Freddie Gray cops seek change of venue for trial

Attorneys for the six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray have filed a motion to move the trial outside the city of Baltimore citing concerns over the possibility of their clients receiving a fair trial. As Andrew Napolitano noted on Fox News this week, the questions surrounding this case now have far less to do with Freddie or the cops themselves than they do with the mayor, the prosecutor and the community.

The lawyers for the six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray filed a motion today asking that the trial be moved outside of the city.

They are claiming that the officers “cannot receive a fair and impartial trial,” The Baltimore Sun reported.

Megyn Kelly said that one of their primary complaints is against State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who they claim has an anti-cop bias. They also said she has prejudiced the case with some of her public statements and that she should recuse herself.

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano told Kelly that there are a number of problems concerning Mosby.

“The civil unrest that occurred makes it unlikely that these police officers could get a fair trial in the city of Baltimore, even if Mother Theresa [was] the prosecutor,” he said. “But instead, you have a prosecutor who acts and sounds like she’s a political candidate for office.”

You can approach this question from the critical, granular level of justice for both the victim and the accused, or from the meta level about the “larger message” of the case, but both are in danger of going off the rails. Before anyone worries about the lessons we should be taking from this or the larger national narrative in the media, it’s important to remember what this is really all about. One man is dead and six people stand accused of crimes related to that incident. Were they performing their jobs or did they break the law? That’s the question which needs to be answered first, and the accused deserve the same fair trial that any other citizen would receive.

The change of venue request is not unexpected, but it also may not prove to be all that effective of a remedy. Napolitano is correct in calling out Mosby and the Mayor for turning this into a circus which looks increasingly like a nascent campaign for higher office, but simply bringing that factor to light doesn’t get us any closer to justice. The well of potential jurors in that county is likely so badly poisoned by this point that a fair and impartial finding could never be rendered. Unfortunately, the media has saturated the entire nation with wall to wall narrative spin about Freddie Gray and Marilyn Mosby to the point where a level field of play might be difficult to find anywhere.

As I suggested at the beginning of the month, the defense may wish to waive the right of the officers to a trial by jury and simply go straight for a bench trial and let a judge decide it. Doing that in another part of the state where the judges may be at least partially removed from the bump and grind of city politics could add another layer of security to the process. It’s the same tactic that was used by officer Michael Brelo’s defense team in Cleveland and they prevailed in the case, though the media will be second guessing the verdict for years to come.

An honest judge is no guarantee of a not guilty verdict for the officers, but that’s the whole point here. We won’t know what constitutes “justice” in this case until the system has had a chance to work. If the cops went over the line they will need to face the music, but they should also not be subjected to the whims of a poisoned jury or a city administrative team that’s looking to score their next headline.