Mosby’s futile prosecutions nearly bankrupted police union

The Baltimore Sun reports that the cost of defending the six Baltimore police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray emptied the coffers of the city’s police union. The union was able to stay afloat only because its members voted to double the dues.

The vote was unanimous, according to the Sun’s sources.

Marilyn Mosby has finally dropped all charges in these cases. However, the dues will remain where they are so the union can replenish its treasury and be able to defend against future Mosby prosecutions.

The city’s demoralized police officers will think of Mosby every time they pay their dues.

The Freddie Gray trials also cost the city of Baltimore plenty. According to city officials, the price tag was $450,000.

Some will argue that even though the prosecutions were spectacularly unsuccessful, they were worth the price because the facts became known to the public and some level of closure was achieved. I understand the argument, but strongly disagree with it.

The hammer of the state’s criminal process should be used only to pursue justice (actual justice, not “social justice”). It shouldn’t be used to shed light, achieve closure, or (more to the point here) pacify a mob.

The facts of the Freddie Gray matter could have been brought to light through a careful, thorough, and fair investigation. Such an investigation would have made clear, just as the trial of Caesar Goodson did, that there was no evidence of Gray being given a “rough ride.” It would have shown that the arrest of Gray was reasonable. It would have shown that any negligence on the part of any officer resided in the decision not to restrain Gray with a seat belt. As the trial judge explained, this is ordinary, not criminal, negligence.

Investigators would have been unable to reach a firm conclusion as to when Gray sustained the injuries that killed him and how he sustained them. Thus, they would have lacked clarity as to the role Gray played in his demise.

No honest and competent prosecutor would have brought the cases in these circumstances. And certainly no such prosecutor would have brought cases against all six officers (including Edward Nero, who was barely involved) and overcharged them to such an egregious extent.

There’s no reason to believe that declining to prosecute once these facts became known would have caused unrest. After Michael Brown was killed by Officer Wilson in Ferguson, there were mass demonstrations and riots. Things soon calmed down even though no charges were brought against Wilson. Eventually, the Justice Department found that Wilson acted in self defense.

In any event, it violates a prosecutor’s duty to bring a criminal case in the hope of calming angry citizens. And even as a matter of pragmatism, Mosby’s decision to prosecute backfired. It affected the Baltimore police department in ways that likely have produced the spike in violent crime that now plagues the city, especially its minority community.

Marilyn Mosby will leave quite a legacy. High police dues will be the least of it.

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