The Baltimore Judicial Railroad
The usual suspects are outraged Officer William Porter was not convicted of a felony in the transport and eventual death of Freddie Gray. From the Baltimore Sun editorial of December 17, "...after jurors failed to come to an unanimous decision on any of the four charges on Mr. Porter no doubt will serve as a disappointment to those wished for the verdict in this case to send a clear and unambiguous message."
In contrast, the statue of Lady Justice shows her with a blindfold and balance. She's not there to "send a message" but to determine if the accused is guilty of a criminal act. And one of the basic tenets of Western jurisprudence is the burden of proof falls upon the prosecution. The obvious desire for railroading the officer by the editors of the Sun (And let's be honest, the City Attorney and Mayor, the Department of Justice, and the usual race baiting poverty pimps like Jesse and Al) reminded me of something from my first district court case.
I booked a suspect for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and five months later I was subpoenaed. After the jury was selected, the judge spoke to them for a few minutes. After thanking them for doing their civic duty (Truthfully, a lot of people do dodge it), he explained masterfully to the jury of laypersons (and a rookie cop) how justice works. (From an almost 15 year old memory and the names have been changed to protect the guilty!):
"Ladies and gentlemen, the defendant, Mr. Smith, sits behind the table, he sits there innocent and only you can make him guilty in the eyes of the law. Mr. Smith has the absolute presumption of innocence. He is under no obligation to speak and none of us here, including myself, can force him to answer a question. Mr. Smith is under no obligation to present a defense, although he has hired one. And I am instructing you that you cannot make any inference of his guilt or innocence because of his not speaking or presenting a defense. Those are his rights.
The burden of proof in this matter falls completely on the shoulders of the prosecution, Mr.Jones. He must prove every element of his case to you, individually and in full. Mr. Jones must prove all elements of his case, in your mind, beyond a reasonable doubt (emphasis his). If he fails in doing that, or the defense successfully raises a reasonable doubt in just one element of the prosecution's case, you must acquit the defendant. Mr. Jones doesn’t have to prove beyond all doubt; that is an impossibility. And the prosecution is further at a disadvantage because he must present all of his evidence to the defense prior to trial so they can prepare for it. Mr. Jones cannot give the defense any surprises. However the defense is under no obligation to present any evidence to the prosecution until the trial."
Looking at the officers who have been railroaded by the Baltimore City State's Attorney, this case has been a travesty to the cause of justice. Ms. Marilyn Mosby, with at best evidence of department policy violation, indicted six officers for multiple felonies. Announcing the charges last summer, she praised herself multiple times, referred to “I” (26 times), “my” (12 times) but “me” thankfully only once (for a moment I thought I was listening to an Obama press conference) and basically condemned the defendants in a blatant attempt to poison the jury pool. Ms. Mosby then basked in the limelight, being the subject of multiple friendly news stories, brought up on the stage by Prince during his concert, and topped off by a full spread for Vogue magazine, a mélange of political ambition and inappropriate behavior. These facts did not stop the judge from refusing the defense motion for a change of venue because the defendants could not get an unbiased jury. So much for justice being blind.
Ms.Mosby denied the officers had probable cause to arrest Gray because he didn't have an "illegal weapon," yet her office refused to present the knife he was carrying to the officers’ lawyers for examination. She accused the officer of a false arrest, because the knife was found subsequent to his arrest. Any criminal attorney (or cop on the street) knows after a suspect has been detained he can be searched, and once the weapon is found, it’s fair game for prosecution. Knowing she had a very flimsily case, she tried to stop the release of the Gray autopsy report. Ridiculously she said her prosecutors, “…’have a duty to ensure a fair and impartial process for all parties involved’ and ‘will not be baited into litigating this case through the media.’”
Almost ten years ago America witnessed a major travesty of justice when a politically motived prosecutor named Mike Nifong attempted to make his career with the prosecution of a group of white college students accused of raping a black stripper. After his case fell apart, Nifong was removed from the case and the North Carolina Attorney General took over. The three students were completely exonerated and Nifong eventually lost his law license and was jailed. As she tried to railroad Officer Porter and the other officers, will Ms. Mosby face justice like Mr. Nifong? Time will tell. Only if she faces justice in the future, Ms. Mosby should pray she receives a more justice from the attorney who judges her.
Michael Thiac is a police patrol sergeant and a retired Army intelligence officer.