Area politicians, civic leaders and others weigh in on the not guilty verdict handed down Monday morning in the case against Officer Edward Nero, who had been charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake: "Today Judge Barry G. Williams found Officer Edward Nero not guilty of all criminal charges. This is our American system of justice and police officers must be afforded the same justice system as every other citizen in this city, state, and country. Now that the criminal
case has come to an end, Officer Nero will face an administrative review by the Police Department. We once again ask the citizens to be patient and to allow the entire process to come to a conclusion. In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond. We will protect our neighborhoods, our businesses and the people of our city.” (press release)
DeRay Mckesson, Black Lives Matter activist and unsuccessful mayoral candidate: “The Nero verdict is a reminder that we must continue to push for policies and laws related to the police department that explicitly call for the
preservation of life and that have clear lines of accountability. I am reminded that this is one of six trials as we seek accountability for the death of Freddie Gray.”
Billy Murphy, attorney for the Gray family: “I’m very proud of Judge Williams standing head and shoulders above most people. Under similar circumstances, he may have bent to the pressure, tremendous pressure, to do in this case
what the black community wanted him to do. So my hat’s off to him.
"Both sides did an excellent job presenting their cases. The standard of proof in these kinds of cases is enormous – it’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And Judge Williams clearly articulated why he had reasons to doubt whether the evidence was sufficient for a conviction. And he did it in a very workmanlike, thorough manner so that there would be no doubt about why he felt that Officer Nero’s guilt had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
"I don’t think this has a thing to do with the other cases. And Judge Williams was very careful in limiting his ruling to this case and this case only. And he said that from the outset, and also spoke from the way that he analyzed the facts.
"There are five other cases. Let’s be calm and patient to determine their outcome before we have any further to do about this matter. What we do know here is that he heard all of the evidence presented, he considered it all – both those facts that were in favor of the state, those facts that were in the favor of the defense – and he ruled in accordance with the law in a way that only the judge who could hear all of the evidence and knows all of the law could do. And again I commend him for not bending to public opinion, whether it came from either the white or the black community.”
State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, Democratic mayoral candidiate: “We ask
the people of Baltimore to let justice take its course. We trust our State’s Attorney’s Office is doing its best job. We ask the citizens of Baltimore to remain calm as we continue to move forward to justice for everybody.”
Shareese Churchill, for Governor Larry Hogan: "Over the course of the last year, Governor Hogan has said that he will respect the legal process and the court’s decision. The administration continues to focus on the progress Baltimore City and its residents have made to heal and rebuild from the events of last year."
Kevin Davis, city police commissioner: "Our American criminal justice system has spoken today. Respect and reverence for Judge Williams’ verdict must now prevail throughout our great City. As the eyes of the nation are upon us, I have no doubt we will all exhibit behaviors that represent the very best of Baltimore.
"The Baltimore Police Department is committed to a relationship with our community built on trust and respect. We will continue this journey together as we strive for safer neighborhoods and policing practices consistent with the expectations of our residents.
"So many Baltimoreans have worked hard over the last year to ensure our diverse opinions and perspectives can exist in spaces that are constructive and serve to compel progress. We all have roles to play, and I look forward to continued progress."
T.J. Smith, Baltimore Police Department spokesman: "Although the criminal case against Officer Edward Nero has come to a close, the internal investigation has not. With that, Officer Nero's status will remain unchanged. He will remain in an administrative capacity while this investigation continues.
"The internal investigation is being handled by other police departments. The internal investigation will not be completed until all of the criminal cases against the other five officers are completed because they likely will be witnesses in each case."
Bernard C. "Jack" Young, city council president: “From the beginning, the call was for a court of law to decide on these charges. From that perspective, that’s still working itself out. There are some individuals who are going to support the verdict today and some who will not support it. The Council
President has faith in the citizens of Baltimore to they will express their opinions in a way that is productive. He has the ultimate confidence in the citizens to advance reforms for police and underserved communities.” (via spokesman Lester Davis)
Congressman Elijah E. Cummings: “Every American has the right to a trial decided by a jury of their peers or a trial decided by a judge. Mr. Edward Nero
chose to forgo a jury and exercised his right to have Judge Barry G. Williams decide his case. Today, Judge Williams—after hearing the evidence presented
by the prosecution and Mr. Nero’s defense attorneys—issued a not guilty verdict in this trial; I thank him for his service.
