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Baltimore Grand Jury Issues Indictments Against Police Officers In Freddie Gray Case

Baltimore Police Defendants

Late yesterday, the State’s Attorney for Baltimore announced that the six police officers involved in the April 9th death of Freddie Gray in police custody that set of protests and riots in the city had been indicted by a Grand Jury on a long list of charges, several of them more series than those they were originally charged with:

A grand jury in Baltimore has indicted six police officers on homicide and assault charges in the death of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured last month in police custody, the city’s chief prosecutor said Thursday.

The charges announced by Marilyn J. Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore City, do not differ greatly from those she initially filed against the officers. But getting a grand jury to agree and deliver an indictment is a milestone in a case that has generated national attention.

The case of Mr. Gray, 25 — who was arrested and injured on April 12 and died a week later — was one in a string of recent encounters around the country in which young black men have died at the hands of the police, prompting protests, arguments about the role of race in law enforcement and claims that police practices are deeply flawed.

(…)

Ms. Mosby made no comment on the indictment, except to say that it was normal for a list of charges to evolve along with a criminal case. She declined to take questions.

Lawyers for the six officers, who are free on bail, have called the prosecution’s case weak, filed for dismissal of the charges and argued that Ms. Mosby has conflicts of interest and should be removed from the case.

Mr. Gray was arrested after running from officers, who found a knife in his pocket that they said was illegal — Ms. Mosby later said it was not — and arrested him and called a police van to transport him. By the time the van delivered him to a police station, Mr. Gray had suffered catastrophic damage to his spine and was not breathing.

Officials have said the injury probably occurred during that ride.

In the indictment, as in the initial charges Ms. Mosby announced May 1, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who was driving the van, faces the most serious charge: second-degree “depraved heart” murder, which carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison.

Officer Goodson, Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White were indicted on a manslaughter charge, with a maximum 10-year sentence — also unchanged from the earlier charges.

All six officers, including Officer Edward M. Nero and Officer Garrett E. Miller, still face second-degree assault charges, also punishable by up to 10 years, though some counts have been dropped. All six were indicted on a charge of reckless endangerment, a crime that was not included in the earlier charges, and misconduct in office, as well.

The Baltimore Sun lists each of the charges against the officers and how they differ from the charges that were originally announced at the beginning of the month. The most significant change is the fact that the charge of false imprisonment that had been listed against several of the officers has been dropped, and that each of the officers has had the additional charge of reckless endangerment added to the list of charges against them. Generally speaking, it isn’t all that unusual for there to be at least some difference between the charges initially filed against any criminal defendant and the charges that they are ultimately indicted on. Typically, this happens due to the fact that the process of presenting the case to the Grand Jury results in the discovery of new or additional evidence that changes the prosecutor’s perspective on the case and, sometimes, the choice is made to drop some lesser charges in favor of pursuing the more serious claims. In this particular case, as the Sun’s Ian Ducnan notes, the changes in the charges seem to reflect some of that as well as a shift in thinking on the part of the State’s Attorney:

The differences between indictments returned Thursday against six Baltimore Police officers in the death of Freddie Gray and the initial charges filed this month suggest prosecutors have refined their approach to the case, legal analysts say — or, possibly, that a grand jury balked at the some of the counts they had sought.

Baltimore lawyers who are not connected to the case say some of the changes could mean prosecutors are focusing less on Gray’s initial arrest — which State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said this month was unlawful — while others suggest prosecutors are trying to give themselves a backstop should any part of the case prove faulty.

(…)

When Mosby announced criminal charges against the six officers three weeks ago, she said possession of the knife was not illegal in Maryland, and police should not have arrested him.

After Thursday’s indictments, the major features of the case appear to be mostly the same.

Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who drove the van that transported Gray, is still accused of second-degree depraved-heart murder, and several officers face charges of manslaughter.

But Lt. Brian Rice, and Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller, who were involved in the initial stop of Gray, are no longer accused of false imprisonment. That charge had struck many lawyers as unusual; police said it could leave officers worried that an error of judgment might lead to criminal charges.

What’s not clear is why that charge has disappeared. Kurt Nachtman, a former prosecutor in Baltimore, said it was likely the grand jurors did not find grounds to support it.

“You would think if the prosecution handpicked the charges they’d be the same across the board,” he said.

