With a backdrop of a Freddie Gray Mural in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, a defiant Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby defended her office’s efforts in pursuing the case against the six Baltimore cops accused in Gray’s death, which resulted in charges being dropped against the remaining officers and zero convictions after eight months of trials.
But at the same time she emphasized the derision between her office and the police department, basically saying the lack of cooperation cost her the case. Still, it is really more complicated than that.
It was always going be a steep curve in making this case. Initially, charges were modified and prosecutors may have hoped to use emotion and slim facts to sway a jury. The only case of the six heard by a jury was that of Officer William Porter, which first resulted in a hung jury and then a mistrial. The remaining cases were heard by Judge Barry Williams as bench trials. In those proceedings, Williams repeatedly chided prosecutors for failures in presenting evidence that would convict any of the officers.
What the prosecution was unable to do is provide expert testimony or empirical evidence of what went on in the back of the van, and how and when the fatal injury occurred. Williams pointed to this in all of his rulings from the bench.
After four trials, it became increasingly clear that any convictions would be harder to obtain. Mosby said that the investigations hindered her office from the start.
“Unlike with other cases, where prosecutors work closely with the police to investigate what actually occurred,” she said. “What we realized very early on in this case was that investigating police…were problematic.
“There was a reluctance and an obvious bias that was consistently exemplified, not by the entire Baltimore Police Department, but by individuals within the Baltimore Police Department at every stage of the investigation.”
The relationship between the prosecutor’s office and police department has been strained throughout the officers’ trials. Early in this case Mosby’s office said it used Baltimore County Sheriff’s Deputies to do a separate investigation of the Gray’s death. But during the trials it turned out that the Sheriff’s Department only signed off on the indictment but never investigated the case.
But during the trial, there were more complications. Williams had to sanction prosecution for discovery violations. During the Caesar Goodson case, he allowed hearsay testimony from lead police investigator, Dawnyella Taylor, who produced alternate notes saying Gray’s death was an accident. On the stand, Taylor said she had a falling out with the prosecution. She was removed from the case because Lead Prosecutor Michael Schatzow said she was trying to “sabotage the case.”
In the end, although prosecutors were not successful, the case is not really over for Mosby. She’s being sued by four of the officers, William Porter, Garret Miller, Edward Nero, along with Sgt. Alicia White and Lt. Brian Rice, for false arrest, false imprisonment and defamation.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake acknowledged the process is not over, “an administrative investigation of the officers will move forward.” That is being done by police investigators outside of Baltimore. They could recommend three options, reprimanding the officers, demotion, or termination.
But there are people who feel that something was accomplished despite the failure to convict.
Maryland Congressman Ellijah Cummings whose district encompasses the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood noted, “a lot of things have happened since these trials have went on…I have a lot of confidence that out Police Department is better than it was before.”