Baltimore’s lead prosecutor, Marilyn J. Mosby, announced on Friday that the death of Freddie Gray was a homicide. Mosby, who took office in January, is charging six city police officers with a range of offenses — including second-degree murder and manslaughter.
NPR’s Bill Chappell wrote that Mosby’s investigation found that Gray’s arrest was “in itself illegal” and that the prosecutor had told the Gray family that “no one is above the law.”
Mosby also called on the city’s demonstrators, acknowledging their cries for action. “Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man,” she said.
People immediately took to Twitter to respond to Mosby:
Slate’s Jamelle Bouie writes that Baltimore’s black officials are more plugged in to the outrage of many of their constituents — and the potential consequences of inaction.
“The choice to charge the officers was a legal one. That said, it’s hard to dismiss the optics of Baltimore’s leadership. Mosby is black. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts is black. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is black. … Between the protests and the riots and the general discontent — easily heard in any casual conversation among Baltimoreans over the last week — officials had to have known that no charges would turn a volatile situation dangerous.”
Some see the charges as Mosby fulfilling her campaign pledge to crack down on police misconduct. The New York Times spoke with Tawanda Jones, whose brother was killed in an altercation with Baltimore police in 2013.
” ‘I’m so happy, I’m so excited I can’t stop crying,’ Ms. Jones said Friday, moments after Ms. Mosby’s announcement, which she saw on television while working at the preschool where she teaches.
‘She gave us her word. I said, ‘How will you handle police brutality?’ She said, ‘If you put me in this chair, I don’t care if they are in uniform or not. I come from a family of officers. Some are good, some are bad, I will hold everybody accountable to the law.’ And thank you, Jesus, she lived it out.’ ”
Elizabeth Chuck of NBC News writes that Mosby has also been touched personally by street violence.
“Her interest in the justice system stemmed from tragedy: When she was growing up in inner-city Boston, her 17-year-old cousin was mistaken for a drug dealer and killed outside her home by another 17-year-old.”
Part of the impact of Mosby’s announcement was her reassurance and praise of Baltimore police officers who were not implicated in Gray’s death:
“To the rank and file officers of the Baltimore City Police Department. Please know that these accusations of these six officers are not an indictment on the entire force. I come five generations of law enforcement. My father was an officer, my mother was an officer, several of my aunts and uncles. My recently departed and beloved grandfather was one of the founding members of the first black police organization in Massachusetts. I can tell you that the actions of these officers will not and should not in any way damage the important working relationships between police and prosecutors as we continue to fight together to reduce crime in Baltimore. Thank you for your courage, commitment and sacrifice.”
But that didn’t answer the concerns of all police officers or their representatives. The Baltimore City Fraternal Order Of Police responded to Mosby’s decision by calling on her to appoint an independent prosecutor. They cited her connection to the Gray family’s attorney, as well as her husband’s role as a City Council member.
An AP report included questions about how well Mosby is prepared to handle the case — and the national spotlight:
” ‘She better be ready. It’s going to be baptism by fire,’ said J. Wyndal Gordon, a longtime defense attorney in Baltimore who has litigated against officers in excessive-force cases. ‘How she will handle this will define her administration and the future of that office.’ ”
Political and public leaders who know Mosby say she’s more than ready for what’s coming.
“I’ve seen this repeatedly where she’s sort of underestimated because of her age, or they think she doesn’t have enough experience,” Kweisi Mfume, a former Maryland congressman and past leader of the NAACP, told the Wall Street Journal. “She’s not going to be swayed by anything other than what’s right.”