The hero of Baltimore has a big zero on her hands.
Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore, could not get a jury to convict police officer William Porter in the death of Freddie Gray. After several days of jury deadlock, a judge declared a mistrial Wednesday. Now it will be up to Mosby to try her luck again with Porter, or press on with the cases against five other officers.
It’s a huge setback for Mosby’s reputation months after thousands of people demonstrated and rioted in the streets and she stood on the steps of a courthouse promising to put away these cops. Instead, she put on a lackluster case that included, among others issues, withholding a key piece of evidence from the defense.
“I have heard your calls for ‘No justice, no peace,’” she said to news cameras earlier in April. “However, your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of Freddie Gray.”
It is rare that a police officer is charged in the death of a suspect. Many, who watched the case of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, quickly learned how infrequently a grand jury votes to indict members of law enforcement. The fact that six were indicted and set for trial in Baltimore was an extraordinary development. However, getting a conviction in all but the most exceptional cases is highly unusual.
Mosby had to know this going in.
She and her team had to understand the inherent difficulty of prosecuting members of law enforcement. After all, she is the daughter of two retired, veteran police officers, and Mosby says she comes from “five generations” of cops. The evidence must be tight and the charges levied must be spot-on.
At least in this first case, the prosecutor got both of those things wrong.
Officer Porter faced a slew of charges, including involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. During the trial, prosecutors were forced to admit that Gray had a prior back injury that allegedly occurred the month before he was arrested.
Gray, who was 25, sustained what a medical examiner called a “devastating” injury to his neck and spinal cord, lingering in a hospital for a week until he died. The city paid Gray’s family $6.4 million before the family even sued them.
The 35-year-old Mosby—one of the youngest lead prosecutors in the country—has been roundly criticized by police unions for bringing charges against the officers who they said were being punished for doing their jobs.
Wednesday afternoon, the 12-member jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict and deadlocked on all counts. Some legal observers thought Porter would be acquitted altogether.
“I’ve cringed when other analysts have said, ‘Oh, yeah, they’ll be found guilty in #FreddieGray,’” attorney Eric Guster tweeted. “I thought differently.”
Mosby must now decide whether to retry or abandon the case against Porter. Five other officers, who were indicted along with Porter, will stand trial separately. But, the implications of today’s ruling are clear:
No one may ever be convicted in the death of Freddie Gray.
There is no doubt—at least in my mind—that Gray should be alive today. We can debate the legality of his stop, arrest, treatment, and even the propriety of the individual charges. But, once in custody, those officers were obligated to ensure his safety. Somebody did not buckle him into that uncushioned, metal-lined van. Somebody, I believe, wanted Freddie to have a “bumpy ride.”
Proving that, beyond a reasonable doubt, is the prosecutor’s job. She failed.