“Like many Baltimore residents, I was personally struck by Mr. Freddie Gray’s death, and I know that we will all continue to struggle with the strong emotions it invokes in us.
“Following Mr. Gray’s death, the citizens of Baltimore demanded justice, and it is clear that the wheels of justice are turning. I commend the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office for its efforts to pursue justice, and I thank everyone who has worked on Mr. Nero’s trial.
“Justice has always relied on trust in the judicial process, and that is what I call on all of Baltimore’s residents to do because there will be more trials in the death of Mr. Freddie Gray. We cannot control the outcome of any of these trials, but what we can control is our work to continue healing our community.
“With eyes toward the future, we must continue working to reform our criminal justice system—in Maryland and nationwide—and we must continue to invest in our young people. Baltimore is a city on the rise, but the question is: will we all rise together?
“I believe that we are on the road to creating a city that uplifts all of its residents. Today’s verdict should not take us off course, instead, it should remind us of the importance of the road ahead.” (press release)
Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP: “It’s a lack of training, a lack of protocol, and lack of a police officer being able to see that Freddie should have been buckled in the seat regardless of what their
position is or who’s in charge – and that’s where the system failed Freddie, because everybody is passing the buck on who was supposed to strap him in.
"I understand rank and file, but when someone’s life is at stake and someone is ill and asking for help, it shouldn’t have resulted in this. He should have been buckled and he should have been taken to the hospital immediately when he asked for help.
"It speaks to the lack of police knowing the rules and regulations and getting it down to the young officers. I mean they’re just young officers, they haven’t been trained. So they need to have some other type of system when people are young going into the communities.
"I know they’re trying to make corrections, but look what happens when it’s not corrected. Somebody didn’t check off that he didn’t have this class, or he didn’t have this class. It’s totally not appropriate, because someone’s life is gone because of that.”
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin: "As someone who was born and raised in Baltimore City, I have watched closely the emotional events and judicial proceedings that
followed Freddie Gray’s tragic death. Under our system of justice, we must respect the verdict in this case. In the coming weeks and months several other Baltimore City police officers also will stand trial.
“The death of Freddie Gray was a national tragedy that sparked a national conversation about the need for justice and opportunity in the African-American community. No verdict will bring back Freddie Gray to his family and his community but we must ensure we continue the dialogue and the hard work to rebuild the trust between law enforcement and the neighborhoods they are sworn to protect and defend.
“I continue to be in regular contact with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as it conducts its pattern-and-practice investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. I called for this investigation along with the rest of the Congressional delegation after the death of Freddie Gray. We hope DOJ will recommend changes that will help Baltimore City evolve into a positive model for strong and effective community policing.” (press release)
Warren Alperstein, defense attorney, legal observer: The judge "made it clear there was no evidence officer Nero played any role in the initial detention "
Pastor Westley West, Faith Empowered Ministries: "The NOT GUILTY verdict is not surprising in the #NeroTrial. But it is hard to swallow." (via Twitter)
Lt. Gene Ryan, president, Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police: "Officer Nero is relieved that for him, this nightmare is nearing an end. Being falsely charged with a crime, and being prosecuted for reasons that have nothing to do justice, is a horror that no person should ever have to endure. Unfortunately, however, his relief is tempered by the fact that five other Police Officers, outstanding men and women, and good friends, must continue to fight these baseless prosecutions. None of these Officers did anything wrong. The State Attorney's office responded to the riots and violence in Baltimore by rushing to charge these Officers rashly and without any meaningful investigation. They seized a political opportunity and in the process destroyed 6 lives and demolished the relationship between the Baltimore Police department and their own office.