But Page Croyder, another former prosecutor, said it was possible that Mosby’s office decided the false imprisonment charge was a mistake and did not offer it to the grand jury as an option.

Another change: All the officers now face a charge of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Croyder said adding that count — probably a decision made by prosecutors, rather than the grand jurors — gives prosecutors a fallback charge at trial if they struggle to convince a jury of the weightier offenses.

She called reckless endangerment, which means a defendant did something to put someone seriously at risk, a “kitchen sink” charge.

“This is clearly a shift in strategy by the prosecutor’s office,” Croyder said. “Adding a charge of reckless endangerment tells me that there are issues about proving the more serious charges.”

For the most part, the news of the indictments is being greeted positively by activists in Baltimore who have continued their protests, albeit on a smaller and much more peaceful scale, even though the national media pretty much stopped covering this story after the officers were charged at the beginning of the month. Given the fact that the most serious charges against each of the officers survived the Grand Jury process this is, of course, not very surprising. At the same time, though, it seems fairly clear that situation in Baltimore isn’t going to be solved just because these officers have been indicted. The problems with the Baltimore Police that are at the root of what seems to have happened in the Freddie Gray case remain largely unsolved. The economic conditions in the worst parts of the city are, if anything, worse than they were before the protests started thanks to the fact that rioting resulted in the destruction of several local businesses. And, perhaps most significantly, the crime situation in Baltimore seems to have gotten worse in the six weeks or so since Freddie Gray died. Since that time, there has been an average of at least one murder per day, ever day. For the year as a whole, there have already been 100 murders and other violent crimes are also on the rise, while police seem to be arresting fewer people in what may or may not be a conscious slowdown by police officers in response to the charges in the Gray case.

As for this case in particular, it will proceed forward in the same manner that any other criminal case would. These officers are as entitled to the presumption of innocence as any other defendant, and it may well be the case that prosecution will be unable to prove all of the charges against them beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s something that will be up to the jury, of course, and we can’t even begin to speculate about the outcome of a trial until the evidence in the case beyond what is known in the press becomes public, and that may not happen until the trial itself. Until then, there will be several legal issues that will have to be dealt with. One or more of the officers, for example, may attempt to test the charges in a pre-trial hearing but, unless the prosecution is making some big mistakes here, it seems improbable that a judge would find that there is insufficient probable cause for the charges at issues. Additionally, it’s unclear at this point whether the officers will be tried together or separately, something that could have a significant impact on how that case proceeds, or if one or more of them decides to enter into a plea deal and testify against their fellow defendants. If that happens, it would likely be the two or three officers who have the least serious charges pending against them who will cut a deal. Finally, there will likely be a tough fight over venue given the public reaction to Gray’s death. Given Maryland’s demographic makeup overall, though, I’m not sure that the officers would have any more luck with a jury from outside of Baltimore than they would with one from inside the city itself. In any case, the charges and indictments themselves indicate that, at least in this case, the system is working they way it’s supposed to.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    Seems to me they dropped the false imprisonment charges to avoid a “if the glove don’t fit” situation where the defense argues if the arrest was legal than everything else was legal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I’m not sure that the officers would have any more luck with a jury from outside of Baltimore than they would with one from inside the city itself.

    From what I have read, 12 jurors who have no experience with Baltimore police would definitely benefit these guys.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. Hal_10000 says:

    Funny how differently the Grand Jury process goes when you have DA who is interested in justice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  4. Gustopher says:

    I think dropping the false imprisonment charge makes a lot of sense. I doubt there is any jury that wouldn’t give the officers the benefit of the doubt on the arrest itself — and that might leave jurors feeling the officers are being overcharged and scapegoated.

    We expect the police to make mistakes, and we shouldn’t criminalize honest mistakes. We also should expect the police to protect those they have arrested, and not abuse them (whether that abuse kills, like in this case, or not).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. stonetools says:

    Let me note that somehow, the Cleveland police officers who engaged in what amounted to a drive by shooting of Tamar Rice have not been charged -six months later.

