Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has found herself on the ropes after a disastrous series of failures during the Freddie Gray trials, but she’s apparently not ready to give up on her efforts to put police officers in jail. She’s hitting the media circuit defending her new series of “reform” proposals which are described as efforts to hold law enforcement more accountable and bolster relations between police and the community. There’s no question that there are serious opportunities for improvement in that area, but a couple of her proposals are drawing justifiable skepticism.
In one measure which would take effect under her plans, police would be severely limited or completely barred from opting for a bench trial rather than a full hearing before a jury. (CBS Local, Baltimore)
Baltimore City State’s Attorney is calling for major changes in investigations of police misconduct…
Mosby wants the power to limit officers from choosing bench trials–after the strategy proved successful for the officers she charged in Freddie Gray’s death. It’s one of several changes the state’s attorney is asking for in police misconduct cases.
Gray’s death is still having a huge impact on the state’s attorney, but critics say getting the reforms she wants will be difficult. Mosby signaled Thursday, she’s willing to fight for them.
And there’s more beyond just that. Amazingly, Mosby would like to equip her own office’s investigators with the tools and weapons of cops and allow them to make arrests themselves.
She says the police department should not be investigating its own officers and wants an independent investigative team that includes a member of the civilian review board and a member of her office. She also wants to give her own investigators police powers.
“Such powers include the ability to issue warrants, make arrests, and carry firearms,” said Mosby.
She wants to hand out guns, body armor, handcuffs and warrants to a group of lawyers? And excuse me if I appear to be jumping to conclusions here, but I somehow doubt she’s sending the State’s Attorney Office investigators out there to track down rapists and murderers. Clearly she wants them to be able to march out onto the streets and begin arresting cops. When was the last time you saw a police officer charged with misconduct run from the law? This has the smell of a juicy media photo-op far more than any needed enhancement to law enforcement arrest protocols.
In an interview with Afro, Mosby defended her plans from the immediate criticism they received.
When asked about the criticism against changing the process for bench trials in Maryland, Mosby said, “We’re already doing this federally. The fact of the matter is that people keep asking ‘how are you taking away defendant’s rights to a bench trial?’ The question should be ‘why are we taking the community’s right to be a part of the criminal justice system.”
When pressed on why the average citizen would be in favor of this change Mosby asserted, that as an official elected by the community, “…the state has a right as well, to go and put cases before the community. The community has the right to be a part of the criminal justice system and so if you want to waive your constitutional right then we should have a say just like they do federally.”
Pardon my saying, but that’s not even remotely the reality of bench trials. When it comes to “rights” in this case, they all fall on the side of the defendant, be they a police officer or a gang leader accused of murder. They have the right to a trial by a jury of their peers. That doesn’t mean that they are required to have one. The citizens are entitled to know that a trial was held and justice was served. The decision as to whether or not one wishes a trial by jury is made by the defendant. And when a police officer is facing a court case where the potential jury pool has been overwhelmingly tainted by media coverage of the event in question, it’s understandable that they might want to leave it in the hands of a professional jurist.
The idea that the option of a bench trial should be removed is not only legally dubious, but an insult to the entire judiciary. This was a position staked out quickly by the Fraternal Order of Police. (Emphasis added)
Fraternal Order of Police President Gene Ryan, in a statement, said, “Mrs. Mosby takes the position that a criminal defendant, police or citizen, should not have the right to request a bench trial to determine their guilt or innocence, when criminal charges are placed against them. Mrs. Mosby points to the inability to convict any officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. Every judge in the State of Maryland, and particularly those Judges assigned to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, should be offended at this position because what Mrs. Mosby is saying is that she does not believe that Judges who hear cases, non-jury, would do so in a fair and impartial manner nor can they render a verdict solely based on evidence presented. What Mrs. Mosby is doing is questioning the integrity of every Judge in the State of Maryland particularly those Judges in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.”
It’s been clear for some time that many municipal police departments are in need of improvements, both in their best practices and community relations. A lot of work is being done on that front, including the widespread mandatory use of body cameras and a return to foot patrols where the cops can really get to know the people on their beat who they are assigned to serve and protect. But what Mosby is suggesting doesn’t sound like process improvements. It smacks of retribution following her embarrassing performance during the Freddie Gray trials.