Freddie Gray case survives first test: Judge denies motions to dismiss charges, recuse Mosby

The scene outside the Mitchell Courthouse during today's motions hearing in the Freddie Gray case.
The scene outside the Mitchell Courthouse during today's motions hearing in the Freddie Gray case. (J.M. Giordano)

Calling various elements of the defense's claims "troubling and condescending" and "mind-boggling," Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Glenn Williams denied motions to sanction or order the recusal of State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, or to dismiss the charges against the six police officers accused of killing Freddie Gray.

The orders came shortly before noon in the first motions hearing in the case stemming from the death of Gray, who died April 19 after suffering a severe spinal injury in a police van.


Saying again and again that various claims brought up by the officers' defense layers were "issues for the trier of fact"—i.e. to be decided at trial, by the judge or jury—Williams announced the legal precedent and reasoning for each element of the decisions after hearing oral arguments from both sides during the morning session.

The defense had moved to have the case dismissed, and Mosby be sanctioned for misconduct, saying that in her May 1 press conference, in which she announced the charges against the officers, she violated rules requiring prosecutors to be even-handed. They said that Mosby's use of the words "no justice, no peace" was a declaration of the officers' guilt. They also said that Mosby, by answering a reporter's question about whether the officers cooperated in the investigation, prejudiced the jury pool.


Williams rejected the argument, noting the lawyers and judge can ask prospective jurors what they know and think about a case. "Conclusionary statements about contaminating the jury pool pull no weight in this court," he said.

And so it went. Defense claims of prosecutorial misconduct can go to the state attorney grievance commission, which has the authority to sanction lawyers. Mosby's answers to a reporter about the police cooperation "while troubling, do not rise to the level" of dismissing the charges, the judge said.

The defense also claimed that lawyers in Mosby's office, because they had participated in the investigation of the police, are witnesses who cannot aid in the prosecution of the case. Judge Williams read the state law regarding the state's attorney's responsibilities, which specifically involve investigating crimes.

In effect, if the defense's theory is correct, there could not be very many prosecutions at all—and there would be no federal prosecutions of complex cases. "There is no legal support" for the defense's position, the judge said.

Judge Williams said he found "troubling and condescending" the defense's contention that Mosby had a conflict of interest relating to her husband's service as city councilman for the 7th District. He said he saw "no scenario" in which Assistant State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe's relationship with WBAL-TV reporter Jayne Miller could lead to a recusal. He found no grounds for recusal based on Mosby's relationship with Billy Murphy, the lawyer for the Gray family.

Judge Williams called the defense's claims regarding Mosby's request for police drug sweeps in the area Freddie Gray lived "probably the most interesting allegation," before dismissing it as a misunderstanding of the police department's command structure. Orders for police to sweep drug corners cannot come from the state's attorney, the judge said; they have to come from the police chief.

The defense team argued that the statement of probable cause charging the officers was not written by the person who signed it, but by an unknown lawyer in the State's Attorney's Office. The defense suggested that the signer of the statement thereby cannot attest to its factuality, may have perjured himself, and has left the defense without any way to know who to subpoena to get the facts on cross examination. The defense also has contended that, by reading that statement allowed at her May 1 press conference, Mosby adopted its contents and thus went beyond the pale.

That was the contention the judge called "mind-boggling." The prosecutor "is not a compellable witness," Judge Williams said.

He then gave a lecture on "legal etiquette," admonishing the lawyers to stop calling each other names, making "over-the-top" rhetorical statements, and including "conjecture" in their legal briefs. "Every lawyer is taught and also ought to understand that representation must be kept within the bounds of law," Williams said.

He then announced a recess without hearing the remaining matters, involving whether the cases should be tried separately or in groups. Today's motions hearing is set to resume at 2 p.m.

Click here for more from Edward Ericson Jr. or email Edward at eericson@citypaper.com

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