Questions Remain After Officers Charged in Death of Freddie Gray

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

On Friday, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby released her list of charges against all six officers involved in the arrest and death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died seven days after his arrest after his spine was 80 percent severed while in custody.

Mosby’s charges ranged from second degree depraved heart murder for the driver of the van to manslaughter to misconduct in office to false imprisonment. Her account of the events preceding Gray’s death was far from comprehensive: she said that Gray ran from police after making eye contact with them, that Gray was arrested despite the fact that “no crime was committed,” that Gray was not provided a medic. She mentioned multiple times that Gray had not been restrained by a seatbelt. Those are the only facts she related; she then launched into a political statement directed at rioters and protesters, explaining, “I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace.’ Your peace is sincerely needed.”

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Gene Ryan responded by stating, “As tragic as this situation is, none of the officers involved are responsible for the death of Mr. Gray. To the contrary, at all times, each of the officers diligently balanced their obligations to protect Mr. Gray and discharge their duties to protect the public.”

Obviously, major questions remain about the case, the charges, and the prosecutor. Here are some of those questions:

Is Marilyn Mosby Objective? The media asked whether St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch should have recused himself from the Michael Brown case based on the fact that his father was killed in the line of duty as a police officer. The media seem to be asking no such questions about Mosby, who has significantly more conflict of interest than McCulloch did: her husband is an elected Baltimore City Councilman, Nick Mosby, and his district contained some of the unrest. Nick Mosby did a controversial interview with Fox News this week in which he suggested that looters were justified in their rage; NPR ran a gushing piece headlined, “Councilman’s Star Rises Fast Amid Baltimore Unrest.”

Further, Mosby considers the Baltimore attorney for the Gray family, Bill Murphy, a close personal friend, and he gave her campaign donations when she ran for prosecutor. He was even on her transition team after her election.

Clearly, Mosby has political motivation in charging: her own statements at the charging demonstrate that she wants to appease protesters. She explained, “To the youth of this city, I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment, your moment, let’s make sure we have peaceful discussions… as young people our time is now.”

Was The Arrest of Freddie Gray Illegal? Mosby stated that the officers’ arrest of Gray was illegal, but that is unclear at best. As the Associated Press reported just two days ago, “several legal experts say that because he was standing in a drug-infested area, Gray’s decision to bolt on April 12 may have justified the decision by four bicycle-riding officers to pursue and detain him.”

Is There Evidence Beyond Failure to Restrain With Seatbelt? Mosby did not give any such evidence, or tell any such story. She stated, rather, that Gray’s injuries occurred “while Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seatbelt” in custody of the police. The elements of depraved-heart murder generally include “the willful doing of a dangerous and reckless act with wanton indifference to the consequences and perils involved… This highly blameworthy not one of mere negligence. It is not merely one even of gross criminal negligence. It involves rather the deliberate perpetration of a knowingly dangerous act with reckless and wanton unconcern and indifference as to whether anyone is harmed or not.”

Mosby presented no evidence of such motivation or activity. Manslaughter generally requires someone be killed by the act of the defendant, that the act was either inherently dangerous or done with reckless disregard for human life, and that the defendant should have known his or her conduct threatened life. Again, Mosby may have evidence of this, but her narrative did not present those elements here: it would be difficult to classify failing to seatbelt someone as reckless disregard for human life. Only nine days before Gray died, police regulations began requiring a seatbelt.

Is Medical “Homicide” Equivalent to Legal Homicide? Mosby said Gray’s death was “deemed a homicide” by the medical examiner. We know the answer to this question: no. According to Gregory Davis, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, there are five classifications of death for medical examiners: homicide, suicide, accident, natural, and undetermined. Homicide simply means, as Time reports, that “one person intentionally did something that led to the death of someone else. It doesn’t mean the death was intentional and it doesn’t mean it was a crime.”

Perhaps Mosby’s allegations are justified. We must wait to see the evidence. But these questions must all be countenanced before someone goes to jail.

Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.


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