She complained that she and her staff had been “physically and professionally threatened, mocked, ridiculed, harassed, and even sued,” but added:
I was elected the prosecutor. I signed up for this and I can take it. Because no matter how problematic and troublesome it has been for my office, my prosecutors, my family, and me personally, it pales in comparison with what mothers and fathers all across this country, specifically Freddie Gray’s mother, Gloria Darden, or Freddie Gray’s stepfather, Richard Shipley, goes through on a daily basis.
Miller was the fourth officer scheduled to go on trial. The first, William Porter, saw his trial end in December with a hung jury, and until Wednesday, prosecutors had vowed to retry him. The following three trials—including that of Officer Caesar Goodson, who faced the most serious charge, of second-degree depraved-heart murder; Officer Edward Nero; and Lieutenant Brian Rice—all ended with acquittals.
Prosecutors’ failure to secure a conviction in the case, despite the details of Gray’s death, points to two realities about prosecuting police in brutality cases, one national and one local. First, it underscores the difficulty of prosecuting police. Nationwide, relatively few officers are charged with crimes in cases where civilians are killed, and even fewer are convicted. District attorneys are reluctant to bring charges against police because they depend on them for testimony in other cases, and juries tend to be deferential to cops.
The Baltimore case was supposed to be different, for several reasons. First, Mosby had moved quickly and decisively to charge the officers, which won her praise from reformers but worried an unusual coalition of police advocates and critics of prosecutorial overreach. Second, the Gray case seemed superficially simple: A healthy man entered a police van and was mortally wounded in police custody. How could a crime not have been convicted? Third, Baltimore juries were expected to be unsympathetic to the police.
Other than Porter, however, officers opted for bench trials, forgoing their right to a jury and putting their fate in Judge Barry Williams’s hands. Meanwhile, prosecutors were unable to produce the evidence they needed to show that police had intentionally hurt Gray, or had even been negligent. Although they argued in Goodson’s trial that Gray had been given a rough ride (the idea that officers intentionally banged him around in the van—not implausible, given a long history of rough rides in Baltimore and elsewhere), Williams scolded them for making incendiary allegations without evidence. Other parts of their cases relied on novel legal theories, charging police for behavior that, while perhaps distasteful, has seldom or never been prosecuted.
After going 0-3-1 through four trials, prosecutors apparently recognized that they were going nowhere. (There were particularly sharp challenges in the Miller case, as The Baltimore Sun explains.) Mosby has come in for sharp criticism, including some calls for her to be disbarred. It’s an ironic denouement: A prosecutor who presented herself as vanquishing a heavy-handed criminal-justice system is now portrayed as an exemplar of it.