Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby Plays with Fire
On May 1, Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby charged six police officers, including two black male officers and one female black officer, with 28 crimes in the death of Freddie Gray. The charges, included murder and manslaughter. Officer Caesar Goodsoon, the black driver of the van Gray rode in, was charged by the 35-year-old state’s attorney for Baltimore City with the most serious offense, “second-degree depraved heart murder,” which means indifference to human life.
Baltimore is 64 percent black, and almost half of the Baltimore Police department is black. So were half of the officers now accused of arresting and roughing up Gray, who is black, for no good reason, then neglecting his request for medical care as they took him to the police station.
The officers arrested Gray because they believed he had a switchblade, which is illegal in Maryland. One of the officers charged, Garrett Miller, has said that Gray was arrested “without force or incident.”
Mosby declared that Gray’s knife was not a switchblade and the officers had no probable cause to arrest him. She said Gray suffered a neck and back injury while being transported in the back of the police van without a seatbelt on. He died a week later of the injuries.
Mosby announced the charges a mere 12 days after Gray’s death, only one day after receiving the results of the police internal investigation and almost immediately after receiving the medical examiner’s report. By contrast, a grand jury returned a decision of no indictment against Officer Darren Wilson more than three months after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Mosby didn’t present the evidence to a grand jury to get an indictment, which would have given the charges more credibility. Although her husband is a Baltimore City Councilman, presenting a likely ethical conflict, she refused to step aside to let a special prosecutor handle the case. Instead, she handled the case herself, declaring she had found probable cause against all six officers.
Renowned liberal attorney Alan Dershowitz denounced the charges as “outrageous and irresponsible.” He told Newsmax TV, “They are presumed innocent, they need due process of law, and the mayor and the state attorney have made it virtually impossible for these defendants to get a fair trial. They have been presumed guilty.” Former prosecutor Jonathan Keiler, writing for The American Thinker, said that “her actions are not only unethical, but border on professional malpractice.” Even the left-leaning editorial board of The Chicago Tribune expressed its skepticism of the charges, in an article entitled A Prosecutor’s Rush to Judgment in Baltimore.
At Hot Air, Jazz Shaw observed that “tagging Caesar R. Goodson, Jr., with second degree depraved heart murder will be a serious stretch, considering the need to prove intent (on top of everything else) against someone who was walled off in the driver compartment of the vehicle and unable to reach — or for the most part even see — Freddie Gray.”
The Baltimore chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police has condemned the charges. The union’s attorney, Michael E. Davey, said, “The actions taken today by the state’s attorney are an egregious rush to judgment. We believe that these officers will be vindicated, as they have done nothing wrong.” The FOP is asking Mosby to recuse herself due to her husband’s political position, and due to her personal connection to the Gray family’s attorney, William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. Murphy contributed $5,000 to Mosby’s campaign last year and served on her transition committee. Mosby also is personally acquainted with some of the journalists covering the case who would likely testify at trial.
Lawyers for the accused police officers filed a motion Friday calling for the case to be thrown out and for Mosby to remove herself or be dismissed from the case. They assert that Mosby and her husband stand to benefit financially and professionally from the prosecution.
Dershowitz predicts the case will be thrown out for lack of evidence, and all Mosby is doing is postponing the consequent riots. When police officers are charged with crimes for fatally shooting suspects, they are only convicted about one third of the time.
Mosby may have violated ethics rules by not recusing herself and for speaking publicly about the case, prejudicing the outcome.
The second one first. Rule 3.8(e) of the Maryland Lawyer’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which applies to prosecutors, states that “except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, [a prosecutor shall] refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused …”
She may also have violated Rule 1.7, the conflict of interest rule. It basically says that a lawyer shall not represent a client — which could include the government — “if there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by … a personal interest of the lawyer.”
Here, Mosby and her husband choose to gain political points by looking like they are cracking down on racism in the police department. Mosby ran for office on a platform of promising to hold police accountable.
Dershowitz believes Mosby and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Black, who also made public statements in response to the rioting, were motivated by “a threat of riots and a desire to prevent riots.” Riots broke out shortly after Gray’s death, with protesters chanting, “Make them pay for Freddie Gray!” Millions of dollars in damage was done through the looting and burning of local businesses; 15 police officers were injured and 34 arrested. Mosby declared during her announcement of the charges, “To the people of Baltimore and demonstrators across America, I heard your call for ‘No Justice, No peace.’ Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.”
I’m a little more cynical than Dershowitz, and believe Mosby was intending to score political points with black voters. As a former prosecutor myself, I find it mind-boggling that Mosby did not instantly recuse herself from the case; the ethical conflicts are so blatant a first year law student could spot them. Some, like Morgan Brittany, the former Hollywood actress turned political analyst, believe the radical left is deliberately inciting massive unrest nationwide.
The way to stop the rioting isn’t by short circuiting our judicial system of due process. It’s to stop fomenting racism. This tragic incident seems to have been willfully mishandled in order to achieve a certain political outcome. Mosby should have recused herself from the case immediately and appointed a special prosecutor, and the case should have gone to a grand jury to decide whether or not to indict the officers. Mosby and Rawlings-Black — and perhaps even Mosby’s husband — should have issued a joint statement stating, “While racism sometimes occurs in society, this incident was not a result of it. Half of the six police officers involved in this incident are black. It would be unjust to label this as racism and ruin more black lives than the one that has already been lost.”
Until their approach changes, the race-baiters are playing with literal fire.