Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Texas-Sized Lesson

A sensational story, garnering national coverage. Widespread calls for an immediate criminal investigation. Ideologues on the left and right shouting their preconceived condemnations.

The Freddie Gray case?  To this point, yes.  But here's what happened next:

A responsible, ethical prosecutor made a promise to "follow the evidence wherever it leads."  He took his time, using the powerful tools that prosecutors have at their disposal to find the truth.  

Two months later, the accusations of criminal conduct turned on their head:  the accused was proved innocent, and the accusers indicted instead.

Now I don't perceive Texas to be a beacon of enlightenment when it comes to criminal justice.  Its citizens can openly carry guns with the backing of strong right-to-use-force laws.  It executes more prisoners than any other state.  

But Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, a Republican, refused to bow to political and social pressure when pro-life, self-styled "investigators" accused Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of selling fetal tissue for profit.  Instead, Anderson launched a two-month investigation, using a Grand Jury, and not only cleared Planned Parenthood, but indicted its accusers.

State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, his Baltimore counterpart, took a mere two weeks to investigate the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, ignoring all the standard investigative tools at her disposal. Instead of  "following the evidence wherever it leads" she predetermined the result, abandoning her prosecutorial ethics for politics, ideology, and career.  As a result, six Baltimore police officers innocent of any crime are being dragged through costly trials, and the city's top prosecutors, instead of leading the city through a crime spike sparked in large part by their own actions, are trying to salvage their cases "by any and all means necessary."  (Mosby's own words while investigating the Gray case.) 

Mosby's in good company with the political leaders at the Texas state level, who plan to continue their own investigations of Planned Parenthood because the original accusations fit their pro-life ideology. The editors of our own Baltimore Sun won't throw in the towel, either. Today, in an editorial condemning the twitter comments of a city police officer, they wrote:

Freddie Gray's arrest and death may or may not have involved criminal behavior by police, but it certainly conveyed the impression that Baltimore police are entirely unsympathetic to many in the city they serve — and that's putting it as generously as possible.

They refuse to concede that Mosby's evidence does not reveal criminal activity after their long crusade for criminal trials,  and still claim that at the very least both the arrest (!) and the death of Gray prove that Baltimore police are, at best, "entirely unsympathetic" to citizens.  They ignore anything that contradicts this narrative, including the evidence that police van driver Caesar Goodson asked Officer William Porter to check on Gray, who not only did check but helped him off the van floor.    

But it's a lost cause when it comes to ideologues, whether they come from the right or the left.  Thank goodness for prosecutors like Devon Anderson, who give me hope that ethics, objectivity and professionalism live somewhere, if not in Baltimore.  


  1. Miss Croyder,
    I couldn't agree with you more about DA Devon Anderson following the standards of his profession, as opposed to what has occurred in Baltimore with criminal charges brought against the six officers. It is not only the lacking evidence of criminal intent, but the manner of investigation and speed of those charges that is so troubling. Who did this investigation? What is their experience in death investigations? Why was the BPD homicide unit--the entity tasked with death investigations in Baltimore--irrelevant? Did the major in the Baltimore Sheriff's Office who signed the statement of charges actually write them, and what is his experience in death investigations? How many death investigations have ever been done by the Sheriff's Office? I think these questions are legitimate, because of the incredible speed with which the charges were brought. I'm not aware of the media, especially The Sun, asking these, or similar, questions. You refer to an editorial about some tweets by a BPD officer. I thought it was an exceptially vicious attack on an individual, and as you pointed out, a more subtle indictment of all BPD officers. I would like to include the following letter to the editors I sent, which they chose not to publish:
    The sanctimonious position of the Sun Editorial Board in The Officer's Tweets (Jan. 27) is simply astounding. In the editorial you state, "Through his thoughtless actions, Mr. Gearhart has presented himself not only as someone who chose his career field unwisely but as a misanthrope living on the city taxpayers' dime..." I could not find in the editorial any reference to "thoughtless actions" Lt. Victor Gearhart may have done as a police officer for 33 years. I do know that early in his career Victor Gearhart, after working his regular shift for the police department, he would then do a night shift of foot patrol in the high-rise projects for the Baltimore Housing Authority. He did this several times a week for years. For safety reasons, these were two-person patrols. I worked with him on many occasions. I witnessed him treat everyone with respect and fairness. He appeared dedicated, and did nothing that would make one think he had chosen his career unwisely. I, of course, was not present for the thousands of interactions he has had with citizens during his career, but would be shocked if there have been any sustained charges of mistreatment of any citizen, or racist behavior. Calling him a misanthrope--that is hyperbole at its worse. As is the case with 99.9 percent of the Baltimore Police Officers, the dimes of the city taxpayers were well spent on Lt. Gearhart. I have not read his tweets, but it is my understanding Lt. Gearhart does not identify his occupation, nor present himself as representing any entity. Would we even know this tweeter was a police officer if not for The Sun? Shouldn't he be judged as a police officer by his actions as a police officer, and not his words as an anonymous tweeter. Maybe his words are just a result of his frustration with the bias of the media. Has The Baltimore Sun ever questioned the motivation and professionalism of Marilyn Mosby? Why hasn't The Sun wondered where is the evidence of criminal intent of the six officers? After the mistrial of Officer Porter, The Sun ran a front page article titled Hung Jury Might Not Hurt State. It is stated in the lead paragraph that the mistrial will not hurt the prosecutors' chances of conviction. Why not say it won't hurt the chances of a presumed innocent defendent being acquitted?
    Finally, I'm sure many readers disapproved of your degrading officers providing building security--"surely not one of the department's most prestigious assignments." The Sun is nothing, if not arrogant.

    Thanks for your blog.
    You're providing a needed perspective in these times when so many public officials forget/disregard the oath of their respective office.
    Charles Gilbert
    (BPD retiree)

  2. Thanks, Ms. Croyder, for another insightful column. I hope that your renewed hope in the power of ethics and professionalism remains justified. But you'll have to be hopeful for both of us. I'm sticking with cynicism since it's got such a good track record.

  3. Lauren Reeder, an assistant district attorney under Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, has been a member of the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Board of Directors since 2013. Reeder and Anderson both claim that Reeder had nothing to do with the Grand Jury indictment of undercover investigator David Daleiden, and the failure to charge Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast with anything. Yeah, right.