Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Freddie Gray was arrested without injury and placed into a police van for transport. Once there he began physically shaking the van, so he was shackled and placed prone on the floor. At some point he attempted to get up while the van was moving and suffered a fall that broke his neck, his judgment affected by the illegal drugs in his system. When officers realized he needed medical attention, they called for help.
The leaked autopsy report on Gray fully supports this theory of the case. No wonder State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby wanted it kept from the public. Far from being the damning conclusion of policy brutality and homicide, the report offers various scenarios of what happened, mostly pointing to a tragic accident. The defense does not need to establish any one scenario. Just the plausible existence of any of them would prevent Mosby from proving criminal behavior beyond a reasonable doubt, without some other smoking gun.
It's curious how the Medical Examiner's legal (not medical) conclusion of "homicide" coincides exactly with Mosby's theory of the case, despite the evidence of accident. Mosby had her charges ready to go before she even got the autopsy report. Perhaps Mosby not only knew what was coming, but influenced the legal conclusion herself. She then made sure to announce the legal conclusion to the world, but tried to hide the facts behind them.
Death by no seat belt or medical delay would ordinarily be a case headed for civil court. But Mosby, who announced her clear sympathy with those protesting police brutality, escalated the actual facts into a criminal case. As State's Attorney, she was the one person in the Freddie Gray saga who absolutely had to free herself of preconceptions and politics and follow the evidence wherever it took her. Instead, she has destroyed her own credibility, devastated the effectiveness of the police department, and harmed six individuals irreparably.
What to me remains most indicative of Mosby's mindset is her pursuit of the two arresting officers, who we now know for certain had nothing to do with Gray's death. On duty after Mosby's office urged greater crime suppression in that exact location, these officers justifiably pursued someone who fled from them on sight, and with ample legal precedent behind them, took him down and patted for weapons. By turning this into a crime, Mosby has told all police officers that they cannot do their jobs as they have been trained to do them.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Leonard Batts are taking all the heat for the crime spike since Mosby charged the six officers. No one locally wants to point the finger at Mosby. I will. It's mostly on her.
I was asked by a local journalist after the charges were announced whether the presence and experience of Michael Schatzow, one of Mosby's deputies, gave me any reassurance about the inexperienced Mosby. Schatzow had been a partner at Venable, LLC and a federal prosecutor early in his career. I replied no, that either Mosby was taking his advice or ignoring it.
I now conclude that Schatzow has enabled Mosby's incompetence. She pointed to him as a lead on the investigations, and he is the one responding to defense motions and asking for gag orders. He doesn't appear to know Fourth Amendment law or the elements of state crimes. And while the defense attorneys are doing nothing unexpected or inappropriate in defending their clients, Schatzow is engaging in verbal pyrotechnics more consistent with a shouting match than a professionally conducted criminal case. It's as though he thinks he can defeat the motions with nasty sarcasms rather than with evidence and the law.
Mosby's website boasts of Schatzow's participation in a lawsuit that ordered Maryland taxpayers to foot the bill for lawyers at commissioner hearings. The brief in that case used facts that were completely misleading. To quote Yogi Berra, it's deja vu all over again. The actual facts are not important to Team Mosby. They are interested only in results that are consistent with their point of view.