Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Media That Still Doesn't Get It

She gets points for airing it out it court.
So said Fraser Smith on WYPR this morning, referring to State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her prosecution of six police officers following the death of Freddie Gray.

Meanwhile an attorney and law professor, John Banzhaf, has filed multiple complaints with the Attorney Greivance Commission against Mosby and her trial team, arguing that the exact same conduct deserves censure and disbarment.  

Who's right?  In principle, if not in sanction, Banzhaf.  Mosby will certainly be reprimanded for her press conference announcing charges last year, for which there is ample precedent (former State's Attorney Doug Gansler of Montgomery County got in trouble for his press conferences.)  And the more she continues with these trials, despite the rejection of all her theories of a crime by Judge Barry Williams, the more she risks further sanctions.

Prosecutors do not get points for "airing" issues through unfounded criminal trials, trials that ruin people's lives and cost citizens precious tax dollars and use of criminal justice resources.  They deserve rebuke. 

Prosecutors are charged with following the evidence and the law wherever it takes them.  Trials for political purposes threaten the very foundation of the criminal justice system.  One cannot watch or read To Kill a Mockingbird without feeling sick to one's stomach.  From a prosecutor's point of view, how is this different?  How does one justify doing what Mosby and her team did - inventing new theories of crime, claiming facts they can't prove - to paint six individuals as criminals for what, at worst, was a police department failing in transportation procedures?  Injustice is injustice, and when a prosecutor perpetuates it by pandering to a mentality - be it racist, anti-police, or whatever the point of view - we all lose. 

If an "airing out" of what happened was necessary, Mosby had the example of the Ferguson prosecutor:  do a thorough investigation using the grand jury, explain the evidence vis-a-vis the law, and make all those records public. That prosecutor was then backed up by a federal investigation, because he did it the right way. People can still argue about the implications of the evidence, like they are doing now in the Gray acquittals. And Gray's death itself has led to new procedures for the police department.  We didn't need these baseless criminal cases to spur reforms, throwing six people with careers and families to the wolves.

My stomach turns when I see hypocrites like Doug Colbert on the news every night, relishing what Mosby and his buddy Schatzow are doing, when he would be screaming from the mountain tops had the defendants been poor African Americans rather than police officers.  Anyone sitting in a law professor's chair, who advocates injustice for any reason, disgraces his profession. Colbert is a stain on the University of Maryland School of Law.  

I don't read Fraser Smith, the Baltimore Sun, or the Washington Post (which is also loathe to criticize Mosby) as enjoying what Mosby is doing, like Colbert does.  But they are just as ignorant when they excuse her conduct and give her points for effort.  

Mosby's initial press conference was unethical for a prosecutor by announcing her sympathy with the rioters and her intention to get the justice that they wanted, not what justice demanded.  

Mosby lied when she said she used the Sheriff's office to investigate what happened.  She paid no attention to the internal police investigation.  She failed to use the Grand Jury to investigate.  Her "parallel investigation" was rushed and superficial.  Her failure to properly investigate and analyze both the factual and legal aspects of what happened to Gray led to fancy footwork and legal creativity to keep the cases going, but ultimately the sound rejection of her charges.  

I am not interested in hearing from media outlets that never met a police officer who did anything wrong.  I want to hear from WYPR, from the Sun, from the Post, that injustice does not serve justice.  That "airing it out in court" is not a reason to drag six individuals and the city through trials.  That Mosby's inexperience, and her failure to use career prosecutors to advise her, led to an unnecessary and unfair spectacle that has undermined trust in her office and the criminal justice system. 

But I won't be holding my breath while I'm waiting to hear it. 


  1. Page,
    I remember the good days at the CJCC when Doug Colbert would spin some story about some mythical bail injustice and you were there to refute him with FACTS. He still hasn't learned that Facts trump Fiction in the Legal Arena.
    Vic Gearhart

  2. Miss Croyder,
    I was beginning to wonder if I was the only person having trouble believing Colbert is a law professor. His pronouncements during these trials displayed an obvious absence of impartiality, and a total lack of concern for justice. His not-so-subtle inferences questioning the veracity of officer testimony and validity of bench trials for officers are mind boggling. His comments are not what you expect from a professor of jurisprudence. You expect a sense of fair-minded, thoughtful opinion (e.g. University of Baltimore law professor Jaros).
    If it wasn't for wanting to hear Warren Brown's take on the proceedings, I would have stopped watching TV coverage. You stated we don't need baseless criminal cases to spur reform. Colbert disagrees: "I commend the prosecutor for bringing this case to the public's attention with the hope there will be reforms done," University of Maryland School of Law professor Doug Colbert said. That was after Officer Goodson's acquittal. I agree, he is a sad representative for UofMD School of Law.
    Charles Gilbert

    1. The other sorry part of the Colbert story is how the press keeps presenting him as an unbiased point of view, when he worked closely with prosecutor Schatzow on a major civil case on the rights of defendants and now is a shill for him every step of the way.

    2. Page,
      If you write about Mosby's ridiculous statement today- can you please mention how Mosby had no issue accepting gifts after filing charges?

  3. We have witnessed a near-total collapse of journalistic integrity here. The Sun reporters have apparently decided to ignore the "bootleg" copy of the autopsy report made available to them long, long ago. That report opines it is not "likely" the spinal injury would have occurred, had Gray remained in the prone position he was placed in. It goes on to say that Gray could have got to his feet, after being shackled, in which position he "would have been hunched over with his neck in a flexed position," putting himself "at risk for an unsupported fall." Does any other explanation make sense? And didn't Bledsoe grudgingly concede, in the Rice trial, that this is probably what occurred? And why would Gray do something so reckless as to reject the safety of the bench, in order to stand, if not to resume attempts to "rock" the van? The determination of the media not to violate the taboo against "blaming the victim" has confused the public. Little wonder that those depending on the media for information think the decisions of the court incomprehensible.

    Not to pretend to legal acumen here, but I don't offhand see any way the judge could have found any defendant guilty without setting himself up for certain reversal on appeal. I am particularly troubled by his refusal to address the "intervening cause" represented by Gray's self-destructive behavior, and his criticism of Goodson for his failure to seat-belt him once he had apparently become "docile." One wonders what authority is here relied on for the proposition that detainees with a recent history of combative behavior will telegraph the risk that they may bite, butt or spit upon the officer attempting to restrain them. And Gray didn't remain "docile" for long, as witnessed by the loud "banging" noises heard by Donta Allen on the last leg of the journey.

    The real problem with this case is that, to those who have embraced the "progressive" mantra, it is simply too big to fail.

  4. Page,
    Did you hear Mosby's Impact victim statement at the press conference today??
    Seriously. I am disgusted.