Marilyn Mosby's press conference Friday shocked residents of Baltimore and everyone else watching protests over Freddie Gray's death. Barely 24 hours after police had completed their investigation into the death of the 25-year-old black man in police custody, the Baltimore City state's attorney announced a strong slate of charges against the six officers involved. It wasn't just the speed (Mosby said her office had begun investigations the day after Gray's arrest, and six days before his death) but the charges: second-degree depraved-heart murder against one officer, with the others facing a mix of manslaughter, assault, misconduct, and false imprisonment.
The decision was met with jubilation in West Baltimore, where protestors had rioted just four nights before. But almost immediately, critics began to second-guess Mosby, who's been on the job for just a few months. Were her charges politically motivated, or perhaps calculated to calm protests? Had she overcharged the officers, picking unfair charges, or ones she couldn't win? Did she move too fast to charge the officers?
The answer to some of those questions is probably yes, says David Jaros, an associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law: There's good reason to think that Mosby was driven by political considerations, and it's quite possible that the charges she filed against the officers are stronger than she can get a conviction for. While that's cause for concern, it's also absolutely typical in criminal cases involving defendants who aren't police, Jaros says. Prosecutors commonly overcharge, they don't always wait for a thorough investigation, and they are susceptible to outside influence.