In discussing the Freddie Gray case (archive available here) I’ve often focused on what should have been done by the prosecutors and their hastily assembled investigative team, which at various times has included a disgraced former cop, the local Sheriff’s Office, perhaps the Baltimore Police, the local medical examiner, and Lord only knows who and what else. Thus far, the gap between normal, proper police and prosecutor behavior and what we’ve seen in this case has been very wide indeed. As with the George Zimmerman prosecution, this case too is a backward case where the prosecution has taken on the role of a sleazy defense attorney willing to do anything–anything–to win, and the defense taking on the role of sober professionals pursuing actual justice.
At trial, the defense normally strives to introduce elements of reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. In competent, well-charged cases, this is often very difficult, because the defendant not only did the crimes, there is ample factual evidence, often including his confession. In the Freddie Gray case, there has not been so much as competent probable cause to arrest the officer/defendants.
Now, according to The Baltimore Sun, the defense team has filed a motion that not only introduces more than sufficient reasonable doubt at trial, but absolutely undermines the credibility and integrity of the prosecution. The best part is that if the allegations of the defense are true–and I strongly suspect they are–every figurative gunshot wound to the feet of the prosecutors–and there are many more to come–is self-inflicted.
The police detectives who investigated the death of Freddie Gray were told that he had a history of participating in ‘crash-for-cash’ schemes — injuring himself in law enforcement settings to collect settlements — but were advised by a state prosecutor not to pursue the information, according to defense attorneys for the six officers charged in Gray’s arrest and death.
The defense attorneys said in a court motion Thursday that Assistant State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe told police investigators working the case in its early stages not to ‘do the defense attorneys’ jobs for them’ by pursuing information they had about such schemes and evidence that Gray ‘intentionally injured himself at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
This is the same Janice Bledsoe mentioned in Update #16 who defended Gray in a 2012 cocaine possession case. The defense continue to be masters of understatement:
The defense attorneys argued that her alleged statement ‘would seem to indicate some level of knowledge that exculpatory evidence exists which could benefit the officers charged in Mr. Gray’s death and that the prosecutor did not want this information uncovered by investigators.’
The defense attorneys said they obtained the information from interviews with prosecution witnesses.’ [skip]
Police did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations about conversations between its investigators and prosecutors. A corrections department spokesman said he couldn’t confirm whether Gray had been injured at the jail without more information, such as the date of the alleged incident, which defense attorneys did not provide in their motion.
Ethical prosecutors absolutely want to know everything about a case before going to trial. They want to know all exculpatory evidence because they know that in a high profile case like this, the Defense will discover it anyway, and they never want to look like they were hiding evidence, and they never want to be surprised at trial.
I’ve often wondered if Marilyn Mosby was merely so inexperienced that she allowed her social justice cracktivist tendencies to overpower whatever amount of legal judgment she might possess, whether she is fundamentally unethical, or whether she is simply not very smart. I suppose the problem could easily be all of these factors, perhaps more, but actually telling the police not to investigate something as significant as Gray having a history of faking injuries as a way to sue the police unquestionably falls into the category of blatant stupidity.
Some people are simply not mature, intelligent or ethical enough to understand that the roles of social justice community organizer and prosecuting attorney are absolutely incompatible. To become the prosecutor, all vestiges of that past hustle must be swept away. Marilyn Mosby, Janice Bledsoe, and perhaps other members of the prosecutorial team obviously lack that maturity, intelligence and ethical foundation.
If other actions of the prosecutors did not render them material witnesses in their own case, this one unquestionably does. If this allegation is accurate, it will be impossible for Mosby, Bledsoe and potentially other prosecutors to avoid being deposed prior to trial, and perhaps, being forced to take the stand during trial.
If these allegations are true, this is the kind of revelation that would have caused any ethical prosecutor to strongly consider declining charges against the officers in the first place. It will be interesting indeed to know whether Bledsoe’s order to ignore the evidence was given prior to or after the announcement of charges. Even if this became known to the prosecutors after charges were initially filed, they had a legal and ethical obligation to ensure the possibility was fully investigated, and to consider what they learned in pursuing the case.
