Baltimore lawyers say that charges against the six police officers accused of injuring and killing Freddie Gray could be reduced as the cops’ attorneys scour for ways to protect them from a potentially unfair city court trial or the scrutiny of a biased grand jury.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby promised city residents justice May 1 when she announced that all six officers would face charges ranging from official misconduct to second-degree murder, but that promise might falter in the court system, local attorneys say.
Caesar Goodson, who drove the van that transported Gray, faces the most-serious charge — depraved-heart murder for contributing to Gray death via reckless acts, including failures to restrain him properly and to give him medical assistance. But the state will have a hard time backing up that accusation, said lawyer Byron Warnken, who served on the new state’s attorney’s transition team.
Andrew Alperstein of Alperstein & Diener, noted that prosecutors will have to do more than prove Officer Goodson did something that caused Gray’s death. They will have to show he did not care whether his negligent actions caused the death.
“Depraved-heart murder is an unintended murder, so nobody is alleging in this indictment that Officer Goodson who is charged with that in the indictment, intended to kill Mr. Gray In other words, what the officer did was so reckless and so depraved of any feeling or heart that it rises to the level of criminality,” Mr. Alperstein said.
An internal police investigation shows that one of the officers present in the transport van while Gray was pleading for assistance claimed that he had “jailitis” and was merely pretending to need medical assistance, The Baltimore Sun reported.
SEE ALSO: Caesar Goodson Jr. charged with second-degree murder in Freddie Gray’s death
Prosecutors allege that Gray had his voice box crushed and spine nearly severed while in custody of the police on April 12 and that those injuries killed him.
All six officers — 45-year-old Mr. Goodson, 26-year-old Garrett Miller, 29-year-old Edward Nero, 25-year-old William Porter, 41-year-old Brian Rice and 30-year-old Alicia White — were taken into custody Friday and posted bails ranging from $250,000 to $350,000.
Rioting after the Gray death marked Baltimore with building fires, charred cars and pillaged storefronts. The Baltimore Police Department has said that more than 100 officers were injured by rocks, bottles and other weapons.
That rioting has led some lawyers to call the charges merely a method of “crowd control” and a way to prevent riots. The six officers are being used as scapegoats in an effort to pacify “crowds who are demanding a continuation of rioting,” Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz said in an interview on “The Steve Malzberg Show.”
“This is a show trial,” he said. “This is designed to please the crowd. It’s designed to lower the temperature. It’s all admirable, but it has nothing to do with justice. Nothing.”
Not only were the charges filed against the officers politically motivated but they were also designed to pit the officers against one another in a court of law, said lawyer James Crawford Jr.
SEE ALSO: Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore prosecutor in Freddie Gray case, from a family of cops
“There’s no question in my mind that some of the six cops that were charged, were charged possibly to put pressure on them and get them engaged with testifying against the other,” he said.
As defense attorneys prepare for their clients to undergo a preliminary hearing, which is slated to take place on May 27, some lawyers say that the police will ask their individual lawyers to seek a change of venue for the court trial.
“I would imagine that one or more of the six defendants will make a motion for a change of venue, asking the court to take the case of out of Baltimore city and to put in one of the 23 other venues in Maryland,” Mr. Warnken said.
Gray family attorney William Murphy said he would not want that to happen, telling reporters last week that the trial for the six officers should be held in the city where Gray was injured while in their custody.
“We don’t want anybody to rob this community of that,” he said. “I have the utmost confidence that justice can be had in Baltimore.”
But less than 24 hours later, when people were in front of Baltimore City Hall celebrating the arrest of the six officers, people began to merge voter registration calls with demands for justice in the Gray case.
A woman with a microphone called upon the crowd to register to vote so that they could serve on the jury that would decide the fate of those officers.
“We need 12 people here to show up for Freddie,” she said.