It’s now been more than three years since the day Freddie Gray was apprehended by the Baltimore Police department, leading to a series of events which resulted in his death while in custody. The turmoil which erupted after that became the stuff of legends and arguably changed the city in countless ways. One of the most stunning chapters in this story was the decision of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to prosecute the police officers involved in the arrest (as opposed to the rioters who burned the city down in the days that followed). While the attempts at prosecution failed, there was still one more part of the story to be told.
Five of the officers involved in the incident sued Mosby for malicious prosecution. That case has been winding through the courts ever since, but now it may have finally come to an end. A federal court has blocked the lawsuit, rejecting the premise that the State’s Attorney is not immune from such actions. (Baltimore Sun)
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked a lawsuit against Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby brought by five city police officers who claimed she maliciously prosecuted them after the death in 2015 of Freddie Gray.
Monday’s ruling by the federal appeals court overturned a January 2017 decision by U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis, who ruled at the time that charges including malicious prosecution, defamation and invasion of privacy could move forward against Mosby and Assistant Baltimore City Sheriff Samuel Cogen, who wrote the statement of probable cause in the case. Garbis dismissed other counts, including false arrest and false imprisonment…
“We resoundingly reject the invitation to cast aside decades of Supreme Court and circuit precedent to narrow the immunity prosecutors enjoy,” Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote in the court’s opinion. “And we find no justification for denying Mosby the protection from suit that the Maryland legislature has granted her.
As I predicted when this case was first unfolding, the officers’ chances of prevailing were always slim at best. There is more than a little precedent in our legal system supporting the virtually absolute immunity of prosecutors when deciding to bring charges. And in most cases, that’s a good thing, since we don’t want prosecutors being bullied or frightened away from doing their jobs. Mosby’s case was rather extreme of course, and her motives for bringing those charges against the police officers is beyond suspect. But none of that was likely to overturn standing practice in the courts.
The officers have 90 days to decide if they want to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court, but even if they do I would be shocked if the Court agreed to hear the case, to say nothing of overturning the Court of Appeals. But if this is the end of the entire Freddie Gray story we’re left with very little by way of satisfaction.
In the end, we saw several tragedies unfold, many of which could have been avoided or at least substantially mitigated. It’s possible that better arrest and transportation procedures might have saved Gray’s life. We will never know for sure. Baltimore still bears the scars of a series of riots which then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake could have cut short if she hadn’t pulled her own police back, giving the rioters “space” to vent their frustrations. (That venting came in the form of arson, vandalism and more than two dozen officers being injured.) Her failure to back up her own police and Mosby’s decision to try to lock them up ruined relations between city hall and the cops for a long time.
In the end, neither City Hall nor Mosby was ever held accountable for their actions (or inaction in some cases). Most of the rioters were never brought to justice. And Baltimore went on to experience a surge in violent crime which is still spiraling out of control to this day.