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What national media are saying about the Porter case mistrial

Some of the national media covering and commenting on Wednesday's mistrial explored anomalies of the cases against William Porter and the other officers charged in Freddie Gray's arrest and death even as they're viewed as litmus tests for prosecuting police, asked what conclusions can be drawn from a proceeding that legally didn't produce any, and sought to give voice to protesters beyond the familiar chants and sound bytes.

  • Parallel to the court cases, the U.S. Justice Department is investigating Baltimore police, a probe that is expected to lead to a host of mandated changes. In presenting four takeaways from the mistrial, The Atlantic's David A. Graham, pointing out that Gray and officers involved in his arrest knew each other, and, according to Porter's own testimony, would even chat, suggests a policing approach often advocated by reformers must be part of broader remedies. Graham writes, "It’s common to hear that many of America’s policing problems could be solved if there were more police out on the beat, in neighborhoods, getting to know people. The first Porter trial, and the Gray case in general, show the shortcomings of that theory."

  • Much of Porter's defense focused on dysfunction in the police department and officers' viewpoint that its general orders were more guidelines than hard rules, trumped by personal discretion based on the situation in front of them. It was an effort to show that Porter did not act unreasonably — unreasonableness being a legal requirement for some of the charges against him. On Slate's website, Leon Neyfakh analyzes the complicated concept of reasonableness, and how it's confounded by another hallmark of the case, writing, "Regardless of what you think a reasonable police officer would or wouldn’t have done in Porter’s situation, proving that someone committed a crime by failing to do something good is harder than proving they succeeded at doing something bad."
  • Going forward, the mistrial, Jess Bidgood writes for The New York Times, further wrinkles matters. She quotes Joanna C. Schwartz, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles: "In most cases the retrial is another group of people who know nothing about the case. Here it is going to be impossible not only to find people who don’t know about the case, but also who don’t know about the first verdict — or lack of a verdict." 

  • Also commenting on the atypical nature of the case, The New Yorker's Benjamin Wallace-Wells writes that while perhaps making it an imperfect barometer, its complications helped thrust it into the national conciousness in the first place: "Cases of police killing often hinge on the psychology of a particular officer—on his ability to manage his own fear, on his history of bias—but these issues have so far not been central to the Freddie Gray case. It’s hard to argue that Gray was killed by one bad cop. For the same reasons that Porter’s prosecution is tricky, Gray’s death is close to the issues at the heart of the Black Lives Matter protests." 

  • NPR, meanwhile, offered longer-form audio reaction from some of those protesters, ones who marched around downtown Wednesday night, seeking to evoke the disillusionment they felt after jurors failed to reach a verdict. One was Dominique Hall, 22, who works and goes to college. He said that as a black man he can't hold the justice system accountable because it "was not created to protect me."
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