Transcript: State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby on the dropped charges

The following is the transcript of Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby's address following the decision to drop charges against the three remaining officers charged in the Freddie Gray case:

Good morning. Thank you all for being here today. Baltimore finds itself at the epicenter of a national conflict between urban and rural populations of color, and the law enforcement agencies that are sworn to protect and serve them. It is a struggle that strikes at the basic ideas of self determination, justice, equality and sadly, humanity in America. However fitting it is for observers to use the untimely death of Freddie Carlos Gray Jr. as a barometer of our nation’s progress on police brutality, my professional role in this matter is plain. To seek justice on behalf of an innocent 25-year-old man who was unreasonably taken into custody after fleeing in his neighborhood, which just happens to be a high crime neighborhood, and had his spine partially severed in the back of a Baltimore police wagon. As a chief prosecutor for Baltimore City, I took an oath to uphold justice, and to treat every individual in my jurisdiction equally and fairly under the law. I take my oath very seriously. Since the start of my administration, we have been and continue to be wholly committed to creating a fair and equitable justice system for all. And holding people accountable for crimes that they commit regardless of age, race, color, sex, creed, socioeconomic status or in this case, occupation. As a chief prosecutor, elected by the people of Baltimore City, I made a promise that my prosecutors and I will never cower from our obligation to prosecute crimes where we believe we have probable cause that a crime was committed.

We’re sworn to not only uphold the law and hold violent repeat offenders accountable, but we’re also sworn to apply justice fairly and equally to everyone. Even those that have taken an oath to protect and serve our communities. As prosecutors, we are servants of all victims and witnesses of crimes in Baltimore City, and we fight each and every day to ensure that perpetrators of crime see their day in court and are held accountable for their actions or inactions where there’s a relational duty that requires such. We never cowered in our battle for justice for 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes, one-year-old Carter Scott, bicyclist and loving father Thomas Palermo, or Shatia Lansdowne and the various other sexual assault survivors of Nelson Clifford. As I previously stated, the decision to prosecute six police officers was not and has never been an indictment on the entire Baltimore Police department. Although, some have tried to invalidate my family’s longstanding service as public officers, I know firsthand the sacrifices, dedication the commitment it takes to protect and serve our communities.

For those that believe I’m anti-police, it’s simply not the case. I’m anti police brutality. I need not remind you, that the only loss and the greatest loss in all of this was that of Freddie Gray’s life. For over a year, my office has been forced to remain silent on all six of the cases pertaining to, and surrounding the death of Freddie Gray. Despite being physically and professionally threatened, mocked, ridiculed, harassed, and even sued, we’ve respected and fulfilled our obligation and dutiful silence in according to Judge Barry Williams’ gag order restricting any commentary from the state. In accordance with my oath to pursue justice over convictions, I’ve refused to allow the grandstanding of some and the hyperbole of others to diminish our resolve to seek justice on behalf of this young man. I was elected the prosecutor. I signed up for this, and I can take it. Because no matter how problematic and troublesome it has been for my office, my prosecutor's, my family and me personally, it pales in comparison to what mothers and fathers all across this country, specifically Freddie Gray’s mother Gloria Darden, or Richard Shipley, Freddie Gray’s step-father goes through on a daily basis knowing their son’s mere decision to run from the police proved to be a lethal one. Please know that even though the media has made this about everything but the untimely death of your son, my office has never wavered in our commitment to seeking justice on his behalf. My team of prosecutors, led by two highly respected veteran attorneys, Chief Deputy Michael Schatzow, Deputy State’s attorney Janice Bledsoe right here, and assistant State’s attorney John Butler, Matt Pillion, Sarah Akhtar, Lawyer Michael Fiorenza have devoted countless hours and made countless sacrifices to ensure accountability on your son’s behalf. I’m extremely proud of my team, who have never lost sight of why we are fighting so hard: your son.

