Even a guilty verdict on any of the charges would have been preferable. That would have been appealed and reversed. But now, we start again. More on this later.
As I’m sure readers know by now, Judge Barry Williams declared a mistrial in the trial of Officer William Porter. The jury remained hopelessly deadlocked. I’m somewhat surprised that he declared the mistrial so quickly, but I suspect his off-the-public-record inquiries convinced him there was no hope no matter how long he encouraged the jury to deliberate.
The most likely situation was the majority, perhaps all but one, ready to acquit on all charges–we do know that the deadlock was on all charges–and one or two stubborn holdouts for conviction. That the issue was every charge suggests this. It’s hard, given the overwhelming lack of evidence for proof beyond a reasonable doubt, to imagine the opposite situation, but stranger things have happened, and this is mere speculation on my part. Perhaps we’ll be hearing about this issue in a near-future Defense motion.
The Baltimore Sun, in an article that was a masterful regurgitation of the obvious, had this to say:
Police from around the Baltimore region began assembling in the city Tuesday with riot gear, corrections officials cleared jail space in case of mass arrests, while political and community leaders issued calls for calm and peaceful protests.
Shortly after the mistrial was declared, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the city should respect the outcome of the case, and repeated that the city is prepared to respond ‘in the case of any disturbance.
One wonders how much “space to destroy” she’ll be allowing her constituents this time.
In the coming days, if some choose to demonstrate peacefully to express their opinion, that is their constitutional right,’ she said in a statement. ‘I urge everyone to remember that collectively, our reaction needs to be one of respect for our neighborhoods, and for the residents and businesses of our city.
Translation: Please don’t torch and loot Baltimore again. It would really make me look bad.
The mistrial could have implications for the legal strategies in the cases against the five other officers, who are set to be tried individually next year in similarly complex cases.
You don’t say. This is not at all a complex case. The facts are simple and easily understood. The evidence is equally easily understood and not at all voluminous. The complexity of the case, for The Sun, the Prosecution, and the forces of social justice lies in the fact that there is no evidence for conviction–at least not in a court of justice where judges, prosecutors and jurors are willing to play by the rules of justice rather than social justice.
The Prosecution and Defense are almost certainly in silent agreement on one fact: this is a disaster for the Prosecution. Prosecutors virtually never go to trial without a reasonable certainly of a conviction. Considering the fact that Marilyn Mosby has been replacing competent, experienced attorneys with Kool-aid drinkers, and the prosecutor’s office is reported to be in chaos, perhaps considering the Prosecutors involved, it’s not hard to surmise that this case is entirely political in intent and execution. Failing to easily convict Porter is therefore a dramatic and destructive blow.
A rational, ethical prosecutor would never have filed the case. But assume a mistake was made. At this point, the rational prosecutor would drop the case. With five more trials occurring in short order, they don’t need the heartache.
At the very least, at this point, a reasonable prosecutor would be dropping all but the one or two charges with the greatest chance of securing a conviction. The problem is that in this case, there is virtually no chance, based on the lack of evidence, for conviction on any of the charges, again, in a court of justice, not social justice.
Mr. Schatzow, of course, has already made it known there will be a second trial.
The Defense, of course, will do all it can to obtain a change of venue, for this re-trial and for the trials of the remaining officers. Considering all of the obvious and excellent grounds already extant, this mistrial should convince any reasonable jurist not to roll the dice in Baltimore again. I’m not sure how such things work in Baltimore, but elsewhere, Judge Williams would not sit on the same case a second time, but with social justice involved, who knows?
A second trial should be to the advantage of the Defense. The Prosecution is essentially stuck with the trial record and the evidence it introduced the first time. William Porter has no reason to change his story in any way, so it will be essentially impossible for the prosecution to impeach him. However, the Defense may very well find other evidence the Prosecution has been hiding.
Ultimately, the most important question may be whether a police officer can get a fair trial anywhere in America. Consider Darren Wilson, who did precisely what he was trained to do, and what was absolutely within the law, in the Michael Brown case. He was exonerated, never arrested, never had to go to trial, yet he had to resign, he and his family remain in hiding, and his police career is over.
Did you know that police agencies are already limiting the intelligence of the officers they hire? They’re trying not to hire people that are too intelligent, “too intelligent” being defined as perhaps two or three IQ points beyond slightly above average. This article explains.
Imagine what we’re going to find patrolling our streets, gentle readers, when intelligent, public-spirited, altruistic people no longer see law enforcement as a viable career. The damage done by this case, and by the five cases to follow, will reach far beyond Maryland.
Over the next week, I’ll post two articles commenting on progressive articles on the mistrial. They’re most revealing, and promise unlimited future mischief. I hope to see you there.
UPDATE, 121715, 2050 CST: Here’s an interesting and important point from former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy:
“Understand that when defendants are tried separately – there are six police officers charged in Mr. Gray’s death – the prosecution will always start with its strongest case. Winning a conviction makes convictions (by trial or guilty plea) much more likely in the other cases; anything less than a conviction can make the other cases unravel. In fact, the remaining cases are rumored to be so weak that prosecutors reportedly see the conviction of Porter as critical – i.e., once convicted, Porter would have no more Fifth Amendment privilege to refuse to testify, so the state could then compel him to appear as a witness and, they hope against hope, provide the evidence they now lack.”
If McCarthy is right, and in terms of what ethical, professional prosecutors do, he is, the Porter case is even more amazing. Under normal circumstances—which Baltimore certainly is not—none of the cases would have been filed. The Porter case is not just weak; it’s nonexistent. Yet, the Prosecution has said it wanted to coerce Porter’s testimony against the other officers, which was much of its overall strategy for trying Porter first. What testimony? Other than observing that prisoner welfare is the primary responsibility of a transport van driver—which it is—I saw no evidence that would be useful against the other officers, quite the contrary.
A political persecution through and through.