On April 12, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American in Baltimore, was arrested and placed into a police transport van. By the time the van reached the station, Gray was unconscious with a severed spine. He died a week later.
Seen as yet another case of purported police brutality against black men, the city of Baltimore erupted in riots for several days.
Sure, Gray was no angel, a drug dealer with a long rap sheet, but he did not deserve any injury and the public was right to demand answers. No one knows, however, exactly how he was injured. Did an enraged Gray accidentally injure himself? A fellow prisoner in the van allegedly stated Gray was “banging against the walls” of the van and “intentionally trying to injure himself,” though he later walked back these remarks.
Or was Gray the victim of abusive police who physically beat him and/or made him the subject of a “rough ride,” a rumored practice in which officers deliberately maneuver a transport vehicle in such a way that an unrestrained prisoner will be harmed?
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The theory that the officers deliberately injured Gray, however, falls apart even upon the most cursory consideration (and I say this as someone who, last year, wrote an article on why conservatives need to stop defending the police). Why would officers, who had arrested Gray easily, without incident or breaking a sweat, feel animosity or adrenaline-fueled anger towards this suspect?
As for the racial motive, upon which the riots almost entirely focused, that, too, quickly fell apart, placing the left — who spent days citing racism as a root cause — in an awkward position. While the two officers shown arresting Gray on the amateur video were white, three of the six officers involved in the arrest and transport are, it turns out, black — including the driver, who would have been the one responsible for any “rough ride.”
But enter Stage Left Marilyn Mosby, the newly elected, 35-year-old prosecutor with four months on the job. On May 1, she announced a litany of charges against the officers. On the steps of the Baltimore War Memorial, she dramatically declared: “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for ‘No justice, no peace.’”
Wait, rewind. “I heard your call?” Such is a phrase a prosecutor should never utter, for it indicates the shouts of the mob influenced the state’s review or approach to the case. If the law is the law, standing objectively apart from emotions and rioters’ demands, it should not matter whether 100,000 voices clamored for “justice” or not a one. Her speech’s conclusion was even more concerning: “You’re at the forefront of this cause and as young people, our time is now."
Is this a state attorney or an activist? A somber prosecutor or a preacher?
Mosby announced a staggering level of charges against all six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and transport, each facing multiple accounts, all of which include manslaughter. The driver, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., bore the worst of it, including a ridiculous charge of second-degree depraved-heart murder, carrying a potential sentence of 30 years. Goodson, 45 and an African-American father of three with a fondness for football and auto mechanics, may have his and his family’s life ruined by an overzealous prosecutor seemingly more eager to curry favor with the masses than to uphold her sworn duty.
To say the officers were overcharged is an understatement. (It does not escape notice, either, that these six officers are charged with worse than Freddie Gray ever was for selling death and destruction for profit.) Mosby’s rush to make the popular decision brings to mind the disastrously eager prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case. Ironically, by overcharging, and even by bypassing a grand jury, she may have set up the case for failure.
Mosby, who was quickly dubbed a “star” by the fawning media, is now facing allegations, rightly so, concerning potential conflicts of interest. Her husband is a city councilman representing the very same neighborhood where Gray was arrested.
His political future clearly is favorably affected if Mosby does as the mobs demand.
Second, Mosby has a significant relationship with the Gray family’s attorney, who reportedly donated $5,000 to Mosby’s campaign, raised on her behalf, and was a member of her transition team.
She should recuse herself immediately, yet refuses to do so.
Viewing the mug shots of the dejected officers stacked together is a jarring image. Are these the faces of six cold-blooded abusers and (according to the Baltimore mob and much of the national media) racists, even though half those faces staring back at me are two black men and one black woman?
Just what ‘justice’ is being served here?
Mosby assured us that “no one is above the law.” Agreed, Ms. Mosby — nor is anyone, no matter what the mob demands, beneath it.
A.J. Delgado is a Miami-based writer and lawyer. She writes about politics and culture.