Charges dropped against remaining officers in Freddie Gray case
The trials of six officers in the Freddie Gray case came to an end Wednesday morning when prosecutors dropped charges against the remaining officers facing trial; Officers Garrett Miller and William Porter along with Sgt. Alicia White.
Prosecutors failed to win a conviction in the case. Officers Edward Nero, Caesar Goodson and Lt. Brian Rice were acquitted in May, June and July, respectively.
Porter’s original trial ended in a deadlocked jury last December.
Gray was a 25-year-old black man who was critically injured in the back of a police van in April 2015 and died a week later. His death sparked Baltimore’s worst riots in five decades.
Prosecutors had said Gray was illegally arrested after he ran away from a bike patrol officer and the officers failed to buckle Gray into a seat belt or call a medic when he indicated he wanted to go to a hospital.
With the trials over, Judge Williams lifted the gag order he imposed upon prosecutors and defense attorneys.
A defiant State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby delivered her remarks in the 1700 block of Presbury Street in West Baltimore; where Gray was initially detained by Officers Miller and Nero.
She said she dropped the charges “after much thought and prayer” and blamed the legal system.
“It has become clear to me that, without being able to work with an independent investigatory agency from the very start, without having a say in the election whether our cases proceed in front of a judge or a jury, without communal oversight of policing in this community, without real substantive reforms to the current criminal justice system, we could try this case 100 times and cases just like it, and we would still end up with the same result,” she said.
A confident and fired up Mosby was cheered as she made her way to the podium and stood by her decision to charge the six officers.
“Since the start of my administration, we have been and continue to be wholly committed to creating a fair and equitable justice system for all,” she said, “holding people accountable for crimes that they commit regardless of age, race, color, sex, creed, social economic status or in this case occupation.”
But, she said, she realized “very early on” that there “was a reluctance and obvious bias that was consistently exemplified, not by the entire Baltimore Police Department, but by individuals within the Baltimore Police Department at every stage of the investigation.”
At the same time, however, she said the charges were not an indictment of the entire police force and reminded the crowd that her father, mother and grandfather were cops in her native Boston.
“I know first-hand the sacrifices, the dedication, the commitment it takes to protect and serve our communities. For those that believe I am anti-police, its simply not the case; I’m anti-police brutality.”
Mosby said prosecutors do not believe that Gray killed himself when he was handcuffed and shackled in the back of a police van and stand by the medical examiner's finding that his death was a homicide.
She added while there were no convictions in the case, progress was made in police accountability in other ways.
“Never again should there be a question as to why someone is being stopped, detained or arrested due to the fact that there will now be soon be full implementation of body worn cameras on all officers,” she said. “Never again, should someone be placed unsecured and defenseless in a metal wagon head first, feet shackled and handcuffed due to the fact that officers are required to secure and seatbelt all prisoners.”
University of Baltimore Law Professor David Jaros said decisions in the previous trials factored into prosecutor’s decision to not pursue the remaining trials.
“The decisions in the prior cases suggested that this was a case that the state was simply not going to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
Former City prosecutor Warren Alperstein, who has watched some of the trials, said he was not surprised that the charges were dismissed.
“After the state’s inability to secure a conviction in the Porter trial; coupled with the three acquittals and the other three bench trials, I think the writing was on the wall, frankly, that the state would continue to fail to in its efforts to secure convictions,” Alperstein said.
Freddie Gray’s father said the family stands by the Baltimore prosecutor who led the case against six officers charged in his son's death.
Richard Shipley said during a news conference Wednesday that the family "is proud to have her represent us."
Gloria Darden, Gray’s mother, blamed police for her son's death and accused officers of lying to investigators.
"I know they lied, and they killed him," she said
Joann Taylor, who lives near Gilmor Homes, Gray’s old neighborhood, said she was hurt and frustrated.
“It’s just that, the way things is going in the justice system, failing us as usual,” she said. “[The police department is] just getting away with too much stuff and it’s just sad.”
Harold Perry, who also lives near Gilmor homes, said he was not surprised by today’s outcome and that he saw it coming.
“What I do see, it’s a black eye on the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland. And what type of message are they sending to the youth of our city?” he said
Activists say they are angry and disappointed by Mosby’s decision to drop the remaining charges.
Sharon Black, an organizer for the Peoples Power Assembly, which has been holding rallies and protests in the city, said she thinks the anger will build in the community again because police aren't being held accountable.
Tawanda Jones, whose brother, Tyrone West, died three years ago after an encounter with Baltimore police, said she was sad, but that she expected that none of the officers would be held accountable after observing how the previous trials have gone.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called Mosby’s decision to drop the charges “a thoughtful decision that will help move our City forward.”
In a statement, he defended his troops, noting that “over 30 ethical experienced, and talented detectives worked tirelessly to uncover facts” and said “those same detectives investigated and criminally charged a Baltimore police officer who is presently on trial for attempted murder.”
His officers, he said, “are more than willing to hold people who commit crimes accountable for their actions.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, said in a statement that reforms in the police department will continue to move forward.
Senator Ben Cardin said he respected the “surely difficult decision” Mosby made.
“Knowing when to end a case can be more difficult than knowing when to bring one, especially in a case with such emotions attached to it,” Cardin said. And added the decision “does not mark the end of the conversation on the many issues it brought to the fore.”
FOP and defense reaction
The defense attorneys for the officers didn’t have much to say as they left Courthouse East. But they joined Lt. Gene Ryan, the president of Baltimore’s police union, in the afternoon.
Ryan said the FOP is pleased that the charges have been dismissed. But he called Mosby’s comments outrageous, uncalled for and simply not true.
“The detectives assigned to the case conducted a very thorough investigation into the tragic death of Freddie Gray,” Ryan said. “But the state’s attorney could not simply accept the evidence that was presented. She had her own agenda.”
Ivan Bates, who represents Sgt. Alicia White, started his remarks telling “Baltimore, it’s time to heal.”
He criticized Mosby for announcing the charges last year on the steps of the War Memorial and questioned whether there actually was an independent investigation into the case.
“Over 15 months since the announcement, my colleagues and myself are still waiting and looking to see and hear about this independent, in-depth investigation,” he said.
Bates said the state’s attorney’s office did not conduct an independent investigation, but the police department did.
“Over 30 officers were involved; everyone from the current commissioner on down,” he said. “These individuals and officers were neutral. They were independent. They looked at what the evidence was and their investigation viewed as an accident. And that’s what we were able to see.”
Bates said that accident took place sometime between the time the van left Penn North and returned to the Western District station when Gray was found injured.
Lt. Ryan said he thought the evidence has proven they were right; that there was no wrongdoing by any of these six officers.
While the officers have been cleared of criminal charges, they are still subject to a review being conducted by the Howard and Montgomery county police departments.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake asked for patience.
Meanwhile, Officers Goodson, Miller, Nero, Porter, Sgt. White and Lt. Rice are all on administrative duties while that review continues.
WYPR’s Rachel Baye and Associated Press contributed to this report.