Judge denies motion after letter to parents warned of “civil disorder” following verdict
The defense counsel for Officer William Porter has moved for a mistrial after discovering that the Baltimore City Public Schools sent home a letter with students cautioning parents in which the CEO of the school system wrote:
I am very concerned about the possibility of civil disorders following announcements of the verdict.
That full letter is embedded below.
Several of the jurors have children in school, and are likely to have seen the letter. Jurors were cautioned against watching the news during deliberations, for fear that the news might improperly influence their judgement. Jurors are supposed to deliver a verdict delivered solely on the evidence and legal arguments presented in court, not on any information obtained elsewhere.
Jurors were not, however, cautioned against reading letters brought home by their children from school. The possible prejudicial effect of this letter’s caution of “civil disorder” is no different in any essential way than would be a news story on the same subject.
According to reporting by Justin Fenton of the Baltimore Sun, in counterargument to the defense motion for a mistrial, “Prosecutor Schatzow said there was ‘nothing incendiary’ in letter & noted jurors have already been questioned whether they can be impartial.”
Similarly, Judge Williams denied the motion for a mistrial, stating that “jurors have been clearly told only to consider info from court and letter not ‘an appropriate reason’ for mistrial.”
Exactly this kind of incident is precisely why this trial, and all the Freddie Gray” trials, should clearly have been transferred to another venue outside the City of Baltimore, given the extensive riots, looting, and arson that occurred in the city in the immediate aftermath of Gray’s death.
Here’s the letter from the Baltimore City Public Schools:
Keep your eyes here for continued coverage of the “Freddie Gray” trials.
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