After a Baltimore jury could not come to a unanimous verdict in the trial of police officer William Porter, Judge Barry Williams declared a mistrial. Since then, Porter's retrial has been set for June 6, 2016. The question now is who benefits from the delay.
Why a Mistrial?
- In order for a criminal defendant to be found guilty or not guilty, the verdict must be unanimous. All jurors must be in agreement.
- If a jury cannot come to a unanimous verdict, the law requires a retrial or do-over of the case.
- If a second jury cannot come to a unanimous verdict, then serious consideration must be given as to whether or not the State can secure a conviction and if a dismissal is appropriate.
Who Does a Second Trial Favor?
The first trial served as a trial run for both sides. Defense attorneys know exactly what prosecutors' theory of the case will be and how they will present it. On the other hand, Porter testified in his own defense so prosecutors have him locked into a statement. If he deviates from his testimony in the first trial, it could be very damaging to his credibility.
Sometimes when a jury deadlocks, the number of jurors voting a particular charge is known. In the case of Officer Porter, this information was not made public. Nonetheless, the attorneys trying the case are aware of it and may re-shape their cases accordingly.
History suggests, though, that criminal defendants who go to trial a second time after a hung jury do very well. Sometimes they do well by securing a not guilty verdict, and sometimes they are the recipients of exceptional plea deals. In the case of Officer Porter, it seems highly unlikely that Porter will take a deal.
Prosecutors Lost Leverage
Prosecutors lost leverage against Porter. They had hoped to convict him and then use him as a witness against the other officers who will stand trial in the coming months. The plan was that once he was convicted, Porter could not invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and would be forced to testify against other defendants. Prosecutors will not have that ammunition against other defendants; something which will unquestionably complicate their ability to obtain convictions.
All Murder Cases Are Complicated - Not Just High Profile Cases
While the trials of officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray are complicated, the legal issues are really not that different from those presented in non-high profile murder cases. The fact that the Baltimore trials have garnered media attention only makes the issues more widely known.
Jason Lamm is one of Arizona's most experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorneys who, for the last 20+ years, has demonstrated his mastery of challenging legal issues in murder cases and other violent crimes. He routinely serves as a legal expert on both national and local television to share his knowledge of criminal law and related issues.
If you or someone you love is facing complex felony charges and you are serious about hiring only the best of the best, contact his office at (602) 663-9100 to schedule a personal and confidential consultation.