Think about it, gentle readers: could there be any better reasonable doubt than the jury learning that Freddie Gray had a history of scamming the police after arrest with fake injuries? It is no leap of logic at all, in fact, it’s logic itself, to believe that he was trying to run that kind of scam–after all, he knew he was under the influence of drugs and probably thought he was going down for that too–as a means not only of getting charges dropped, but perhaps making some money for his trouble. The defense will surely, and entirely reasonably, argue that Gray was doing the same thing, but this time miscalculated–he was under the influence of drugs–and caused his own death. They will also argue that the prosecution behaved unethically and tried to hide evidence of Gray’s very relevant past in an unlawful attempt to convict innocent police officers. The witnesses they put on the stand, including the prosecutors, will eloquently make that point.
The defense motion Thursday included more allegations to support the defense argument that prosecutors had improper communications with the medical examiner before her determination that Gray’s death was the result of a homicide.
The defense said Dr. Carole Allen told the defense that she was given statements by the police officers, but not by anyone else, such as Donta Allen, who was arrested the same day as Gray and was in the back of the van, in a separate compartment, at the alleged time of Gray’s injury.
Defense attorneys said the medical examiner was given ‘an oral summary of [Donta Allen’s] statement by [prosecutors] and their opinion as to Mr. Allen’s motives in providing a statement.’
‘As part of the autopsy findings, the [Office of the Chief Medical Examiner] gave no weight to the statement of Donta Allen that Freddie Gray had been ‘banging himself, like he was banging his head against the metal … like he was trying to knock himself out or something.
Donta Allen, regular readers will recall, is the man whose initial statement made it clear that Gray was making a great deal of noise, as though he were trying to injure himself. Later, when he realized the trouble that telling the truth could cause him, he denied virtually everything about his earlier statement, other than saying something or other. Presumably, the defense has Allen’s original statements, perhaps even audio or videotapes, which should make it a cinch to impeach him and to establish additional reasonable doubt. However, because Allen will be lying on the side of the prosecution, he will likely be immune from prosecution for perjury, which was also the situation in the George Zimmerman case with Rachel Jeantel.
This looks very much like the prosecution withholding evidence from the ME to ensure they came to the “right” conclusion. This too will introduce more than sufficient reasonable doubt. It is this kind of evidence that should cause an ethical prosecutor to ask themselves what they can possibly do to overcome that kind of reasonable doubt, which should also cause them to doubt the validity of their case. The answer is: nothing.
Defense attorneys repeated their argument that members of Mosby’s office have made themselves witnesses in the case by acting outside their prosecutorial role as investigators.
Mosby’s office has said there is little precedent for removing prosecutors on the grounds raised by the defense.
The defense said that’s true — but ‘not surprising since the actions of the [state’s attorney’s office] and its attorneys in the Freddie Gray case are unprecedented.’
‘Rarely,’ they wrote, ‘do prosecutors inject themselves so deeply into the fabric of an investigation — as State’s Attorney Mosby and her prosecutors have done — to make themselves material witnesses in a case in which they are supposed to act as lawyers.
Precisely. The prosecution, already deep below ground, continues to dig. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the attempt by Mosby and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to head off a racist, criminal explosion, continues to spectacularly fail. Fox News has the story:
Baltimore’s police and civic leaders launched a two-month partnership Monday that will see ten federal agents embed with the city’s homicide detectives in the latest bid to curb a surge in violent crime that has not been seen in decades.
Under the program, two special agents from each of the federal government’s five crime-fighting agencies (the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and the ATF) will help investigate cases for the next 60 days. The city’s acting police commissioner, Kevin Davis, told reporters that the agents met with officers Monday to discuss cases where officers have identified suspects, but need additional evidence to file charges.
This is a desperation move that will do nothing whatever to reduce the crime rate. It’s all public relations, smoke and mirrors.
