The six Baltimore police officers suspended in the Freddie Gray case have been criminally charged, the city’s top prosecutor announced Friday morning…

[Marilyn] Mosby said members of her police integrity unit began their investigation on the Gray case beginning April 13, the day after his arrest. She said her investigative team reviewed video footage numerous times, interviewed and canvassed witnesses and repeatedly reviewed police statements and medical documents, among other tasks.

“The findings of our comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation, coupled with the medical examiner’s determination that Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide, which we received today, has led us to believe we have probable cause to file criminal charges,” Mosby said.

Reacting to news of the charges, President Barack Obama called it “absolutely vital that the truth come out.”

“What I think the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth,” the president said. “That’s what people around the country expect.”

As of Friday afternoon, five of the six officers were in custody, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

Cheers erupted as City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that charges were being filed against the six officers involved in the apprehension, arrest and death of Freddie Gray. That feeling of elation reverberated through the streets of Baltimore, and especially the Penn-North neighborhood that was the scene of Monday’s riots, as residents applauded the decision to indict…

People could be seen giving each other high-fives and hugging, while others simply lined the sidewalks to take in the chorus of car horns that blared repeatedly…

“The city is phenomenal right now. Right now, it’s like Baltimore, thank you for listening, thank you for everyone constantly protesting for the betterment of the good. Everyone that’s being negative needs to stop being negative, it’s so simple as smiling at a baby, to let go of the nonsense,” [one resident] said. “It’s awesome, it’s super great.”…

“The horns are sounding for hope and change in our community,” Baltimore resident Kenji Scott said.

As she ran for office last fall, Ms. Mosby vowed to be tougher on violent criminals and also more aggressive on police misconduct. People like Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West was killed after a violent scuffle with police, campaigned forcefully for her — in part, Ms. Jones said, to get rid of her predecessor, Gregg L. Bernstein…

“I’m so happy, I’m so excited I can’t stop crying,” Ms. Jones said Friday, moments after Ms. Mosby’s announcement, which she saw on television while working at the preschool where she teaches.

“She gave us her word. I said, ‘How will you handle police brutality?’ She said, ‘If you put me in this chair, I don’t care if they are in uniform or not. I come from a family of officers. Some are good, some are bad, I will hold everybody accountable to the law.’ And thank you, Jesus, she lived it out.”

“She better be ready. It’s going to be baptism by fire,” said J. Wyndal Gordon, a longtime defense attorney in Baltimore who has litigated against officers in excessive-force cases. “How she will handle this will define her administration and the future of that office.”…

Warren Brown, a veteran Baltimore defense attorney who supported Mosby’s opponent, said Mosby’s handling of the Gray case would be inextricably linked to her and her husband’s political aspirations. He said Mosby was being pressured to charge the officers with murder, which he doesn’t think the evidence supports.

“She is a politician; her husband is a politician. This is a watershed event,” Brown said.

A Fraternal Order of Police lodge is asking Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to appoint a special prosecutor to the Freddie Gray investigation because of her personal connection to the Gray family’s attorney, William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr., and her marriage to a city councilman…

Ryan requests that Mosby appoint a “Special Independent Prosecutor.”

“I have very deep concerns about the many conflicts of interest presented by your office conducting an investigation in this case,” the letter states.

“These conflicts include your personal and professional relations with Gray family attorney, William Murphy, and the lead prosecutor’s connections with members of the local media,” the letter states. “Based on several nationally televised interviews, these reporters are likely to be witnesses in any potential litigation regarding this incident.”

Is There Evidence Beyond Failure to Restrain With Seatbelt? Mosby did not give any such evidence, or tell any such story. She stated, rather, that Gray’s injuries occurred “while Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seatbelt” in custody of the police. The elements of depraved-heart murder generally include “the willful doing of a dangerous and reckless act with wanton indifference to the consequences and perils involved… This highly blameworthy not one of mere negligence. It is not merely one even of gross criminal negligence. It involves rather the deliberate perpetration of a knowingly dangerous act with reckless and wanton unconcern and indifference as to whether anyone is harmed or not.”

Mosby presented no evidence of such motivation or activity. Manslaughter generally requires someone be killed by the act of the defendant, that the act was either inherently dangerous or done with reckless disregard for human life, and that the defendant should have known his or her conduct threatened life. Again, Mosby may have evidence of this, but her narrative did not present those elements here: it would be difficult to classify failing to seatbelt someone as reckless disregard for human life. Only nine days before Gray died, police regulations began requiring a seatbelt.

On Twitter, the reaction was genuine surprise. And for good reason. It is extraordinarily rare for police to face criminal charges. “Among the thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police since 2005,” notes the Washington Post in a recent look at police violence, “only 54 officers have been charged.” And in Maryland, with its high rate of “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement, police officers were charged with crimes in less than 2 percent of cases where a civilian died. No, Gray’s death wasn’t a shooting. But these charges challenge the pattern.