"Officer Nero prays that justice will serve each of the remaining Officers with the same fairness that it served him. He implores State's Attorney Mosby to refocus her flawed analysis of the facts surrounding Mr. Gray's death and dismiss the remaining charges. these are good Police Officers and good people. While Mr. Gray's death is no doubt tragic on many levels, maintaining these prosecutions only propels the tragedy to another level."
City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chairman of the council’s public safety committee: "Let the process play out and remember there are more trials...We know Judge Williams has a history of deciding these matters in a fair manner.”
Kwame Rose, activist: "Last year Marilyn Mosby stood in front of the world, and said that she heard the call for justice from those of us who marched in the streets. A year later, Justice has not become a reality for the family of Freddie
Gray and many other victims of police brutality here in Baltimore and across the nation. Freddie Gray would not have died on April 19, 2015 had it not been for 6 Baltimore Police Officers taking him into custody without a care for his well being. You can never put a price on a human's life, but you can always hold those responsible for taking one away, accountable. The community of Baltimore, backed by the support of like minded individuals across the world urges for calm, but more importantly we are DEMANDING justice for Freddie Gray and his family." (via Twitter)
Joshua Harris, Green Party candidate for mayor of Baltimore: "Today, Officer Nero was found not guilty on all charges. I thank judge Williams for doing his job and applaud the SAO for pursuing the case. While I respect the legal
process, I am aware that there are systemic and structural problems with race, class and economic disparity that extend far beyond this trial. It is those issues that have created the conditions for us to be at this point. Sadly, not much has been done in the 1 year since the unrest to begin to address these disparities. These are conversations, evaluations and work that must be done far beyond the pursuit of justice in a single trial and should be focused on equity. I am focused, committed and proactively doing the work needed to ensure structural change happens. Our city and its justice system will and should work for every citizen. My platform that will be released in the coming weeks, on public safety, agency transparency and accountability will offer changes that can be made to move our city forward." (press release)
Judith Browne Dianis, executive director, Advancement Project: “After watching William Porter’s trial end in a hung jury, we are not surprised to see Nero acquitted of all four charges. We know the fight for justice for Freddie Gray will not be easily won. It’s not over. Freddie Gray paid the ultimate price for being a young, Black man in a society that doesn’t value Black life, and the system that took his life is the same system that let Nero walk free today. As we reform the criminal justice system across the country, there must be sweeping changes in the way police interact with people of color. The policies, practices and culture of ‘rough rides,’ ‘jump outs’ and ‘stop and frisk’ that allow police brutality to happen must be ended. The power and privilege of the badge is being distorted by a slew of acquittals of law enforcement officers for killing Black people. Law enforcement officers must be held accountable for their actions. The duty to protect and serve requires that they value the humanity of Black people.” (press release; Advancement Project is a national racial justice organization.)
Baltimore Bloc: "Today’s verdict is upsetting, but not at all surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to police brutality cases all over the country or to anyone who has been paying attention to Marilyn Mosby’s office. We do not believe it was Mosby’s intent to seek justice for Freddie Gray; truly doing so would mean upsetting the status quo in which she is all too comfortable, and it would mean risking her office’s relationship with the corrupt and brutal Baltimore Police Department. The type of illegal arrest that led to Freddie Gray’s death is the same type of arrest that leads to Mosby’s office prosecuting people like Freddie Gray every day. We do not expect justice for Freddie or for Baltimore to come from a prosecutor’s office or a courtroom." (press release; Baltimore Bloc identifies itself as "a grassroots coalition of families, communities and allies committed to fighting for equity and justice in Baltimore.")
OSI-Baltimore: "As people who live in and love Baltimore wrestle with the outcome of the second trial in the death of Freddie Gray, many may question whether the door is closing on our collective opportunity to advance justice in Baltimore. The answer is a resounding no.
It's important to demand that each officer answer for his and her role in Gray's death. The trials, however, are not enough to prevent racially unjust and injurious arrests, regardless of the verdicts. The problems that led to Gray's death are systemic and demand systemic solutions. Thus, as the trials wind their way through the court system, it is imperative that that we broaden our focus and commit to dismantling the larger systems of structural racism and poverty that endanger communities across Baltimore every single day."