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by Peter Moskos

June 25, 2015

Hey, it's just the jobs and potential freedom of six police officers.

Nobody seemed to believe Baltimore's FOP last week when Robert Cherry said:
"We have a state's attorney who used an opportunity of crisis to quell the riots."
“The unrest had nothing to do with my decision to charge,” says Mosby. “I just followed where the facts led.”
Score this one for the FOP. The Sun reports:
By charging six police officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby restored order to Baltimore "before the entire city became an armed camp or was burned to the ground," her office argues in a new court filing.
Thanks, Mosby. Glad you solved that riot problem. And so nice to see you in all the magazines. I don't think I need to point out how wrong of a justification that is to take into account while deciding whether or not to criminally charge people with crimes.


Dave- IL said...

Oh, that's an awkward admission. Think the defense will have fun with that one, Peter?

Don't get me wrong, BPD (especially the wagon man) is criminally liable for Gray's death. But filing charges to assuage the anger of the community is, well, not supposed to be the way we do things in the US. Ask Mike Nifong how that works out (see "Duke Lacrosse Case").

David Woycechowsky said...


Peter Moskos said...

What if the wagonman called for medics, twice? That might absolve him of criminal responsibility as well.

Dave- IL said...


Calling for medics after the fact doesn't absolve him from responsibility for failing to secure the prisoner in the first place. If someone is hurt in your custody, your supposed to call EMS, it doesn't excuse you if your malice or negligence caused the injury. Whether it amounts to 2nd degree murder is another question. But, if the injury was indeed caused by rapid de-celebration, that doesn't help the officer's case.

Peter Moskos said...

Good point.
But I believe there was some SNAFU on the ambo response. Not certain, though.

Anonymous said...

I believe your victory lap is unwarranted and premature. I haven't read the briefs - just the news report. I think it went like this; Defendant lawyers in trying to impeach Mosby and get change of venue allege that she had a preconceived notion of the case and her public statements prejudiced the cops and were part of the incitement. She replies, to the contrary, nothing I said was that big a deal and, if anything, I calmed things down so no need to change venue.

David Woycechowsky said...

Maybe the wagonman will flip and say that other officers told him to give Freddie a run for his money. I don't think the wagonman decides on his own who gets a rough ride and who doesn't.

Adam said...

I think Anonymous is correct with regard to how the arguments were presented. I just think Mosby's counterargument was self-defeating. The point is not just that Mosby's comments prejudiced the jury pool. The point is that Baltimore City jurors will think "If we vote to acquit these officers, our city, including our own homes and businesses, might go up in flames." Mosby seems to make that argument for the defense, by saying the city was so up in arms that she had to make the charging decision publically in order to calm everybody down.

As for Goodson, the wagon man, I don't think the depraved heart murder charge makes any sense unless Mosby has evidence of a rough ride. I was waiting to see what that evidence might be, thinking there might be something in the autopsy report. But the ME's theory appears to be that Gray tried to stand up, and when the van made a stop or turn, he fell and (because of the handcuffs and shackles) was unable to break his own fall.

At least one scholar has opined that such an event was sufficiently unforeseeable that even the involuntary manslaughter charge is likely to fail. I'm not so confident about that, but I think it's hard to see a case for 2nd degree murder in all this.
Also from the autopsy report is the ME's opinion that Gray was not injured when he was put into the wagon. Surely the defense will exploit that and ask the jury to consider why Gray was screaming so much and dragging his feet when being taken to the wagon. I think they'll make this case look like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Gray had a case of "jailitis" when he was first arrested, and then he was thrashing about in the wagon, which concerned the wagon man. To stop him from bouncing around, he and other officers put Gray in leg shackles and placed him on his belly so he couldn't move around. After Gray suffered his injury and started complaining of difficulty breathing and saying he needed a medic, the officers assumed it was still a case of jailitis. But like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, Gray was telling the truth the second time around.

That's how I imagine the defense will present the facts. Even assuming the truth of all that, I still think you could get to involuntary manslaughter based on the stupidity (gross negligence) of placing a prisoner face down on the floor of a moving vehicle with hands and legs bound.

I see the murder charge failing. And the manslaughter charges against the two officers who checked on Gray--well, I don't even understand the legal theory there. The sergeant opened the back door of the van, spoke to Gray, then closed the door. The other cop actually helped Gray back onto the bench. Of course, they should have said, "Hey, stop, let's keep this guy here until a medic comes to us." But manslaughter? I haven't heard any experts discussing those charges, and I can't make sense of them. And I've already expressed how insane I think the charges related to the initial arrest are.

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

People are rioting because they see police as above the law. Showing the public that cops can at least occasionally be brought to trial for murdering an innocent person is a perfectly good reason to try them. It's not pandering, it's the most basic requirement of a country that is ruled by law. It's hilarious---in a horrible, Stasi sort of way--- that police think it's a pathetic act of pandering to suggest that they should be tried when they kill someone.