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State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby assails police, pledges to pursue reforms

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby came out swinging Wednesday after she dropped the charges against the remaining police officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray, slamming the criminal justice system and saying police were too biased to investigate themselves.

In a fiery news conference at the Gilmor Homes housing project, the prosecutor said that without sweeping reform to police and the court system, "we could try this case 100 times, and cases just like it, and we would still end up with the same result."

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Mosby told The Baltimore Sun that she planned to pursue such reforms — including the ability of prosecutors to use independent investigators.

Mosby charged six officers in Gray's arrest and death last year. Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams acquitted three of them, saying prosecutors lacked the evidence to prove their cases. Mosby dropped charges Wednesday against the other three.

"I wanted to be able to expose the systemic issues," she said. "And I think that's one of the reasons why we said we should probably [drop the remaining cases]: so we can try to work toward a solution."

The Baltimore police union called Mosby's comments "outrageous, uncalled for and simply not true." Former Police Commissioner Anthony Batts called Mosby "immature, incompetent and vindictive." Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said the prosecutions were "disgraceful" and Mosby "ought to prosecute herself."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she supported Mosby but questioned whether she had gone too far in her criticisms of the criminal justice system.

"I have certainly learned from the challenges that I have faced, but I have never — and will never — use my position to give the impression to the community that they should not have confidence in the people who have sworn to serve them," Rawlings-Blake told CNN in Philadelphia, where she is taking part in the Democratic National Convention.

Mosby said there had been "many gains" since Gray's death, including the purchase of new police vans equipped with video cameras and new police policies that require officers to confirm they have received and read new general orders.

Mosby said she was disappointed by the acquittals of the three officers, but she did not regret pursuing the charges.

"If this defines my term as the state's attorney, I'm OK with that," Mosby told The Sun. "Because for me, my mission as a prosecutor was to seek justice over convictions, to make sure that we are holding everyone accountable regardless of occupation, sex or religion.

"At the end of the day, this was a just process. [The officers] received due process, the verdict was rendered, and, at the end of the day, I believe justice was served," Mosby said.

Doug Ward, the director of the Division of Public Safety Leadership at the Johns Hopkins School of Education, said Gray's death, the charges against the officers and the trials "absolutely … caused a rift" between police and prosecutors. But he said it was necessary.

The "criminal justice system has been stacked against minorities," Ward said, and the cases have brought about a larger discussion about the need to improve it.

University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris studies racial profiling and police misconduct.

"There's no doubt that this has already poisoned relationships between the state's attorney's office and the Police Department," he said. But he didn't expect it to harm broader efforts against everyday crime.

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"They're going to be able to do most business, but the distrust will be a factor there," he said. "It will lurk beneath the surface."

Mosby was sharply critical of the role of police in the investigation of Gray's death. She has said her office conducted an independent investigation with the help of city sheriff's deputies.

"What we realized very early on in this case was that police investigating police, whether they're friends or merely their colleagues, was problematic," Mosby said. A "reluctance and obvious bias was consistently exemplified — not by the entire Police Department, but by individuals within the Police Department, at every stage of the investigation."

Prosecutors said several discovery violations that drew sanctions from the court were a result of police not cooperating, or actively working against prosecutors.

Those tensions boiled over during the trial of the van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., when Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow accused lead detective Dawnyell Taylor of sabotaging the case.

Taylor rebutted the accusation. She said prosecutors had caused a communication breakdown.

At Gilmor Homes, where Gray was arrested, Mosby said, "We've all borne witness to an inherent bias that is a direct result of when police investigate themselves."

She added: "We still are grateful for the opportunity to show the world the reality of the justice system from start to finish."

Despite her criticism, Mosby repeatedly praised Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. Davis, who as a deputy commissioner last year oversaw the task force investigation, defended the police's work in a statement, saying more than 30 "ethical, experienced and talented detectives worked tirelessly to uncover facts."

"Our police officers and detectives work with the state's attorney's office every day to bring solid cases against criminals who seek to harm others and attack our quality of life," Davis said. "It's an inherently strong relationship that can not and will not miss a single beat. We will continue to work together. That's what we do."

The trial of the first officer, William Porter, ended in a mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a consensus on any of the charges. The next three officers opted for bench trials. Williams acquitted all three.

Mosby said she wants to pursue greater prosecutorial power over whether a defendant can choose a bench trial over a jury trial.

"I have a number of ideas that I'm not yet going to talk about," she said. "I have it all written out. I have it all planned."

Mosby said her leadership team is evaluating other criminal cases investigated by officers she believes obstructed the Gray investigation. Under a previous administration, the state's attorney's office maintained a "do not call" list of officers whose cases they would not prosecute.

Mosby stopped short of saying that Taylor or other officers would be blacklisted, but said that "we are aware of some of the issues presented, and that's an assessment me and my deputies are making."

Schatzow, speaking publicly on the cases outside a courtroom for the first time after Williams lifted a gag order, defended prosecutors' theory of the case. Many legal observers had said it was novel; critics decried it as malicious.

"We start with the proposition that police have a duty to ensure safety of people in their custody, and we look at what, if anything, they did or did not do, and then supplement that with their training and the general orders, which are very specific," Schatzow said.

"The defense that, 'Well, we don't read our general orders' — perhaps it was a successful defense," he said. "As a longtime taxpayer in this city, it's pretty shocking and it's pretty disturbing."

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Gray, 25, died after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody. Officers placed him in the back of a police van in shackles, but did not secure him with a seat belt.

Schatzow said detainees had previously sustained serious injuries or died while being unrestrained in police vans.

He cited the case of 43-year-old Dondi Johnson, who in 2005 suffered a fractured spine and died two weeks later.

No officers were criminally charged, but Schatzow said such cases showed what could happen to detainees.

"Sooner or later, someone has to say, 'Wait a minute, what are we doing here?'" Schatzow said.

Baltimore Sun reporters Jessica Anderson, Justin George, Yvonne Wenger and Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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