What they said: Baltimore community leaders react to charges dropped in Freddie Gray case
The Baltimore Sun|
Jul 27, 2016 | 3:30 PM
Prosecutors dropped all remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray Wednesday, meaning none of the six police charged by Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby were convicted.
Prosecutors dropped all remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers accused in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray Wednesday, meaning none of the six police charged by Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby were convicted.
This story will be updated with the reactions of elected officials and other observers.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
"While the State's Attorney's decision brings an end to the criminal proceedings, the Baltimore Police Department will still complete an administrative review of each officer involved," said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in a statement.
"I recognize the emotional nature of this case. The eyes of the nation, indeed the world, have been on Baltimore for a very long time and I thank the citizens of our city for their patience during these trials. Now I ask the citizens to again join me in being patient as the administrative process moves forward."
State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, the Democratic nominee for Baltimore mayor, said she defers to Mosby's interpretation of the evidence in the remaining three cases, in light of the lack of convictions in previous trials.
"I trust the state's attorney to make the right decisions and I support the decision," Pugh said. "I believe in the work of the state's attorney."
Pugh said the action will spur continued discussions about how to build on police reform efforts since the unrest and improve respect by police for the community and by the community for the police.
"For us, this is about a broader conversation about how we bring our communities together," said Pugh, who is attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. "Nobody — whether you're a police officer, or a child or the mother of a child — expects when they leave their home not to be able to come back."
"There are still a lot of discussions that need to be had," she said. "Baltimore does not want to experience a situation like this again with Freddie Gray. No family should have to go through this again."
Pugh pointed to efforts in Annapolis to change the make up of police trial boards to allow for civilians to help decide what discipline officers should face.
Beyond changes to the police department, Pugh said city leaders, along with community members and clergy, should work together to create equal opportunity for all in Baltimore.
"When you see what's happening across the nation, every situation presents a moment of reflection," said Pugh, who attended the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. She said she was moved Tuesday by a presentation by a group of mothers whose children have been killed in recent encounters with police, calling it "heart wrenching."
As for Mosby's future, Pugh said, "She's got a long career ahead of her. She is responsible for making sure justice prevails on both sides. She made a decision based on the information she had at hand and the outcome of the cases thus far. She felt it was the best decision in her own view, and I support it."
"People in Baltimore, I think, wanted justice. But people have different definitions of justice," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat who gained national attention for his visible presence on the streets during the riots last year.
"I believe that the state's attorney used her best judgment, and applied the law to the facts," said Cummings, an attorney. "A prosecutor has the duty to charge when they think appropriate, but they also have the duty to dismiss when they appropriate."
"It's not the end of the issue," said Sen. Ben Cardin, who pointed to the ongoing patterns and practice investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice as an effort that might offer a final judgment on the situation.
"There have been changes made in city policing that we need to continue, so this is a continuing issue," the Maryland Democrat said. "But as far as the criminal issues are concerned, it's over."
City Councilman Brandon Scott said he was surprised Mosby dropped the charges against all three officers, saying he expected her to drop one or two of the remaining cases.
"This started with a loss of a life, and we have to think about the family and the community," Scott said. "We also have to think about the impact on those police officers and their families.
"What the city has to do with this whole incident is use it as a historical and monumental teaching lesson for what we need to change."
Scott said he hoped those frustrated by Mosby's actions would not "get lost in the emotion of it."
"This is the system we have. It is not perfect, but we have to respect the outcome," he said. "The judge felt in the previous cases they didn't have the burden of proof, and the state's attorney thought it was not worth moving forward. You have to give her credit for doing something so high risk."
Scott said much still must improve in the city, but change is underway. He pointed to the addition of police body cameras and steps being taken by the General Assembly to make it easier to discipline police officers.
"All of these things happened because of this incident, and that works continues today," Scott said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday questioned proceeding with the cases after failing to secure convictions in the first four trials.
"It seems as if they didn't have the evidence for the first four, they won't have enough evidence for the last," Hogan said during a WBAL radio interview. "It seems like an awful lot of time and money and effort wasted for a case that maybe shouldn't have been brought."
Hogan's spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Joshua Harris, the Green Party nominee for Baltimore mayor, said today's announcement reflects "business as usual in the city." Baltimore needs new leadership that can take the city in a dramatically new direction to make lasting change, he said.
"This is 15 months after the death of Freddie Gray, and there is still no justice," Harris said. "We have an opportunity in November to show the city is ready for real change and break up the same old, same old decisions and leaders in our city."
Cortly "CD" Witherspoon
The dropping of the charges represents a frustrating end to the case, said the Rev. Cortly "CD" Witherspoon, a community activist involved in police brutality issues.
"As far as the remaining officers not being tried, I completely disagreed with that because Freddie Gray was indeed alive before he came into contact with the Baltimore Police Department," Witherspoon said. "The medical examiner's office determined his death to be a homicide … No one was held accountable."
So many times in the past, police had not been charged criminally for deaths in their custody, Witherspoon said, and the charges in Gray's case offered hope for accountability. Having the charges dropped represents a "miscarriage of justice," Witherspoon said.
"There was this one opportunity for us to receive police accountability and we were deprived of that," he said.
Baltimore residents already frustrated with the criminal justice system are likely to feel even more like they aren't represented or listened to, Witherspoon said.
"I think, inevitably, we will definitely see that people respond to that feeling of abandonment and that feeling of being forgotten about," he said. "I don't know how they will express that feeling and emotion. Certainly, we hope that will be in a constructive way."
Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West died during an altercation with police in 2013, said she wasn't surprised at the decision to drop the charges in the Freddie Gray case.
"I'm disappointed, but at the same time, I figured it was going to happen because of the way the cases were going," said Jones, who has been outspoken on police brutality issues.
No charges were filed in West's death and State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said earlier this year that there was no new evidence to justify reopening the case.
In the Gray case, at least there were criminal charges filed, which represents progress, Jones said.
"For (Mosby) to put her life, her job on the line for our city, that still means a lot to me," Jones said. "I hope it doesn't stop there. I hope she continues going after more cops."
Hill-Aston, president of the city's NAACP chapter said she was "very disappointed" in the outcome of the trials.
"The police in the courtroom were found not guilty, but someone and all of them are guilty because Freddie is deceased," she said.
But she said she supports Mosby's decision to drop the charges and found her reasons for doing so credible.
In the past few weeks, Hill-Aston said, "I've been advocating that the cases should move forward. But based on her rationale about money and feeling that she was not going to get any convictions, that it would be a waste of the court's time."
"There's a lot of good and bad in this whole thing. The bad thing is that Freddie's dead, and he didn't kill himself," Hill-Aston said.
The good, she said, is the reforms that the case has catalyzed in the police department, like equipping police vans and officers with cameras, and making sure officers buckle in prisoners during transport.
"Things will be different for the most part because of it," she said of the trials' impact.
She said she doubts anyone will ever be held accountable for Gray's death.