Prosecutors may use Grand Jury proceeding to modify charges
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that defense counsel for the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray anticipate that they will receive formal grand jury indictments within the next two weeks.
At present the officers are charged in District Court, which is a lower-level court not suited to the severity of the charges (which include second-degree depraved-heart murder.) Accordingly, it has always been anticipated that the charges would be moved to the Circuit Court, where jury trials are held, and where a probable cause hearing on those charges is already scheduled for May 27.
In the usual course of events an indictment would occur before that probable cause hearing, thus the expectation that the indictments will be handed down within the next two weeks.
The Grand Jury will hear evidence presented only by the prosecution, as is normally the case. Although the defense can challenge the evidence presented by the State, it may not present any evidence of its own. All parties therefore expect that the Grand Jury will, indeed, indict the officers.
The Grand Jury proceeding is secret, and the State Attorney’s Office is already declining to comment. Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which Grand Jury testimony may ultimately be revealed to the public; for example, if a witness’s testimony at trial differs from their testimony before the Grand Jury, their earlier statements can be used to impeach their trial statements.
Such inconsistencies in the State’s narrative may be particularly acute in this case. Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby is already being fiercely challenged on multiple public mis-statements of fact and law. It is for this reason, among many others, that defense counsel for all six officers have collectively filed a motion to have the charges against the officers dismissed, or alternatively, to have Mosby recused from the case.
It is possible that the State may choose to use the Grand Jury proceeding to modify the charges by presenting to the Grand Jury a set of alternative charges better supported by the evidence.
[Note (5-13-15, 11:55am): This post has been edited to correct earlier inversion of “District Court” and “Circuit Court; thanks to commenter bsidle below for pointing out the error.]
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