As U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch leaves office, one of the major cases of her tenure remains unresolved: the Justice Department’s civil rights investigation into the death of Freddie Gray.
But as Donald Trump takes office in the White House, his administration does not seem likely to pursue the investigation, with Trump himself calling Baltimore city attorney Marilyn Mosby’s prosecution of the case against the six police officers initially charged in Gray’s death “a disgrace.”
But Lynch pledged to do a diligent job in investigating the case as she took office in 2015 to see if the officers violated Gray’s civil rights. “We will continue our careful and deliberate examination of the facts in the coming days and weeks,” said Lynch, according to a story in The Baltimore Sun.
Gray, 25, died in April 2015 about a week after police arrested him in Baltimore. His death touched off days of unrest in the city resulting multiple arrests and property damage. Mosby aggressively pursued a case against the six officers, but the jury was hung in the case of one officer and most of them chose bench trials, to which a judge said there was not enough evidence to prosecute and acquitted them. Charges against the officers were eventually dropped by Mosby’s office in July.
Lynch has faced criticism for not completing the investigation by the end of her time in office. Norman Siegel, a New York civil rights attorney said the attorney general “let the clock run out” on this case and that of Eric Garner, a New York man who died after being placed in a chokehold by police while being arrested in 2014.
“They’ve had enough time to make the call as to whether or not federal civil rights charges should be filed against the officers, both in New York and Baltimore,” Siegel told The Sun.
People watching the case believe Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has been extensively criticized on his civil rights record as attorney general in Alabama, is not likely to prioritize cases like Gray’s and Garner’s if he is confirmed.
William “Billy” Murphy, the Gray family attorney says that allowing the Trump White House to handle the case is one of his “many concerns” about a Justice Department run by Sessions.
But in Baltimore, people continue to wait to see if the case will be continued. Mosby said in a statement the citizens there “deserve to know whether Freddie Gray’s civil rights were violated.” But she is “cautiously optimistic that regardless of who is in office, the Department of Justice will place politics aside and uphold the ideals of justice by conducting a thorough investigation to arrive at the truth and bring closure for the citizens of this great city.”