This morning, Baltimore prosecutors dropped all charges against the remaining three police officers indicted in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, a black man who died in the back of a police van last year. The dropped charges follow the acquittal of three other officers earlier this year, and it means that none of the six officers charged over Gray's death—which was ruled a homicide by the coroner's office—will face any legal consequences.
Shortly after the decision was announced in court, Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby emerged, and in a defiant speech to reporters, painted a picture of a broken, opaque criminal justice system stacked against justice for victims of police killings.
She said the state dropped the charges when they realized it was going to be impossible to reach a conviction, pointing to a process and a system rife with "inherent bias" toward protecting the officers, regardless of their guilt or innocence.
Mosby was able to speak about the case for the first time in a year, after the lifting of a gag order placed by Judge Barry Williams. And while she said her team is professionally bound to respect the decisions made by the court, she took the opportunity to express her frustration and outrage at a lack of cooperation and transparency from the police officers involved in investigating the case:
As the world has witnessed over the past 14 months, prosecution of on-duty police officers in this country is unsurprisingly rare and blatantly fraught with systemic and inherent complications. Unlike with other cases, where prosecutors work closely with the police to investigate what actually occurred, what we realized very early on in this case is that police investigating police, whether they're friends of merely their colleagues, was problematic. There was a reluctance and an obvious bias that was consistently exemplified not by the entire Baltimore PD but by individuals within the police department at every stage of the investigation, which became blatantly apparent in the subsequent trials.
Although Commissioner Davis was and has been extremely accommodating, there were individual police officers that were witnesses to the case yet were part of the investigative team. Interrogations that were conducted without asking the most poignant questions. Lead detectives that were completely uncooperative and started a counter-investigation to disprove the state’s case. By not executing search warrants pertaining to text messages among the police officers involved in the case. Creating videos to disprove the state’s case, without our knowledge. Creating notes that were drafted after the case was launched to contradict the medical examiner’s conclusion. Turning these notes over to defense attorney’s months prior to turning them over to the state, and yet doing it in the middle of trial. As you can see, whether investigating, interrogating, testifying, cooperating or even complying with the state, we’ve all borne witness to an inherent bias that is the direct result of when police police themselves.
Mosby said it became apparent to her, especially after Judge Williams acquitted three of the officers, that there was no hope of convictions in any of the cases against the officers, and called for systemic reform of the way investigations into police-involved killings are carried out:
We do not believe that Freddie Gray killed himself. We stand by the medical examiner’s determination that Freddie Gray’s death was a homicide. However, after much thought and prayer it has become clear to me that without being able to work with an independent investigative agency from the very start, without having a say in the election of whether our cases proceed in front of a judge or a jury, without communal oversight of policing in this community, without substantive reform in the current criminal justice system, we could try this case a hundred times, and a hundred cases just like it, and we would still end up with the same result. Accordingly, I have decided not to proceed on the cases against Officer Garrett, Sergeant Alicia White, or to re-litigate the case against William Porter.
She reflected on some of the reforms that have begun to happen in Baltimore in the wake of Gray's death, including the use of police body cams and wagon cameras, rules on prisoner well being and safety, and training that emphasizes de-escalation:
Never again should there be a question why someone is being stopped, detained or arrested, due to the fact that there will now soon be full implementation of body worn cameras on all officers. Never again should someone be placed unsecured and defenseless in a metal wagon head first feed shackled and handcuffed, due to the fact that officers are now required to seat belt and secure all prisoners. Never again should there be a need to rely on circumstantial evidence to observe what takes place inside police wagons, due to the fact that cameras are now equipped in every one of them. Never again should an officer ignore or neglect a prisoner’s request for medical attention to no avail, due to the fact that it is now mandatory to call a medic when requested. Never again should a commanding officer or a rank-and-file officer be able to assert that they are unaware of departmental policies, general orders or procedures, due to the fact that there is now a software verification and accountability system to ensure their adherence. Never again should an officer exhibit a blatant and reckless disregard for human life, due to the fact that there are now use of force policies that emphasize the sanctity of life, accentuate de-escalation and requires that officers intervene if fellow officers cross the line.
How those reforms are implemented in the ranks of a police department that, according to Mosby, deliberately tried to evade justice, remains to be seen. Freddie Gray's step father, Richard Shipley, made a brief statement after Mosby's press conference, supporting her decision to drop the remaining charges today.
“We stand behind Marilyn and her prosecuting team and my family is proud to have them representing us," he said.