    What do they need to get them moving in Cleveland? I gaurantee you, though that if protesters show up there , and anything happens, we’ll hear talk of “outside agitators”,”thuggery”, “politicizing a tragedy,” “wait for the justice system to work,” “no excuse for riots”, etc

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  6. Gavrilo says:

    @stonetools:

    What do they need to get them moving in Cleveland? I gaurantee you, though that if protesters show up there , and anything happens, we’ll hear talk of “outside agitators”,”thuggery”, “politicizing a tragedy,” “wait for the justice system to work,” “no excuse for riots”, etc

    Hopefully, the protesters have learned to demand payment up-front. We don’t want another Ferguson.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    One or more of the officers, for example, may attempt to test the charges in a pre-trial hearing but, unless the prosecution is making some big mistakes here, it seems improbable that a judge would find that there is insufficient probable cause for the charges at issues.

    This is unlikely. MTD attacks on indictments in Maryland are limited to the sufficiency of the indictment(s), not the sufficiency of the evidence underlying them.

    Given Maryland’s demographic makeup overall, though, I’m not sure that the officers would have any more luck with a jury from outside of Baltimore than they would with one from inside the city itself.

    Then I would suggest doing a little more research about the counties surrounding Baltimore City, their racial and economic makeup and their voting patterns. It’s impossible for anyone who isn’t well acquainted with the dynamics of racism in the Baltimore metro area, how persistent and virulent it remains and how wide the divide of contempt is with respect to how those suburbanites view inner city Baltimore to really grasp how deadly a change of venue to one of those surrounding counties (which historically are the normal recipient venues of cases granted COV in Baltimore City courts) is likely to be. I’m honestly not trying to start anything here, and I recognize that racism persists in many places, but there are few of them in which the demarcating lines between inner city black and suburban white remain so vividly delineated and protected. It will have an effect, I’d argue a profound one, if COV is granted, and I think for multiple reasons that it is likely to be granted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  8. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mu:

    Seems to me they dropped the false imprisonment charges to avoid a “if the glove don’t fit” situation where the defense argues if the arrest was legal than everything else was legal.

    Nothing precludes their attorneys from still making that argument, irrespective of whether she chose to attempt to seek indictment on the FI charges. The scenario that seems to be playing out is that the knife appears to have been legal under Maryland state law, but illegal under a more stringent provision of the Baltimore City Code (which would make the arrest legal), and Mosby missed that disparity in the rush to get charges filed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  9. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Funny how differently the Grand Jury process goes when you have DA who is interested in justice.

    Just playing devil’s advocate here, but Baltimore is an independent city – its grand juries (4 month terms) must be drawn only from residents residing within the city limits. Given the makeup of any potential jury pool drawn from that defined region, it’s impossible to completely negate the suggestion that the politics of race and poverty didn’t play some degree of role in the likelihood of indictments being returned.

    You can almost certainly expect to hear that argument, along with ones about Mosby’s public statements in the period leading up to the indictments, among others, to be employed by the defense in justifying a change of venue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  10. Modulo Myself says:

    It’s impossible for anyone who isn’t well acquainted with the dynamics of racism in the Baltimore metro area, how persistent and virulent it remains and how wide the divide of contempt is with respect to how those suburbanites view inner city Baltimore to really grasp how deadly a change of venue to one of those surrounding counties (which historically are the normal recipient venues of cases granted COV in Baltimore City courts) is likely to be.

    It depends. In the last month, I’ve heard several suburbanites from Baltimore sound off about inner-city African-Americans as if they were all thugs and rioters, and yet also recount bad experiences with the Baltimore PD. This trial, if Mosby is smart, is about the Baltimore PD. Freddie Gray is not part of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Gray shouldn’t be a part of it, but he unavoidably will be. His extensive criminal history is what resulted in him being already known to at least one of the officers who initiated the detention, and they’ll assert the premise that the presence of a known felon in a high crime area constitutes reasonable suspicion to detain in and of itself. In other words, his criminal past becomes a fact of their case, and there’s little, if anything, Mosby can do to keep it out of the trial(s).

    In another set of circumstances, I might feel a little more optimistic about the chances of conviction after a COV, but the defense in this case absolutely will put Gray on trial and paint him to those suburbanites as a career criminal / heroin dealer / the boogeyman who threatens their suburban idyll. It’ll become a matter of which offender they dislike more, and Maryland law (by constitutional mandate) requires unanimous convictions.

    Not fair, no, not even remotely, but it will happen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  12. Gavrilo says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    This trial, if Mosby is smart, is about the Baltimore PD. Freddie Gray is not part of it.

