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Police charges in Freddie Gray case are incompetent at best

Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby's actions in the Freddie Gray case are either reckless or incompetent.

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby's "quick" and "decisive" action in charging six Baltimore police officers a mere two weeks after the death of Freddie Gray reflects either incompetence or an unethical recklessness.

Alan Dershowitz, the noted defense attorney, sharply criticized her for using her charging power as "crowd control." John Banzahf, a George Washington University law professor, predicted the eventual dismissal of most if not all the charges. The breadth of the charges, Ms. Mosby's overreaching, is all-too-obvious.

Any prosecutor interested in the truth and in justice would have used all the tools at her disposal to find them. Ms. Mosby ignored them. She has one of the most experienced homicide prosecutors in the state of Maryland as chief of her homicide unit, but did not ask him to investigate. She had the police report all of one day before filing charges, her mind already made up. And she failed to make use of the grand jury to gather, probe and test the evidence before a group of average citizens.

In fact, Ms. Mosby was so hasty it appears she locked up two completely innocent officers.  She charged Freddie Gray’s arresting officers with “false imprisonment” because she said the knife that Gray had on him was legal.  In fact, as The Sun reported, the Police Task Force found it to be illegal after all.  It was Ms. Mosby who had no probable cause to lock the arresting officers up, an injustice she could have easily avoided by taking her time. 

The Fraternal Office of Police called Ms. Mosby's charges an "egregious rush to judgment." It smacks more of a calculated push to the spotlight, filing charges after a mere two weeks. She conducted her own "parallel" investigation using her police integrity unit (the only unit listed on her published staffing tree missing the name of a supervisor.) She had no time to evaluate the crucial autopsy report, or consult with experts about its implications. In her haste to step into the national limelight, she circumvented normal charging procedures by grabbing a member of the sheriff's office to swear to their truth and file them for her. She calculated her actions for surprise and maximum effect, and she got it.

Published ethical standards prohibit the use of a prosecutor's powers for political (crowd control) or personal (career ambition) purposes. They demand that prosecutors be fair and objective and protect the innocence. Instead Ms. Mosby, without all of the evidence yet available to her, pandered to the public by promising "justice" for Freddie Gray.

In the long run, Ms. Mosby may be undermining the cause of justice rather than promoting it. She has created an expectation of guilt and conviction. If that does not happen, many will blame the system as unfair or unjust, when it may have been Ms. Mosby's own lack of competence and/or arrogance in bringing charges so quickly.

And she has created a new expectation in the city: that police officers who arrest without what she considers to be probable cause (a subjective standard) are subject not just to civil action (the current norm) but criminal action. Mere mistakes, or judgments exercised under duress, can land them in the pokey.

If I were a Baltimore police officer, I'd be looking for another job immediately. And as a Baltimore citizen, I may start looking for someplace else to live. When the police cannot depend upon the state's attorney to be as thorough, competent, non-political and fair with them as she is supposed to be with all citizens, none of us will be safe.

Page Croyder spent 21 years in the Baltimore state's attorneys office, most recently as a deputy state's attorney. Her blog can be seen here: http://pagecroyder.blogspot.com.

Copyright © 2016, The Baltimore Sun
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