By: Alec Tobin
Protesters rejoiced last week when six Baltimore police officers were charged with the death of Freddie Gray. On April 12th, the 25 year old African American sustained serious spinal injuries while in police custody following his arrest. A week later, Gray passed away in the hospital and Baltimore reacted mightily with violent riots and protest throughout the city.
These demonstrators were pacified in part when State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that the six Baltimore police officers involved in Gray’s arrest would face various charges surrounding the incident, including assault, involuntary manslaughter, and second-degree depraved heart murder.
The defense is now claiming, however, that Mosby is unfit to prosecute. Earlier this week, the defense presented a number of potential conflicts of interest that allegedly make Mosby unfit to serve on the case. In addition to being a member of the community in which much rioting has taken place, Mosby is married to the area’s city council member Nick Mosby, who would understandably have personal interest in seeing an end to unrest in his district which would be precipitated by a conviction of the officers. The defense also claims that Mosby has revealed bias in her address to the Baltimore public, noting a recent impassioned speech in which Mosby acknowledged those that “have their own experiences of injustice at the hands of police officers.” Finally, the defense plans to call on members of Mosby’s office, investigators who originally handled Gray’s death, to testify. They believe that these witnesses would be more concerned with keeping their jobs under Marilyn Mosby than testifying truthfully.
Despite these allegations, Mosby told CNN that she will continue to work on the case. “There is no conflict of interest. I’m going to prosecute. I’m the Baltimore state’s attorney. My district includes every city in Baltimore city. A number of crimes that take place in Baltimore city and unfortunately in the district we live. Where is the conflict?”
With Mosby’s announcement of the charges earlier this month, the six accused officers were taken into police custody. Meanwhile, differing accounts of Gray’s arrest continue to circulate. The charged officers claim that Gray was carrying an illegal knife, and that his arrest was justified. Conversely, Mosby maintains that Gray’s knife was in compliance with Maryland regulations, making Gray’s arrest unlawful. The officers’ attorneys have issued warning that they have grounds to file a civil suit against Mosby and her office for unlawful detainment of the officers, assuming that their arrest of Gray was in fact legitimate.
Whether or not Gray’s arrest was lawful, it was fatal, and the reason for this grows increasingly evident as new information surfaces about the officers responsible for his arrest. This week, police reports surrounding the most senior officer among them, Lieutenant Brian Rice, have appeared which arouse questions about his character. Rice, who initiated Gray’s arrest, reportedly said to his subordinates in March that “heads will roll” if officers did not arrest his ex-girlfriend’s husband, a man who Rice had previously threatened to kill. The prosecution suspects that regardless of the terms of Gray’s arrest, the erratic and dangerous nature of his captor may have played a role in Freddie Gray’s unfortunate fate.