In a bid to avert the kind of social unrest that took place after the April death of Freddie Gray, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings on Tuesday called for Baltimoreans to remain calm and show respect for the verdict in the trial of Officer William G. Porter, whatever it turns out to be.
However one feels about the outcome, it will have been reached as the end result of due process, Cummings said.
"The verdict will have as much legitimacy as our society can provide," Cummings said.
"We, who struggle for greater justice in our society, must be prepared to do justice as well … We must be just whether we agree or disagree with a jury's verdict in a single criminal trial," he added.
Cummings made the remarks at a press conference in his Baltimore office as the jury deliberated for a second day in the trial of Porter, who stands charged in the Gray case, and as protesters gathered outside the courtroom.
The Congressman also urged community leaders to make sure residents see the Porter trial within a larger framework — one in which, he said, the justice system sometimes fails to deal with cases such as Gray's at all.
"In so many other cities, African-American men are shot down and killed — unarmed men, in many instances — and nothing happens. As a matter of fact, that has become the norm," Cummings said.
The justice system may be imperfect, he added, but it's designed to be fair — and, "It's the only one we have."
"Our future as a more just community will depend more upon our own actions than it will upon the decision of Officer Porter's jury," Cummings said. "We will all be on trial in the days and weeks ahead."