Baltimore awaits a fresh court date on Thursday after a judge declared a mistrial in the case of a police officer charged in the death of black detainee Freddie Gray, which sparked riots in April.
A judge dismissed the jury Wednesday in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Officer William Porter, who is also black. Porter is the first of six officers to be tried in Gray's death.
The decision came after jurors were unable to reach a verdict on any of the charges. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams was set to meet behind closed doors with defense lawyers and prosecutors to schedule a new trial.
It was not clear when meetings would take place or the new date would be announced. Gray's death triggered protests and rioting in the majority black city of 620,000 people, and intensified a U.S. debate on police brutality and treatment of minorities.
Porter told jurors he didn't think Gray was injured when he checked on him on the floor of the wagon, and helped him onto a bench inside. Instead, Porter told the van driver, Caesar Goodson, to take Gray to the hospital. Porter also said he didn't buckle Gray in because it wasn't his responsibility; the wagon driver is in charge of making sure the prisoner is strapped in while the van is moving.
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.
The mistrial could renew criticism that the state's attorney, Marilyn Mosby, overreached in bringing manslaughter and other serious charges against the officers, only a day after police completed their investigation into the death.
“She didn't go where the evidence led her,” said Steven Levin, a former federal prosecutor and now a defense lawyer in Baltimore. “She went where constituents wanted her to go.”
Williams' ruling prompted protests, with scores of demonstrators marching in downtown Baltimore and gathering in Gray's West Baltimore neighborhood. At least two demonstrators were arrested.
Gray's family and officials, including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, called for calm.
Porter, 26, was charged in Gray's death from a broken neck suffered while the 25-year-old man was transported in the back of a police van.
Goodson is the next officer due in court, with his trial set for Jan. 6. Prosecutors had scheduled Porter's as the first trial to allow him to be a witness against Goodson and a supervisor.