The Baltimore City State’s Attorney caught the courtroom by surprise Wednesday when, instead of starting a trial against Officer Garrett Miller for his role in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, her chief deputy announced that all charges were being dropped against Miller as well as two others who were awaiting trial, “in the best interest of justice.”
That brings and end to charges that, when announced by Mosby on May 1, 2015, after days of unrest, triggered celebrations in the streets in West Baltimore. Reaction to the dismissal of charges, as with the acquittals of three officers previously, ranged from a sense of vindication by supporters of the officers, including their union leader, to muted anger and resignation by former neighbors of Gray and social justice advocates.
In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Mosby said she had been grappling with the decision for some time and ultimately relied upon her faith. “It became clear, pretty much how the system is set up, what that likely outcome was going to be,” she said. “And so it was just a question of do we take this all the way to the end or do we try to expose the sort of systemic issues that we were faced with from the start, from the very start of this case.”
Earlier, Mosby had held a news conference near Presbury and Mount, the intersection where Gray had been arrested – for no good reason, she has said. With the image of Gray looking out from a mural behind her, for nearly 15 minutes Mosby passionately and defiantly reviewed her “resolve to seek justice on behalf of this young man” despite “systemic” flaws and the efforts of “individual police officers” to sabotage the investigation.
Both Commissioner Kevin Davis, whom she said had been “extremely accommodating,” and Gene Ryan, president of the union, the Fraternal Order of Police, defended the way a departmental investigation was conducted. Ryan called her comments at the news conference “outrageous and uncalled for and simply untrue.”
But Richard Shipley, the stepfather of Freddie Gray, stood near Mosby during the news conference. He told reporters that the family, which received a $6.4 million settlement from the city, supported the way Mosby and her team had pursued criminal charges. “My family is proud to have them represent us," he said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings also expressed support for Mosby. Interviewed in Philadelphia, where he is participating in the Democratic Party’s convention, he said: “I have full faith and confidence in Marilyn Mosby. She is a brilliant attorney, and she is a young lady who knows the law.” Cummings, a former criminal defense lawyer, said that it took “guts” to bring the charges and noted that Mosby is the daughter and granddaughter of police officers.
Not far from where Mosby held her news conference, teenagers in a summer jobs program that has them beautifying the community with murals and mosaics pondered the situation as they paused for lunch at the Jubilee Arts Center on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“It sucks because clearly someone is at fault for what happened to this man. He didn’t just drop dead. Somebody’s at fault,” said Ty Lewis, echoing Mosby, who had said, “We do not believe that Freddie Gray killed himself.” Mosby said that she stood by the medical examiner’s characterization of Gray’s death as a homicide.
Another teen, Ariel Goldberg, feared that police would get the wrong message. “It’s going to make officers feel like they can get away with more this stuff because, if no one is ever held accountable, it’s not good.”
Several of the high schoolers worried about the impact of the end of the court cases and wondered what could be done. Mosby has called for “real substantive reform to the current criminal justice system.”
Seeming to agree, Sha-shonna Rogers at Jubilee Arts said, “It’s going to take more than protests, maybe, to change. It’s going to take a lot to change police brutality.”
Adrienne Lewis in West Baltimore and Maliik Obee In Philadelphia contributed to this article.
Teenagers working through Jubilee Arts in a summer jobs program are beautifying the Sandtown-Winchester-Upton area with murals and mosaics. While taking a lunch break, several of them discussed the decision by Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby to drop charges against police officers charged in the death last year of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old resident of the area.