State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced today that the six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray have been charged with criminal charges second-degree murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, vehicular manslaughter , and misconduct in office. I have no comment on that: I haven’t seen the evidence. I will assume the charges are justified base on what evidence there is.
Nonetheless, Mosby’s announcement and related statements from the steps of Baltimore’s War Memorial Building were unethical, and indeed constituted a professional ethics breach:
- Mosby said she told Gray’s family that “no one is above the law and I would pursue justice upon their behalf.” Unethical. Her client isn’t the family. Her client is the state. If the evidence appears too weak to get a conviction based on any new revelations, her duty to her client, which only requires justice, not justice for any party, would be to drop the case. Telling the family that she is working “on their behalf” is either a lie, or, if true, unethical. She is not their lawyer or the victim’s lawyer.
- “I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace,'” she said. “Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.”
Ugh. Again the “on behalf of” misstatement. Worse, though, is “I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace.” What are we to take from this statement, other than the disgraceful admission that the indictment is in response to mob violence and threats of more? She may not say that. By saying it, she has undermined the rule of law. Prosecutors must not”hear” demands that a citizen be prosecuted, or not prosecuted. They are ethically obligated to ignore them, and do what the evidence dictates.
The demonstrators obviously got her meaning. Desmond Taylor, 29, shouted to the crowd, “This day means that your actions bring consequences in Baltimore City.”
Imagine what else riots and arson might bring!
- The State’s attorney is married to Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby, meaning that she knows that if she doesn’t indict, his career is toast. That’s a conflict of interest, and I would say an unwaivable one. As a government official, it leaves a big, steaming appearance of impropriety too, and I can’t believe she doesn’t know it.
- The tone of her statement violates Maryland Rule Of Professional Conduct Rule 3.8, Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor:
(e) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent an employee or other person under the control of the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 or this Rule.
The statements about representing the family and about nobody being above the law suggests that the officers are guilty, and certainly create a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.
The riots made this a political prosecution unless a tough and fair prosecutor made sure that it wasn’t.
Marilyn Mosby was not up to the task.