Ivan Bates' 'undefeated' claim of prosecuting murders in Baltimore not a clear cut case

Ivan Bates has anchored his bid to be the city’s top prosecutor on one simple, striking claim.

“Ivan never lost a murder case,” says one of his TV ads.

“Undefeated,” tout his mailers.

But explaining Bates’ simple boast requires a complex accounting of cases that are nearly two decades old. A Baltimore Sun analysis of 13 cases that Bates prosecuted or helped to prosecute show his record is not nearly as simple as it appears.

His opponents — Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Thiru Vignarajah — have been accusing Bates of lying about his record and exaggerating his success as a Baltimore prosecutor. Bates was an assistant state’s attorney from July 1996 to June 2002. He spent his last year as a homicide prosecutor.

Bates has said he successfully prosecuted between 15 and 20 murder cases, later amending his statement to 12 to 15. He then offered documents from only two cases to support his “undefeated” claim.

On Thursday, he released 11 more cases that he claims as “wins” even though they did not all result in convictions.

Bates said a “win” is not always a conviction. Dropped cases count as victories if defendants had been incorrectly charged with murder.

“If they had their cases dismissed, it was the right thing to do,” he said.

In the 13 cases, Bates said he prosecuted six of them from start to finish.

In those six cases, three ended with murder convictions. Another defendant was convicted of attempted murder. One was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. And the last involved a juvenile, who was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter.

In the seven other cases, Bates said, he had a limited role in three murder convictions — two were obtained by plea deals and one came after a trial overseen by a different prosecutor.

Two other murder cases resulted in dropped charges. And another one was sent to juvenile court.

The last case, involving defendant Artie Bailey, ended in an acquittal in late 2002.

A loss, right?

Not for Bates, he said. He had left the state’s attorney’s office by then and had handed the case off to a new prosecutor for trial.

“That’s not on my watch,” he said.

His opponents disagree.

Vignarajah considers dropped cases to be losses.

“Prosecutors are supposed to investigate before they indict, not after,” Vignarajah said. “The fact that Mr. Bates dropped murder cases, carjacking cases, and other serious felony cases after indicting is very troubling.”

Mosby said Bates has “consistently touted an undefeated record” even though the records contradict the claim.

“We have learned that his experience while in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office has been grossly exaggerated and woefully misrepresented,” she said.

Bates has countered that he has the experience that Mosby lacks.

“I was in homicide,” Bates said. “She never was.”

Mosby, who is seeking a second term, has never prosecuted homicide cases. Bates has attempted to characterize her lack of experience with such cases as an example of why he and Vignarajah have said she is an ineffective crime fighter.

He and Vignarajah have also accused Mosby of not counting dropped cases when relaying her record to voters. Mosby has claimed a conviction rate of 92 percent even while dropping more than one-third of her cases. She said repeated police corruption scandals have caused her office to drop more cases than the previous administration.

tprudente@baltsun.com

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