The Freddie Gray Cop Trials: Mosby Grossly Overcharged, is Getting Nada
When police officers err with a suspect, it doesn't help for the prosecutor to overcharge them with murder to gain points with Black Lives Matter protesters.
Six Maryland police officers may indeed have erred in their treatment of Freddie Gray after they arrested him. But so far they are all getting off, in large part because State Attorney Marilyn Mosby grossly overcharged them in order to score political points with her fellow Democrats and Black Lives Matter.
When the charges were announced on May 1 of last year, noted lawyer Alan Dershowitz declared that “This is a show trial. Today had nothing to do with justice. Today was crowd control. Everything today was motivated by a threat of riots and a desire to prevent riots.”
He rejected the charges. “There’s no plausible, hypothetical, conceivable case for murder under the facts as we now know them,” he said. “You might say that conceivably there’s a case for manslaughter. Plainly nobody wanted this guy to die. Nobody set out to kill him. Nobody intentionally murdered him.”
Gray, a 25-year-old black male with a lengthy criminal history, started running away when he saw Baltimore police officers. The six officers arrested him, which they said they were required to do in that high-crime area. They found a switchblade on him, and included that as an additional reason for the arrest. It is disputed whether the switchblade was illegal.
He was put in a police van and allegedly given a “rough ride” designed to bang him around the inside of the van. He was not put in a seatbelt as departmental policy requires. When the van arrived at the police station, Gray fell into a coma and later died of injuries to his spinal cord. Riots engulfed Baltimore for several days afterward.
There was reason to believe the charge. The Baltimore Sun reported that at least two people have won lawsuits against the city for rough rides, as a result of becoming paraplegics. A former Baltimore police officer testified during one of the paraplegics’ lawsuits that rough rides do occur. Charles J. Key said that police vans are deliberately “driven to cause ‘injury or pain’ to unbuckled, handcuffed detainees.” The practice was referred to as “bringing them up front,” he testified; the van driver would slam on the brakes to slam the detainee up against the cage behind the driver’s seat.
State Attorney Marilyn Mosby accused the police of racism and brought severe charges against all six officers — even though three, including the driver, are black. So far three, including the driver, have been acquitted. Judge Barry G. Williams stated that he did not find any concrete evidence Gray had been given a rough ride.
Investigators initially determined that Gray’s fatal injuries were caused by the van ride. There were reports he had pre-existing injuries due to prior back surgeries, but the evidence is conflicting.
The van made three stops on the way to the police station. After his arrest, Gray was handcuffed and put into the van. At the first stop, he was placed in leg irons — but still no seatbelt. At the third stop, he was discovered lying on the floor and asking for medical attention, but the officers merely placed him back on the seat, but did not belt him in.
The second prisoner officers picked up along the way has said Gray was intentionally trying to harm himself. Witnesses said he was rocking the van up until the second stop. If true, that could have been prevented had he been placed in a seat belt. But defense attorneys argued that the officers did not put him in a seatbelt because he was struggling with them and that attempting to put an unruly detainee in a seat belt can be dangerous.
State’s attorney Marilyn Mosby charged the black van driver, Caesar Goodson, with second degree murder, “depraved-heart murder,” manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence, and other offenses. She charged the other five officers Goodson was working with too. Sgt. Alicia White was charged with not just involuntary manslaughter but manslaughter. Mosby charged both Lt. Brian Rice and William Porter with involuntary manslaughter, as well as lesser offenses.
As a result of Mosby’s grossly unfair handling of the incident, prosecutors have been unable to get a single conviction yet on any of the officers. Two of the officers were acquitted in bench trials. A third case, Lt. Porter, resulted in a hung jury, so he will be retried. On Tuesday, Judge Williams threw out one of the charges against Lt. Rice. Closing arguments will be heard on Thursday. Officers Alicia White and Garrett Miller have yet to be tried, and have filed motions to dismiss along with Porter.
If Mosby had brought the proper charge of negligence for failing to put a seat belt on Gray against the officers, perhaps they would have been convicted. It means the only likely outcomes are that the officers will be over-punished or, as in this case so far, receive no punishment at all.
“There’s no question she acted irresponsibly,” Dershowitz told the Associated Press after the acquittal. “She acted politically. She acted too quickly, and the public ought to make her pay a price for seeking to distort justice.”