Baltimore: Prosecutor in spotlight with swift action against six cops

Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby stole the spotlight on Friday with her surprisingly swift decision to bring criminal charges against six police officers in the arrest and death in April of a 25-year-old black man.

world Updated: May 02, 2015 01:57 IST
Baltimore,Marilyn Mosby,Freddie Gray

Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby stole the spotlight on Friday with her surprisingly swift decision to bring criminal charges against six police officers in the arrest and death in April of a 25-year-old black man.

Only four months in the job, the city's 35-year-old African-American state's attorney, drew cheers from a crowd at the news conference where she announced the charges. But the city's Fraternal Order of Police defended the officers and said

Mosby's marriage to Baltimore City councilman Nick Mosby posed a conflict of interest.

Mosby said the dead man, Freddie Gray, had suffered a critical neck injury while riding in a police van. Prosecutors charged the driver of the police van with second-degree murder based on the allegation he showed callous indifference towardGray after his arrest on April 12. Gray died a week later in hospital.

Mosby's swift legal action stood in contrast to cases last year in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City where, aftermonths of investigation, prosecutors said officers had not broken the law in killings of unarmed black men.

The daughter and granddaughter of police officers, Mosby promised during her election campaign last year to turn back years of violent crime in the predominantly black city of 620,000 and to rebuild the public's trust in the criminal justice system.

"Police brutality is completely inexcusable. I'm going to apply justice fairly, even to those who wear a badge," Mosby, a Democrat, told the Baltimore Sun newspaper last year.

In campaign commercials, Mosby said she was inspired to become a prosecutor by the way the district attorney dealt with her family while investigating the killing of her teenage cousin on the doorstep of her family's Boston-area home in 1994.

Interviewed by Baltimore magazine before she took office in January, Mosby said she knew that the majority of police were hard-working officers who risked their lives everyday but that they should not be allowed to usurp their authority.

"They're in place to protect and serve, and if they abuse that authority what it does is it exacerbates the distrust within the criminal justice system and then we end up where we are today," she said then.

Her husband, with whom she has two daughters, this week told CNN: "She's a strong woman. You know, she was built for this."

80% conviction rate

With a degree from Boston College Law School, Mosby began her legal career as a law clerk in the Baltimore City State's Attorney office and worked her way up as an assistant state's attorney to the general trial division. During her campaign she said she had an overall 80% conviction rate.

She left to work as an insurance company lawyer before seeking the state's attorney's job.

In the Democratic Party primary in June, Mosby defeated the incumbent with 54% of the vote. She went on to trounce her write-in opponent in the November election.

In her announcement on Friday, Mosby said Gray was in handcuffs and shackles but otherwise unrestrained inside the moving police van in violation of department policy. The officers failed to provide medical attention even though Gray asked for help on the way to a booking center, she said.

Minutes after her announcement, motorists honked their horns in approval on city streets.

Nearly as quickly, the city's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 issued an open letter to Mosby, signed by lodge president Gene Ryan, asking that she appoint a special outside prosecutor to avoid any appearance of impropriety. It said her husband's political future stood to gain or lose from the outcome of her investigation.

At the news conference, Mosby defended the independence of her office's investigation, saying: "I thought it was very important to have an independent analysis as to what took place and transpired from the very beginning. We are an independent agency from the police department."

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First Published: May 02, 2015 01:48 IST