    Agreed. Fwck whether or not these six cops actually committed crimes relating to the death of Freddie Gray. They should be made to answer for the decades of Baltimore PD brutality. Justice demands it! If they don’t like it, they never should have become cops in the first place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  13. Gavrilo says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    His extensive criminal history is what resulted in him being already known to at least one of the officers who initiated the detention, and they’ll assert the premise that the presence of a known felon in a high crime area constitutes reasonable suspicion to detain in and of itself.

    That, and the fact that he ran from the cops, which is reasonable suspicion to detain a suspect in just about every jurisdiction in America.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6

  14. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Note: this should read

    the premise that the presence of a known felon in a high crime area [who engages in unprovoked flight from the police] constitutes reasonable suspicion to detain in and of itself.

    Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143 (1972) and Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119 (2000)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Correct. I was just amending my previous comment to include that premise when you posted this one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Fwck whether or not these six cops actually committed crimes relating to the death of Freddie Gray. They should be made to answer for the decades of Baltimore PD brutality. Justice demands it! If they don’t like it, they never should have become cops in the first place.

    I’m sure Freddy Gray, as he was getting slammed around in the back of the van was saying to himself, “Fwck this sh!t, I never should have been born black in East Baltimore and moved to a lead lined tenement. Can I quit now?” but yes, these 6 cops are just as pure as the driven snow, 6 exceedingly good apples in the rotten barrel that is the Baltimore PD. Just like that good man Darren Hunt, who was not at all a product of his environment either…

    Funny how no matter how the coin gets flipped, it always comes up heads for some, and tails for others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Clarification: did you mean to refer to Darren Wilson, the officer who shot the guy in Ferguson, or Darren Hunt, the guy who was shot by the police in Utah?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    @Gustopher:

    We expect the police to make mistakes, and we shouldn’t criminalize honest mistakes.

    You know who routinely criminalizes honest mistakes?

    The police.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  19. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Not fair, no, not even remotely, but it will happen.”

    Isn’t this exactly the scenario you were crowing gleefully about just a little while ago? That any white jury from the suburbs would let the cops off, and you wanted to give money to the defense team to help that happen?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    You’ve already been advised as to my position (and Joyner’s) regarding rehashing this issue from earlier threads. It remains in effect. Focus on the topic and rebut if you feel that to be warranted, not what you perceive to be the motivations of the commenter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  21. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: This is the same subject, and I’m wondering if you have now changed your mind and feel it would be a miscarriage of justice for the officers to get off because of a jury that hates poor blacks, or if you still think this is the way justice should work in this country.

    I’m trying to understand your point of view here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  22. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    I’m not tendering, nor will I tender, an opinion on the moral aspects of this situation either way.

    I am explaining the process going forward, the factors which will have an influence on it and, where I think it to be pertinent, the underlying causes of those factors. My point of view, as it were, is that of an attorney analyzing a legal proceeding. You’re free to rebut that analysis if you feel it to be warranted, but that’s the limit of what I will respond to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6

  23. Tyrell says:

    There doesn’t seem to be enough evidence for murder charges or higher level manslaughter charges. Possibly some sort of negligence. But there are other possible explanations for what happened: a fall, some sort of mob hit, assaulted by another prisoner, or struggling to get loose.
    This could be a Zimmerman verdict repeat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  24. jukeboxgrad says:

    HL92:

    the premise that the presence of a known felon in a high crime area [who engages in unprovoked flight from the police] constitutes reasonable suspicion to detain in and of itself

    It appears that the prosecution does not dispute this.

    the defense in this case absolutely will put Gray on trial and paint him to those suburbanites as a career criminal / heroin dealer / the boogeyman who threatens their suburban idyll

    Since the prosecution is not claiming that the arrest was wrong, how is Gray’s record relevant and admissible? The police are obliged to treat every prisoner responsibly, even if the prisoner is a bad person.

    Also, I have seen no evidence that Gray was ever convicted as a “heroin dealer.” If you have seen that evidence, could you please share it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  25. Rafer Janders says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    But the defense in this case absolutely will put Gray on trial and paint him to those suburbanites as a career criminal / heroin dealer / the boogeyman who threatens their suburban idyll.

    How, exactly, would any of this be introduced into evidence?

    (Also, too, there’s no definitive evidence that Gray was in any way a heroin dealer. This is a lie you repeated on the previous thread that you utterly failed to substantiate).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    You’ve already been advised as to my position (and Joyner’s) regarding rehashing this issue from earlier threads. It remains in effect.

    Jesus, what a pompous blowhard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5