Yesterday Ed broke the news about an agreement which had been reached between the City of Baltimore and the family of Freddie Gray in which they would be paid $6.4M to avoid any sort of civil claims or liabilities on the part of the city. The Baltimore PD is up in arms and even the legal analysts at CNN seem to be gobsmacked, but the City Council has met and held a vote and, well… the check is in the mail.
Baltimore officials approved a $6.4 million deal Wednesday to settle all civil claims tied to the death of Freddie Gray.
Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while he was transported in a Baltimore police van in April.
The settlement does not “represent any judgment” on the guilt or innocence of the six police officers charged in the case, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “This settlement represents an opportunity to bring closure the Gray family, the community and the city.”
The mayor took to the podium shortly after the payment was approved and attempted to assuage her critics with a number of assurances. Among these, she said, “I acknowledge the deal is unusual.” She was also quick to point out that, “it’s completely unrelated to the criminal trial.” The general gist of her comments sounded much like what Ed surmised last night.
Perhaps this will be enough for calm to prevail as the criminal case against the police officers unfold. This still may not be enough to prevent unrest in case of a dismissal or not-guilty verdict in court, but if it does, it’s probably money well spent for Baltimore.
With all due respect to Ed, allow me to offer a somewhat… different take on the matter. This decision by the council and the statements coming from the mayor are nothing short of insane.
As I noted above, even the legal beagles on CNN this morning (who have been more than a little sympathetic to the rioters in the past) were left scratching their heads and describing Rawlings-Blake as being detached from reality. The entire idea of providing this sort of payment to the Gray family is based on the assumption that there was a “wrongful death” and that they should therefore be compensated for it. Until the trials are concluded and there is a finding of innocence or guilt, we have no idea if the death in question was “wrongful” or not. Further, they have just completely poisoned the well as far as the jury pool for the officers (not that it was looking that promising in terms of being unbiased to begin with) because everyone who hears of the settlement – which would be everyone in the city – is going to take that as an admission of guilt. Why would you provide the payout if you did nothing wrong?
This is just the latest in a long line of self-induced errors by both the Mayor and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. In fact, they’ve been poisoning the well on this case since before there was even an arraignment. For her part, Mosby made her first public appearance on the case back in June and told the assembled crowd that she “heard your call of no justice no peace.” She went on to say that their peace was needed, “as I work to deliver justice on behalf of Freddie Gray.”
You’ll notice that the State’s Attorney did not say that she was working to deliver justice for the people. Nor was she just delivering justice in general. She was determined to deliver justice for Freddie Gray. She essentially sealed everyone’s collective fate at that point because she’d found the officers guilty before the charges were even filed.
The Mayor did the same thing shortly thereafter, coming flat out and saying, “we will get justice for Freddie Gray.”
This payment is just the next step in a long line of signals from City Hall that the case was over before it began. It’s also demonstrated that the mob rules in Baltimore and the city government has no stomach for any confrontations. They would rather pay people off in an effort to avoid trouble. And to what effect? If the cops are somehow found not guilty and the charges are dismissed, the Mayor and the State’s Attorney have already primed the pump for people to assume that justice was not in fact done. In that event, writing a check to the Gray family is unlikely to prevent a new round of riots, looting and arson. If they really wanted to improve the situation and send a strong signal about justice, both Mosby and Rawlings-Blake should resign immediately. This level of incompetence is simply staggering.
I don’t know if those six officers are guilty of any of the charges. But that’s the point… nobody knows yet, and we won’t know until they’ve had their day in court. But if they are found guilty they should be primed for an appeal, hopefully to be heard elsewhere, because City Hall has been setting them up for failure since day one.