You probably weren’t expecting to see another Freddie Gray headline in September of 2017, were you? If not, you’re to be forgiven since the last of the inappropriate and completely botched trials of the police officers involved in Gray’s arrest and subsequent death in custody ended more than a year ago. It remains the defining moment in the career of Maryland Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, though she somehow remains in office to this day.
So why would we be talking about it now? Back when the riots were first burning down Charm City in the wake of Gray’s death, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch took it upon herself to launch an investigation at the federal level to determine if any of the police officers involved had violated the suspect’s civil rights. Two and a half years later (and under a newly staffed Justice Department) the investigation has run its course. There will be no federal charges filed. (Baltimore Sun)
The U.S. Department of Justice will not bring charges against Baltimore police officers in connection with the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody in 2015, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The decision means no officers will be held criminally responsible for Gray’s death. The state previously filed local criminal charges against six officers in the case, but failed to secure a single conviction.
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Justice Department was conducting a criminal civil rights investigation into Gray’s death on April 27, 2015, the same day as Gray’s funeral and the eruption of rioting, looting and arson in Baltimore.
Lynch, who served under President Barack Obama, said at the time that the department would “continue our careful and deliberate examination of the facts in the coming days and weeks” to determine whether any officers should be charged with violating Gray’s civil rights.
This, as the kids like to say these days, is my shocked face.
It remains unclear precisely how many resources Lynch was throwing at that investigation once she decided to take it on. If the DoJ was working on it, they weren’t putting out much in the way of statements or press releases on their progress. Odds are that they initially wanted to wait and see what the local criminal trials against the police turned up rather than dispatching all of the people and resources needed to launch an entirely separate, parallel investigation themselves.
That theory gains a bit more weight when you look at how completely and utterly each and every one of Mosby’s attempts to prosecute the officers involved failed. Prosecutors developed an exacting timeline of every moment of Gray’s journey and a list of exhaustively questioned witnesses who had observed any portion of it. They had medical reports and physical evidence covering every aspect of the arrest. And even with all of that they couldn’t bring in a conviction. Was the Justice Department really going to dig up something that they missed?
This entire, tragic story was a dark moment in Baltimore’s history. It was a tragedy that Gray lost his life, but that was massively compounded when community leaders up to and including the Mayor (at the time) and the prosecutor jumped to conclusions and promised “justice for Freddie Gray” from the steps of City Hall. That inflamed tensions in a city already on edge and mayhem ensued. The trials broke the bonds of trust between City Hall and the police and since that time Baltimore’s crime rates have continued to skyrocket.
But with this move by the Justice Department, perhaps the last chapter has finally been written. Now if they can only get their gangs under control and restore some semblance of normality to their streets.