Baltimore Prosecutor Abandons Case against Police Charged with Freddie Gray’s Death

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 27, 2016

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Prosecutors trying six Baltimore police officers accused of misconduct causing the death of Freddie Gray have announced they will drop all remaining charges after a string of losses which suggest there is not sufficient evidence to earn a conviction.  Although the Baltimore State’s Attorney maintained her position that the officers deserved to be charged for the death of Gray, she admitted her office was unlikely to earn a conviction and has cut its losses by dismissing all remaining charges.

Baltimore Attorney Controversially Pursues Officers for Freddie Gray’s Death

After 25-year-old Freddie Gray died during a prisoner transport after his arrest in April of 2015, Maryland’s lead prosecutor in Baltimore began an independent investigation into the incident before formally charging six police officers who were associated with Gray’s detainment.  Gray suffered severe spinal injuries while in the back of a police van which lead to his death a week after the incident, and the resulting protest against alleged police brutality put pressure on Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to seek criminal convictions. 

Mosby has thus far failed to earn a conviction in her first four attempts, with three of the officers acquitted outright by a bench trial and the fourth receiving temporary relief from a hung jury.  Mosby and her office have advanced a variety of theories ranging from criminal negligence to police misconduct to intentional attempt to injury Gray by giving him a “rough ride,” but thus far the prosecution has been unable to provide sufficient evidence of any illegal behavior by the officers who arrested Gray.  The three acquittals by a trial judge have been particularly damaging to Mosby’s efforts to earn convictions because the officer driving the vehicle and the officers in charge of securing Gray in the van – arguably the ones most responsible – were acquitted.

Facing the grim prospect of losing trials on the two officers yet to face the courtroom and the one who was scheduled to be retried after his hung jury, Mosby instead announced that her office would drop all remaining charges and end their pursuit of a criminal conviction for Freddie Gray’s death.

Baltimore Prosecutors Drop Charges in Freddie Gray Case

During a press conference in the neighborhood where Gray was arrested, Mosby announced her decision to withdraw all remaining charges, but steadfastly maintained that her office was justified in pursuing criminal convictions from the six officers involved.  Mosby told a supportive crowd that does “not believe Freddie Gray killed himself,” and criticized the police department for being uncooperative throughout the course of her office’s independent investigation.  Mosby went on to say that police have an “inherent bias” when policing themselves, and said that her office would be unlikely to ever win a conviction in this situation unless the current system of policing underwent “substantive reforms.” 

Mosby’s statement, which largely blamed the failure to convict on a system designed to discourage police prosecution, was defiant in the face of defeat and concluded with a promise to continue to “fight for a fair and equitable justice system for all.”  Attorneys representing the officers and leaders of the Fraternal Order of the Police Lodge 3, the union that has paid for the defense, responded with a news conference which welcomed the decision to drop all charges as just, and criticized Mosby for so aggressively pursuing criminal convictions in the first place.

Actions of Baltimore Prosecutor Raise Legal Controversy

Attorney Mosby’s prosecution has been the subject of intense legal debate throughout the investigation and trial of the six BPD officers accused of causing Freddie Gray’s death.  Mosby’s supporters have admired her willingness to take on a police department in an effort to hold officers accountable for a perceived wrongdoing which led to the death of a suspect in custody.  The Baltimore State’s Attorney office has been praised for attempting to investigate the case independently in order to avoid potential bias, and aggressively attempting to seek criminal convictions for Freddie Gray’s death.

Opponents, however, point out that Mosby and her office were quick to announce criminal charges – doing so before the police even finished an investigation – and have argued that the prosecutor sought convictions in an effort to curry political favor rather than to pursue a just outcome.  The six officers have all pleaded not guilty, and have called Gray’s death a tragic accident, and the defense team has harshly criticized the Mosby for what they feel was an antagonistic and politically motivated prosecution.  While the legal debate regarding the best way to handle cases where subjects die in police custody remains unsettled, after the Gray case it is clear that prosecutors who pursue charges against police have an uphill battle to fight – even when the public is convinced of wrongdoing.

 

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