There are reasons beyond jurisdictional issues that federal agents and local police officers do not regularly work together. Not only is their training focused on entirely different issues and laws, their experience is vastly different. Homicide detectives in major cities are virtually always among the most seasoned and experienced police officers in the city. They have worked their way up through patrol and various other detective assignments. They are able to be effective not only because of their experience and training, but because they know their city and its criminals.
This is perhaps the single, most important element of their success. When a murder is committed, they not only have a list of possible suspects already present in their minds, they know a great many other criminals who will have information that will lead to the suspects. They are also a veritable walking history book of crime and criminals in their area. It is this kind of knowledge that makes it possible to make connections that others cannot possibly hope to make, that makes the difference between solved and unsolved crimes.
Federal agents coming into a community to work on a federal case always have to rely on local police officers with that kind of knowledge and experience to make their way through the local underworld. If they did not, they would usually accomplish nothing. Sending only 10, especially from the DEA, ATF, Secret Service and Marshall’s Service, people who rarely, if ever, investigate murders, and who can serve very well in their normal jobs without ever having been a detective of any kind on a local force, indicates just how ridiculous the gesture is.
Even if the federal agents just did paperwork or some other kind of token support work, that wouldn’t be any real help in solving homicides. The problem isn’t a lack of manpower, it’s the fact that criminals know they have little to fear from the police or the prosecutors. After all, they have freedom to destroy, courtesy of the Mayor.
The homicide rate in Baltimore began to skyrocket in May, when the city saw 42 homicides in a single month. There was a brief dip in June, with 29 killings, however the number shot up to 45 in July, breaking a record set in 1972. [skip]
In total, the city has recorded 192 homicides so far this year, according to The Baltimore Sun. By contrast, 208 murders were committed in all of 2014. The three-month total of 116 homicides for May, June, and July is the highest since at least 1970.
Adding to the urgency of Baltimore’s violence is the relatively low ‘clearance rate’ of closed homicide cases. Last week, Davis said the city police department’s ‘clearance rate’ was at 36.6 percent, down from the department’s mid-40s average.’ [skip]
Davis had said Sunday that more people are arming themselves on the streets, and that the department has seized 20 percent more guns than it had by this time last year. Davis also said the influx of prescription pills — 32 pharmacies were looted during the April 27 riot and nearly 300,000 doses of prescription medication stolen — has contributed to Baltimore’s spiking violence.
And what does Ms. Mosby have to say?
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby attributed to the spiking violence to violent repeat offenders, whom she called ‘a small number of individuals responsible for the majority of the crimes.’ Mosby warned those inclined to reach for a weapon that ‘we are going to go after you with everything that we have. Collaboratively, we will get the job done and convict you.
Well, that should scare them. The criminal element is going wild because they know Mosby has suppressed the police, who are, of necessity, adopting a sort of “hands off” posture. And speaking of feckless:
At Monday’s press conference announcing the program, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. made a plea to the residents of his home city.
‘The only people making good now are the morticians,’ Cummings said. ‘And I say our city is better than that. It’s not just the murders and the shootings. I’m begging you, put your guns down.’
Referencing the riots after Gray’s death, Cummings said, ‘I hear over and over and over again, ‘Black Lives Matter’. And they do matter. But black lives also have to matter to black people.
Well. We can all go home now. That should take care of things. Nothing to see here; move along; move along…
UPDATE, 08-09-15, 2000 CST: One other possible issue is whether Ms. Bledsoe told the police not to look into Gray’s past scamming for reasons other than not helping the Defense. She represented Gray at least once. Perhaps Gray tried to get her to participate in such a scam? Or perhaps she knew of Gray’s scamming through the network of criminal defense attorneys that exists in every area? Or perhaps she simply wanted to do everything possible to keep any information about Gray’s past from coming to light. In cases like this, any positive information is normally quickly dredged up and widely publicized, but we’ve heard essentially nothing, which tends to suggest that there really isn’t anything about Gray’s past that reflects well on him. There are certainly no cherubic photos of Gray as a child. In any case, Ms. Bledsoe and Ms. Mosby are going to have a great deal for which to answer.