May 01, 2015
Friday's news that six Baltimore police officers will face criminal charges in the death of Freddie Gray elicited cheers from city residents grateful for some modicum of accountability for police brutality, and mixed reactions from those who said the announcement was only a first step toward justice.
The ACLU of Maryland called the development a "historic moment" brought about by "the tireless efforts of families who have lost loved ones to police violence--here in Baltimore, throughout Maryland, and all across America."
"They persistently have called attention to the double standards of our criminal justice system," said Susan Goering, executive director of the Maryland ACLU.
However, Goering continued, "We know that today's announcement is only a first step in a state that has historically prosecuted less than two percent of police-involved deaths, while prosecuting thousands of African-Americans for petty offenses. Our systems of justice have been far more willing to treat officers as innocent until proven guilty than they are the communities who are being policed -- communities where people are presumed guilty and stopped, searched, and arrested without cause... We hope this marks the beginning of a nationwide awakening to the many injustices and inequalities that we have allowed to continue for far too long."
State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, meanwhile, has emerged as a crusader for civil rights.
"I heard your call for 'no justice, no peace,'" Mosby told the people of Baltimore on Friday. "Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man."
Speaking with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund praised Mosby for her "courage" in bringing charges against the officers.
Friday's news, Ifill said, shows "what prosecutors can do to really undermine the culture of impunity that has existed for far too long as it relates to police assaults and killings of unarmed African Americans."
But Ifill noted that many, including herself, are "celebrating something that should have happened as a matter of course."
"Look at what we're doing today," she pointed out. "This is 'breaking news'--that police officers would be held accountable by a prosecutor for the homicide of an innocent 25-year-old African American man. That's an indictment of where we are in this country around policing. It's a wake-up call and it's a reminder that this is not going to be resolved by one prosecution...this is a nationwide problem."
According to news reports, all six of the officers were in custody as of Friday afternoon.
Six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray will face criminal charges, including manslaughter and murder, in the death of the 25-year-old black man, the city's chief prosecutor said on Friday.
In making her announcement, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Gray, who died a week after his April 12 arrest, asked for medical attention twice during a ride between the site where he was taken into custody and a police booking center. Mosby also said Gray was improperly arrested that day because officers had no probable cause to detain him.
Gray's death, Mosby added, is believed to be the result of an injury he sustained while riding in the van without a seat belt.
"Mr. Gray's death was a homicide," she declared (see video below).
The Baltimore Police Department handed over its initial investigation into the case to the State's Attorney's office on Thursday.
According to the Baltimore Sun:
Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., 45, who was the driver of a police van that carried Gray through the streets of Baltimore, was charged with second-degree murder, assault, manslaughter, misconduct and other charges.
Officer William Porter, 25, and Lt. Brian Rice, 41, were charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Sgt. Alicia White, 30, was charged with manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Officer Edward Nero, 29, and Officer Garrett Miller, 26, were charged with assault and misconduct.
News sources reported that the Baltimore police officers union says the six officers charged in the Freddie Gray investigation aren't responsible for his death. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Gene Ryan asked Mosby in a letter to appoint a special independent prosecutor. But after announcing the charges Friday, Mosby said she would not turn the case over to a special prosecutor.
The Associated Press profiled Mosby, who has been on the job just four months, in a piece published Friday.
Watch the press conference below:
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