At a motion hearing Wednesday morning in the case against Baltimore police officer Garrett Miller, the City State’s Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute three remaining officers charged in relation to the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.
Along with the case against Miller, the City State’s Attorney’s Office is dropping charges against Sgt. Alicia White and Ofc. William Porter. White’s trial was scheduled for October and Porter’s retrial—his first trial ended in a hung jury—was scheduled for December. With the dropping of all charges, the gag order imposed in the cases was also rescinded by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams.
Prosecutors had failed to earn a conviction in the first of four trials of the six officers charged in connection with the death of the 25-year-old Gray, who suffered fatal spinal injuries in custody while being transported in the back of a police van.
Ofc. Caesar Goodson, the driver of the police transport van, was acquitted of all charges, including the most serious facing any of the six officers—second-degree depraved heart murder—in late June. Ofc. Edward Nero and Lt. Brian Rice were acquitted of charges ranging from second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office.
The timing of the decision this morning by prosecutors was a surprise, but ultimately not wholly unexpected. It comes as apparent acknowledgement of the unlikelihood of earning a conviction in the rest of the cases after the previous acquittal rulings by Williams, who was expected to preside over the remaining trials from the bench as well. Nero, who was on hand in support of Miller, said he was “relieved” by the decision to drop the charges.
At a press conference held at the site of Freddie Gray’s arrest, City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby defended her decision to bring charges against the six officers last April.
“Despite that challenges of not having an independent investigatory agency to work with us throughout this process, we still are grateful for the opportunity to show the world the reality of the justice system from start to finish,” Mosby said. “The legitimacy of our prosecution efforts were affirmed time and time again.”
Mosby also placed blame for her office’s failure to successfully prosecute the cases on the Baltimore Police Department. There were “lead detectives that were completely uncooperative and started a counter-investigation to disprove the state’s case by not executing search warrants.”
At every step of the way, Mosby said, due process was afforded to all of the officers.
She said she recognized that Judge Williams made it clear that he does not agree with the State’s theory in the case—essentially that the officers were criminally negligent in detaining and failing to seatbelt Gray—adding that her office “does not believe that Freddie Gray killed himself.”
“As a mother, the decision not to proceed on these trials is agonizing,” Mosby said. “What I’ve ultimately learned throughout this arduous process is that . . . justice is always worth the price paid for its pursuit.”
“For those that believe that I’m anti-police, it’s simply not the case. I am anti-police brutality,” she added to cheers from onlookers gathered at the press conference.
Finally, Mosby said: “Without communal oversight of policing in this community, without real substantive reforms to the current criminal justice system, we could try this case a hundred times, and cases just like it, and we would still end up with the same result.”
Some observers have called for Mosby to step down in light of the failed prosecutions, alleging she over-reached in bringing the charges against the officers initially. George Washington University public interest law professor John Banzhaf III has said he intended to file a complaint against Mosby with the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission.
In a statement, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the Baltimore Police Department will still complete an administrative review of each officer involved. “I recognize the emotional nature of this case,” Rawlings-Blake said. “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.”
The Baltimore Police Department said they would not make a formal comment at this time, but would release a statement later.
“Everybody wanted to find out what happened to Freddie Gray,” Ivan Bates, defense attorney for Sgt. White, commented. “The Baltimore City Police Department did the investigation and they said it was an accident. The [Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office] had an opportunity to do an in-depth investigation, and they did not. It is the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office that has denied justice to the Gray family.”
Gene Ryan, president of the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, responded to the announcement this afternoon at a press conference.
“The state’s attorney simply could not accept the evidence,” Ryan said. “There was no wrongdoing by any officer.”