- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision to drop charges in the remaining trials connected to the death of Freddie Gray shows that she didn’t have the evidence to prosecute the six police officers in the first place, said several lawyers who have followed the trials.

“It was an excellent decision on the part of the prosecution. I do believe that the prosecution has finally done the right thing in this case,” said defense lawyer Barry Slotnick, who has been following the trials.

Beyond that, Mr. Slotnick and other observers said, Ms. Mosby should have pulled out of the case a long time ago.

“It’s quite clear that at the end of the day the original prosecution should not have been brought,” Mr. Slotnick said. “They could have done it earlier without putting people through the process of prosecution.”

On Wednesday, prosecutors dropped all remaining charges against three police officers who were waiting to stand trial in connection with the April 2015 arrest and death of Gray in Baltimore. In motions ahead of the trial of Officer Garrett Miller, prosecutors announced the decision in the wake of three acquittals and growing pressure to cut their losses.

Gray, a 25-year-old black man, was handcuffed and shackled but not secured in a seat belt during a 45-minute ride to a booking facility. He died April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken in the back of the van. His death and funeral touched off days of protests and rioting in Baltimore.

In an impassioned speech Wednesday at the site of Gray’s arrest in West Baltimore, Ms. Mosby said she has no regrets in bringing charges against the six officers.

She blamed the prosecution’s losses on uncooperative police, the media and a broken justice system.

“Police investigating police, whether they’re friends or merely their colleagues, is problematic,” Ms. Mosby said. “At every stage of the investigation, individual police officers were uncooperative and tried to disprove the case.”

She said investigators created notes that were drafted after the case was launched and turned over evidence to defense attorneys months before giving them to the prosecution.

In dropping the remaining charges, she said her office had to “consider the dismal likelihood of conviction at this point.”

Ms. Mosby said the personal toll on her during the case and resulting trials was worth it.

“I signed up for this, and I can take it,” she said. “We do not believe Freddie Gray killed himself. This system is in need of reform when it comes to police accountability.”

Still, some trial watchers said prosecutors did not bring sufficient evidence to prove their charges of Gray’s death, noting Judge Barry Williams’ reasoning in acquitting three of the officers.

The bench trials of Officer Edward Nero, Officer Caesar Goodson and Lt. Brian Rice, all resulted in losses for the prosecution. Prosecutors were set to begin trying Officer Miller this week, Sgt. Alicia White in October and Officer William Porter in September. Officer Porter’s first trial ended in a hung jury in December.

Gene Ryan, president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, blasted Ms. Mosby for claiming that police officers obstructed the Gray case and applauded Judge Williams for being fair and reasonable.

“Justice has been done,” Mr. Ryan said at a news conference.

Mr. Slotnick said Ms. Mosby’s refusal to call into question the actions of her own office and instead spread the blame was to be expected.

Mosby obviously has got to be concerned about how she is depicted. It’s not a pretty picture,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that she is going to try to defend what she did. That is wrong. It’s better to say, ‘We made a mistake.’”

John Banzhaf, an activist law professor at George Washington University who has filed disbarment complaints against prosecutors in the case, said Ms. Mosby is positioning herself as a hero.

“It doesn’t matter if she lost the cases. She is blaming it on everyone else and saying, ‘Look at what we’ve achieved,’” he said, referring to the press conference where Ms. Mosby touted some of the changes in policing that have resulted from the cases.

He said that could embolden other prosecutors to bring similar cases in other cities.

“Overall, what happened may very well encourage prosecutors to bring these cases,” Mr. Banzhaf said. “If they look at Mosby as she is able to say she had courage and achieved all these wonderful victories it works to her political benefit.”

Mr. Banzhaf also said Ms. Mosby isn’t out of the woods. He filed complaints with the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission recently calling for her disbarment and an investigation into Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow and Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe, who led the prosecution in the trials against the officers.

“The decision [to drop the remaining charges] actually strengthened the case for disbarment,” Mr. Banzhaf said. “Mosby openly admitted that she couldn’t win. Wouldn’t she have known that after first two loses and all the rulings that occurred?”

Even if she is not disbarred, her career could be in trouble, he said, because a suspension or other punishment could come down.

“The mere threat of disbarment can be very persuasive,” Mr. Banzhaf said. “A suspension could happen. And if you suspend someone for a year, it hurts them tremendously. That person will always be known as someone who was suspended for a year.”

Mr. Slotnick said disbarment and suspension are improbable and that a public “slap on the wrist” is more likely.

“I think there will be a public display of anger that the prosecution will have to deal with,” he said. “It will not be disbarment.”

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