The other shoe dropped: prosecutors dropped all remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers accused in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, following the acquittals of three other officers by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams. He was expected to preside over the remaining trials, and, as the Bible says, the writing was on the wall.
Make no mistake: this result was completely and entirely the result of the incompetent, unethical conduct of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who vaingloriously announced charges against the officers in the immediate wake of rioting in Baltimore, following the dictates of a mob. She did this without sufficient investigation, evidence or, despite the ethical requirements of her office, probable cause. She had the city of Baltimore agree to a large damages settlement for Gray’s family before any of the officers were tried, prejudicing their cases. She spent millions on the prosecutions, and shattered the lives of all six officers, and yet never made a case that justified any of it.
There are more unethical things that a prosecutor can do, and they certainly do them. Some prosecute individuals they know are innocent, which is a bit worse than prosecuting someone who might be guilty because a mob wants blood. Those unethical prosecutors, however, try to cover their tracks. Not Mosby: she’s proud of being unethical, because its the kind of unethical conduct that African-American activists think promotes justice. Justice is when someone pays with their life or liberty if an African American dies, regardless of law or evidence. That’s the theory, anyway. Continue reading
George Washington Law School Professor John F. Banzhaf III has filed an ethics complaint against State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby with Maryland’s Attorney Grievance Commission. Banzhaf accuses Mosby in his 10-page complaint of breaching Maryland’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers, which requires that a prosecutor refrain from prosecuting a charge unless it is supported by probable cause, in her conflicted and incompetent prosecution of six police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray. The complaint also flags Mosby’s improper use of public statements to bias the administration of justice.
Of course he is right, as I have repeatedly explained here, here, here, here, and here. I assume there have been other complaints before this one, but he has made the issue a high profile one, and that’s excellent news.
Mosby has earned the Mike NiFong treatment: the unethical prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse rape case was disbarred, briefly jailed, and sued. She is black, female, and a Democrat, and NiFong remains one of the very, very few prosecutors to be punished significantly for unethical conduct. I will be amazed if the commission does anything momentous or sufficient to discourage grandstanding prosecutors like Mosby in the future, even though such prosecutors are willing to ruin lives for political gain.
I hope I am wrong.
(But I’m not.)
In Baltimore this week, a judge declared a mistrial in the case of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter after jurors said they were deadlocked regarding all of the charges against him in the death of Freddie Gray. Porter, 26 and an African American, is the first of six police officers to be tried in Gray’s death. He has been charged with with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. Street protests began almost immediately.
Let’s review this disaster so far, shall we? Continue reading
In a legal ethics seminar I taught this week for government attorneys, the vast majority of them voted that Marilyn Mosby’s vainglorious announcement of charges against six officers in the death of Freddie Gray was prosecutorial abuse, and a blatant violation of professional ethics rule 3.8, which directs that (this is the Maryland version)…
The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:
(a) refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause;
(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.
Of course it was a breach of ethics, and an outrageous one. Her statement, which I discussed here, not only overstated her justification for bringing the charges, which were rushed and announced before a careful investigation was completed, it also stated that the officers were guilty, and worse, that the charges were being brought because the demonstrating and rioting protesters has demanded it. Mosby’s words suggested that she stood with the mob. Continue reading
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! Continue reading