Court rules each defendant must be tried separately, and Prosecutor Mosby can stay.
Yesterday Judge Barry Williams made several important rulings on the Freddie Gray case, in which six Baltimore police officers have been charged with various felonies in the death of the arrested drug suspect, reports the Baltimore Sun.
Key among these are that each of the officers will receive a separate trial, and that Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby will not be forced to recuse herself from the proceedings.
Left unanswered until a successive hearing next week is whether the trials will be held in Baltimore, where the alleged crimes occurred, or outside the city where defense lawyers argue a less tainted jury pool is available.
These rulings strike me as being consistent with reasonable due process as well as political decision-making.
The six officers charged were each involved in some, but not all, of the activities around Gray’s arrest and later apparent injury while being transported in the police vehicle. This is reflected in the differing charges against each of them. As a result, the evidence relevant and admissible in one officer’s prosecution might well not be either in another officer’s prosecution. Expecting a jury to keep all this straight in a simultaneous trial of six defendants would be unrealistic, to say the least. Indeed, I very much expect the press and the general public will find doing so all but impossible. (I anticipate we’ll be seeing a lot of bad legal analysis as a result.)
To refresh our recollection, here’s a table listing the six defendants, the charges against them, and their defense counsel. This might well prove a handy reference moving forward:
As far as the political dynamics, perhaps the best thing that could have happened for Mosby would have been for the court to order her to recuse herself. Her management of the case has been stumbling at best, bizarre at worst. Had she been ordered to recuse herself she could have escaped further responsibility and embarrassment.
Instead, Judge Williams has essentially told her “you own this.” Further, the closer we get to trial the less Mosby will be able to hide behind political rhetoric and the more she will be required to put actual evidence of criminal misconduct–evidence capable to exceeding a reasonable doubt of guilt–on the table. And she will have to do so, discretely, for six distinct prosecutions.
Based on past performance I doubt the ability of Mosby herself or her office to pull this off with anything approaching professionalism–but regardless of my expectations, Judge Williams has ensured that we’ll get to see Mosby make the effort.
Having seen nothing like the level of evidence required to prove any of the officers guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, I very much suspect that as in the Zimmerman case the prosecution simply doesn’t have what it needs to even approach the prospects for a guilty verdict (absent, of course, a runaway jury). Soon we will see whether they do or not, and Mosby will still be at the helm of that ship when this is revealed. And that’s how it should be.
Should the curtain be pulled back to reveal that Mosby’s charges against these officers were largely or entirely based on ephemeral dreams of personal grandeur and political advancement, I can’t say that I’ll be surprised in the least.
Speaking of evidence, very little additional evidence was newly revealed to the public at yesterday’s hearing–actually, none, as far as I can tell. What new evidence was presented to the court was apparently kept under seal, and thus away from public scrutiny.
Those of you who have followed our legal analysis in the past here at Legal Insurrection will know that we very much take an evidence-based approach. Speculation and innuendo has (or, at least, should have) little or no role in a criminal prosecution of any type. We certainly very much look forward to having access to the relevant evidence in these now six separate cases.
In terms of the “riotestors,” yesterday’s hearings apparently saw “mostly peaceful” protesting. Of course, none of Judge Williams’ rulings were of a sort that might have been seen as explicitly contrary to Mosby’s prosecution of the officers–as recusing Mosby might well have been, or how a change of venue next week still might be. Certainly, with six separate trials, and the prospects for six successive acquittals, I expect that there will be plenty of grist for the protesting mill, especially of the violent “loot-and-burn” variety. A prudent person will plan to their visits to inner-city Baltimore accordingly.
That’s it for now, more to come as events warrant. Keep your eyes here, of course, for the very best in Freddie Gray coverage.
Attorney Andrew Branca and his firm Law of Self Defense have been providing internationally-recognized expertise in American self-defense law for almost 20 years in the form of blogging, books, live seminars & online training (both accredited for CLE), public speaking engagements, and individualized legal consultation.
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