Pick a standard to judge Mosby

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Next month marks four years since Marilyn Mosby, at the time a 33-year-old fraud investigator for an insurance company, started publicly criticizing the state's attorney of Baltimore and blaming him for a rise in violent crime.

In announcing her candidacy for the office, Mosby, a former assistant state's attorney, called Gregg Bernstein, a former federal prosecutor and veteran trial attorney nearly 25 years her senior, ineffectual.


"The police are doing their jobs," Mosby said. "The judges are doing their jobs. The only person that's not doing his job is the state's attorney."

Mosby said Bernstein had not done enough to keep violent criminals off the streets. "We are angered and frustrated by what we see," she said. "We wonder if our children are safe outside of our homes. We wonder if we're safe inside of our homes."


She added: "We're in a state of crisis. We have to do something different. What's happening in the state's attorney's office is not acceptable. They're not getting convictions."

Let's do some calendar math.

Bernstein took office in January 2011. By June 2013, Mosby had declared the guy ineffectual. So, she had given him 30 months to show that he could take a bite out of crime. (Personally, I think a prosecutor deserves more time than that in a city with a long, wicked history of violence. But that's me.)

Now let's look at homicides during Bernstein's time in office. In any given year, on any given day, it's our most commonly cited measure of the level of violence in the city.

In 2011, Bernstein's first year on the job, the city had 197 homicides, the lowest that number had been in two decades. Then, in his second year, the count rose to 217. In 2013, Baltimore recorded 235 homicides. The trend was up and bad, but the toll of death never reached the dismal levels we had seen back in the 1990s.

Still, Mosby, looking at those rising crime numbers, used them against Bernstein. She beat the man in the Democratic primary election of 2014. She's been state's attorney since January 2015.

Since Mosby declared Bernstein ineffectual after just 30 months on the job, then, all things being equal, we should judge Mosby by the same standard.

Let's look at the numbers since Mosby took office: 344 homicides in 2015 (up from 211 in 2014); 318 homicides in 2016. Horrible. Worse than Bernstein by fully 100 homicides a year.


And, as of Tuesday morning, there had been 122 homicides in 2017. If that pace continues, we could see more than 350 killings this year.

Mosby has now been in office just about as long as Bernstein was when she started publicly hammering the guy.

So, if you accept her premise — that a rise in violent crime is a measure of the ineffectiveness of Baltimore's top prosecutor — then it's fair to criticize Mosby at this point on the same grounds.

In fact, based on that logic and those numbers, she's way more ineffective than Bernstein was.

So, if Baltimore voters dumped Bernstein in 2014, then they ought to dump Mosby in 2018.

I'm just following her logic.


It's not my logic. Making a prosecutor responsible for the rate of murders in a city is something like making the chief of surgery responsible for all the heart disease.

Prosecutors reduce crime in only one sense: They prevent future offenses by getting convictions. If they get convictions, then judges have the opportunity to send bad guys to prison and away from the rest of us.

During the 2010 Democratic primary campaign, when Bernstein challenged Pat Jessamy, state's attorney since 1995, he criticized her conviction rate. And while that seems like a fair way to assess prosecutors, even then you have to remember: They need solid evidence, which makes them dependent on the police, who investigate crimes and gather evidence. You can't make something out of nothing in our system of criminal justice.

We saw that in the cases Mosby brought against the Freddie Gray Six: The closest the prosecution came to convicting any of the police officers charged in connection with Gray's arrest and death was a hung jury. Three of the officers were later acquitted, and last summer Mosby's office dropped the remaining cases.

"The state's attorney's office needs to seal the deal," Mosby had said in her criticisms of Gregg Bernstein four years ago. But she didn't manage to do that in the Freddie Gray cases.

Of course, going 0-for-6 will not stop Mosby from taking credit for bringing about police reforms, as she did the other night in Chicago. She will cast her effort as a heroic crusade against police brutality. And so what if the Freddie Gray judge said there was no evidence of criminality?


Meanwhile, there are all those homicides on Mosby's watch — 784, as of this writing. If we were in a "state of crisis" in 2014, where are we now?