists last May to successfully urge the U.S. Justice Department to open an investigation of the BPD to determine if its officers have engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful policing. “We renew our call to the Justice Department to consider carefully BPD officers’ failure to secure passengers during transport and whether it violates civil rights laws,” said Monique Dixon, Deputy Director of Policy and Senior Counsel. Moreover, “the practice of ‘rough riding’ persons detained by police should be denounced and eliminated,” said Dixon. “These alleged ‘rough rides’ involve police officers recklessly accelerating and then decelerating police vehicles while not securing the seat belts of handcuffed persons in the back of the vehicle, causing severe and potentially fatal injury.” Police protocols should ensure that all responding officers are held accountable for the safety of in-custody passengers, and that full transparency be provided in all cases involving the death of a civilian.

Through its Policing Reform Campaign, LDF will continue to support the demands for unbiased and responsible policing practices in Baltimore, including:

  • annual collection, disaggregation, and public reporting of arrests; use-of-force; and pedestrian and traffic stop data; 
  • training on implicit bias, de-escalation, use of force, adolescent development and proper interactions with persons with mental illness and other disabilities;
  • enforcement of these trainings through close monitoring of police conduct and the imposition of disciplinary actions or retraining; and
  • timely investigation and resolution of civilian complaints against police.

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in media attributions as the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund or LDF.

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