As the world has witnessed, over the past fourteen months the prosecution of on-duty police officers in this country is unsurprisingly rare and blatantly fraught with systemic and inherent complications. Unlike with other cases, where prosecutors work closely with the police to investigate what actually occurred, what we realized very early on in this case was that police investigating police, whether they’re friends or mainly their colleagues, was problematic. There was a reluctance and an obvious bias that was consistently exemplified not by the entire Baltimore police department, but by individuals within the Baltimore Police department at every stage of the investigation. Which became blatantly apparent in the subsequent trials. Although commissioner Davis was and has been extremely accommodating, there were individual police officers that were witnesses to the case, yet were part of the investigative team. Interrogations that were conducted without asking the most poignant questions leave detectives that were completely uncooperative and started a counter investigation to disprove the state’s case. By not executing search warrants pertaining to text messages among the police officers involved in the case, creating videos to disprove the state’s case without our knowledge, creating notes that were drafted after the case was launched to contradict the medical examiner’s conclusions, turning these notes over to defense attorneys moments prior to turning them over to the state, and yet doing it in the middle of trial.

As you can see, whether investigating, interrogating, testifying, corroborating or even complying with the state, we’ve all bore witness to an inherent bias that is a direct result of when police themselves. And despite the challenges of not having an independent investigatory agency to work with us throughout this [prosecution] we still are grateful for the opportunity to show the world the reality of the justice system from start to finish. At every step of the way, due process was afforded to all of these officers. And the legitimacy of our prosecution efforts were affirmed time, and time again. They were affirmed when the court commissioner signed off on the charges that we filed. They were yet again affirmed when we presented our case before a grand jury and secured indictments against all six officers in every charge that we presented to them. Our legal arguments, theories, strategies were affirmed not only in 135 motions in which we successfully overcame, but also in the state’s highest court where we battled and ultimately prevailed in compelling the officers to testify against each other. The legitimacy of these charges were even affirmed by the judge after he rejected 13 motions for dismissal. He denied 22 motions for judgment of acquittal throughout all four trials. As prosecutors, we are ministers of justice, and it is our ethical obligation to always seek justice over convictions of individuals, put evidence before a judge to make that determination. In these cases, my prosecutors presented a great deal of evidence to support the charges alleged. And all the most to convict the officers in the case tried before 12 Baltimore City residents. The judge, who is within his right, has made it clear that he does not agree with this theory of the case and does not believe that any of the actions or inactions of these officers rises to the level of criminality. The judge of these officers, one of the arresting officers, the wagon driver, the highest-ranking police officer in this matter. In light of these consistent outcomes, the likely remaining defendants to elect trial with this judge is probably low.

And while to this day we stand by the decisions, the legal theories, the charges and assertions set forth in the statement of probable cause and during these proceedings, as officers of the court we must respect the verdicts rendered by the judge regarding the ultimate culpability of the adjudicated officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death as final. No matter how much we may disagree with the judge’s rulings. We do not believe Freddie Gray killed himself, we stand by the medical examiner’s determination that Freddie Gray’s death was a homicide. However, after much thought and prayer it has become clear to me that not being able to work with an independent investigatory agency at the very start, without having a say in the election of whether our case is preceded in front of a judge or a jury, without communal oversight on policing in this community, without reforms in the criminal justice system, we could try this case a 100 times, and cases just like it, and we would still end up with the same result. Accordingly, I have decided not to proceed in the cases against Officer Garrett [Miller], Sgt. Alicia White, or to re-litigate the case against William Porter. As a mother, the decision not to proceed on these trials, these remaining trials, is agonizing. However, as a chief prosecutor elected by the citizens of Baltimore, I must consider the dismal likelihood of conviction at this point. The judicial economy proceeding further and the divisive impact continuing this prosecution could potentially have on our community. What I’ve ultimately learned throughout this arduous process is that although no small task, justice is always worth the price paid for its pursuit. You see in spite of the fact that for many things to happen to ensure that Freddie Gray never happens to another person that comes in contact with police. Never again should there be a question as to why someone is being stopped, detained or arrested due to the fact there will now soon be cameras.

What I’ve learned through this experience is that every battle, every obstacle that we’ve overcome since the pursuit of these cases has brought us one step closer to equality. And that any and every step towards equality in our justice system is well worth fighting for. This system is in need of reform when it comes to police accountability. And as long as I’m the chief prosecutor for this city, I vow to you that my office and I will fight. We will fight for a fair and equitable justice system for all. So that whatever happened to Freddie Gray never happens to another person in this community again.

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