The prosecution of six Baltimore Police officers has now devolved totally into farce.
About three weeks before Freddie Gray was chased from a West Baltimore corner by three Baltimore police officers — the start of a fatal encounter — the office of prosecutor Marilyn Mosby asked police to target the intersection with ‘enhanced’ drug enforcement efforts, court documents show.
‘State’s Attorney Mosby asked me to look into community concerns regarding drug dealing in the area of North Ave and Mount St,’ Joshua Rosenblatt, division chief of Mosby’s Crime Strategies Unit, wrote in a March 17 email to a Western District police commander.
This revelation is part of the pre-trial maneuvering, but it essentially makes Marilyn Mosby an actual witness to the case, rather than the lead prosecutor.
Mrs. Mosby herself is now an integral part of the story and as such is a central witness,’ the defense attorneys argued. ‘This is a case where the witness and the prosecutor are one and the same.’
Mosby, through spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie, said, ‘Consistent with our prosecutorial obligations, we will litigate this case in the courtroom and not in the media.’ Mosby’s office received the motion Tuesday afternoon, Ritchie said.
In terms of potential conflicts of interest, Mosby’s husband is a Baltimore city councilman representing the very district were Gray was arrested. From the defense:
It must be understood that Mrs. Mosby was directing these officers to one of the highest crime intersections in Baltimore City and asking them to make arrests, conduct surveillance, and stop crime,’ the defense attorneys wrote. ‘Now, the State is apparently making the unimaginable argument that the police officers are not allowed to use handcuffs to protect their safety and prevent flight in an investigatory detention where the suspect fled in a high crime area and actually had a weapon on him.
This was Mosby’s fallback argument. Her initial argument that Gray’s knife was entirely legal appears to have fallen apart, particularly since she is refusing to allow the Defense to examine it to determine, once and for all, its legality. Now she’s trying to make believe that Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court decision that authorizes stop and frisk, which is precisely what happened in the Gray case, doesn’t exist. If she actually believes that, she has no idea of one of the most basic, fundamental tenets of criminal law.
What’s also fascinating is that Mosby’s directive was disseminated to, among other officers, Lt. Rice, who would end up charged in Gray’s death.
Robinson [police district commander] told Rice and the other officers to begin a ‘daily narcotics initiative’ focused on North Avenue and Mount Street, according to the email, and said he would be collecting ‘daily measurables’ from them on their progress.
‘This is effective immediately,’ Robinson wrote, noting that the officers should use cameras, informants and other covert policing tactics to get the job done.
Not only is Mosby’s husband a city councilman whose political fortunes are directly tied to this case, an attorney friend and associate–William “Billy” Murphy–is representing the Gray family in the civil case against the city and the officers. Murphy has represented Mosby in at least one personal matter, and donated at least $5000 to her campaign. I’ve previously noted that Mosby’s pre-trial behavior has the look of an attorney seeking advantage in a civil suit, so this is hardly surprising. It is, however, grossly unethical and gives more than the appearance of a conflict of interest. A prosecutor’s spokesman addressed that issue:
Schatzow also wrote that the ‘notion that Mrs. Mosby would bring baseless criminal charges with the entire nation watching just so that Mr. Murphy might have some advantage in the civil case is ludicrous.’
In the same filing, Schatzow said Gray’s arrest was illegal.
So. Mosby has filed motions in the wrong court–that’s something no competent prosecutor should do, a neophyte mistake–is hiding evidence–most likely the lack of evidence–and stonewalling as much as possible. We should also believe Ms. Mosby is completely ethical because her spokesman says she is. She is also directly responsible for the officers being present at the specific location where Freddie Gray–a criminal with lengthy drug involvement–was likely engaging in his chosen profession.
This just gets worse and worse. Normally, at least some media revelations would tend to be supportive of a prosecutor’s case. Not thus far. Stay tuned.
The SMM Freddie Gray case archive is available here.