BALTIMORE (Reuters) - A Maryland judge and lawyers failed on Thursday to set a new trial date after a mistrial for a police officer charged with manslaughter in the death of black detainee Freddie Gray, a court spokeswoman said.
Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams met with defence lawyers and prosecutors to discuss a new trial date for Officer William Porter, 26, after a jury was unable to reach a verdict after three days of deliberations.
“So far, we have no new trial date, that’s the news,” the state courts spokeswoman said. She said Williams and the lawyers could meet again on the trial issue.
Porter faces involuntary manslaughter and other charges. He is the first of six police officers to go on trial in the high-profile case.
Gray’s death in April from a broken neck suffered in a police van after an arrest triggered rioting in the mainly black city of 620,000 people. It also stoked a U.S. debate on police treatment of minorities.
Legal experts have said the outcome of the Baltimore trials could influence U.S. prosecutors in bringing similar charges in cases of alleged police brutality.
Williams’ decision on a mistrial prompted protests but police reported a peaceful night. Two protesters were arrested.
David Jaros, an associate law professor at the University of Baltimore, said prosecutors likely still wanted to try Porter first so that he could later testify against Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver.
Goodson’s trial on charges that include second-degree murder is set to start Jan. 6.
The mistrial “leaves the state in a difficult position,” Jaros said. “The state’s attorneys need Porter to place Goodson in the narrative of what happened to Freddie Gray.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, in an interview with MSNBC, said she was not in a position to judge whether city prosecutor Marilyn Mosby had rushed to file charges as Baltimore was in turmoil following Gray’s death.
”I think that’s the judgement of the public to make as a result of how these cases bear out,” she said.
Porter, who like Gray is black, was charged for neglecting to seat-belt him in the transport van and failing get Gray medical help when he asked for it.
Besides involuntary manslaughter, Porter is charged with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Tait and Meredith Mazzilli