The choice to charge the officers was a legal one. That said, it’s hard to dismiss the optics of Baltimore’s leadership. Mosby is black. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts is black. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is black. Descriptive representation hasn’t solved the city’s problems, but compared with the leadership of a city like Ferguson, there’s a chance these leaders have closer ties to their constituents and a better finger on the pulse of the community. Between the protests and the riots and the general discontent—easily heard in any casual conversation among Baltimoreans over the last week—officials had to have known that no charges would turn a volatile situation dangerous…

[I]f the problem of police violence is, in part, a problem of accountability, then the charges are important, regardless of what comes next. In so many words, the city of Baltimore has said that these officers were wrong: That Freddie Gray’s life mattered, that his death shouldn’t have happened, and that wearing a badge doesn’t mean you’re not responsible.

Already, I have seen a lot of conservatives on twitter decry this decision as politically motivated and premature – a move designed to satisfy the mob mentality in Baltimore. I don’t really know whether that’s true in this particular case or not. I do know that if you flip the script on that accusation, police make arrests all the time to quiet public outcries of various kinds so I’m not tremendously moved by the accusation just because the people charged in this case are police.

More to the point, if these particular cops were charged too hastily or with insufficient evidence, they are virtually the only cops in America to have suffered this fate. In fact, by and large police are the beneficiaries of an extraordinary level of deference in terms of charging decisions, as compared to the general populace. As I set forth a couple days ago, they are indicted/charged for excessive force at shockingly – and shamefully – low rates and are convicted at rates that boggle the mind…

Ordinary citizens – which is to say, non-cops – are arrested by cops and charged by DAs with far less evidence than has been dug up in this Freddie Gray case. Whether that’s fair or not is a different discussion but it is the reality and ought to inform whether we feel sorry for these cops because they might have to go through the ordeal of a criminal trial (probably with the benefit of union appointed and paid-for lawyers). And at the end of the day, if they have to go to trial, these cops will be twice as likely to get acquitted as ordinary citizens would be.

The officers deserve due process like anyone else, and ought to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, their employment status should not have to be tied into those due process rights—it’s not how the Constitution works. But because of the Marlyand Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and the Baltimore union contract, it is how employment with the police department works. Not only did the six officers have 10 days to line up legal representation and give a statement to authorities—in an interrogation process that looks very different than the one you or I would go through—they remain employed by the Baltimore Police Department despite the damage they’ve done to the department’s already poor reputation. They will continue to draw paychecks, and cost city taxpayers money, until they are found guilty. Only then can the city begin the process of firing them. If they are found not guilty, then thanks to the privileges granted police, they could be put back on the street even if Baltimore doesn’t want them there. That doesn’t sound like a democracy or a republic to me.

YouGov’s latest research shows that a significant racial divide persists on whether or not the police in most cities treat blacks as fairly as whites. Going back to the Rodney King era white Americans have narrowly tended to agree rather than disagree with the assertion that blacks are treated as fairly as whites by the police (47%-40%, Washington Post/ABC 1992). Even today, after the death of Freddie Gray, 41% of white Americans think that blacks are treated as fairly as whites while 34% disagree. Among black Americans, however, only 13% think that they are treated as fairly as whites by the police, while 76% disagree. 

Despite the continued tendency among white Americans to think that the police treat black Americans fairly, one area has seen a noteworthy shift in opinion in recent months. Asked whether the death of Freddie Gray was an isolated incident or part of the broader pattern of how black men are treated by the police, white opinion is now split, with 38% saying that it is part of a broader pattern and 36% saying that it is an isolated incident. In January, however, a majority of white Americans (56%) said that the death of Michael Brown was an isolated incident and did not reflect a broader pattern.

Racism is too simplistic an explanation for all of this, as is an idea that “it’s complicated” where what’s really meant is “complicated racism.” Welfare was opened up by liberals who thought they were doing black people a favor, often at the behest of black protesters. The Rockefeller drug laws that ended up penalizing crack over powdered cocaine were supported by black Congress members…

A certain contingent will not be disabused of the idea that inner-city Baltimore is the product of racism alone, as opposed to a complex cocktail of racism in the past, misapplied benevolence afterwards, and a cyclic process of dissonance now. Their take on all of this is better at assuaging white guilt than telling us where to go from here in a real world…

Today, regardless of the complexities of how we got here, the main thing that keeps black America feeling alienated in its own land is the police. It’s what animated the Black Panthers. It’s what drove an entire genre of rap, celebrated by intellectuals as poetic prophecy. It’s what a black person brings up if asked why they think racism is important. It’s what has driven the arc of black history since last summer…

[O]ne simple thing is imperative: America must de-escalate the persistent tensions between cops and young black men. The easiest and most sensible way to do that is to interrupt the foolish War on Drugs. The gradual easing of laws against marijuana sale and purchase are a start. The tenor of black America’s response to cops murdering black men should be a spur to going further.

Via Breitbart.

Dershowitz lamented that “this is a very sad day for justice” and told Steve Malzberg that Mosby acted out of a “desire to prevent riots.” It will be “virtually impossible,” he predicted, for the six officers involved to get a fair trial.

And as for murder charges, Dershowitz said there’s “no plausible, hypothetical, conceivable case for murder” and “this is a show trial.” He predicted that Mosby might get removed as prosecutor and Baltimore citizens may get upset if and/or when they “move to a place with a different demographic.”

Via RCP. Content warning.