Prosecutors Drop Remaining Charges Against Officers in Freddie Gray Case

Gray died April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken in the back of the police van

Citing the "dismal likelihood of conviction," prosecutors dropped all remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, bringing an end to the cases.

The cases against officers Garrett Miller, Alicia White and William Porter were dismissed.

Wednesday's decision came after a judge acquitted three of the six officers charged in the case, including the van driver and another officer who was the highest-ranking of the group.

A jury previously deadlocked in Porter's case, and the judge declared a mistrial.

Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken in the back of the police van. Of the six officers charged in the case, three were black and three were white.

Prosecutors said Gray was illegally arrested after he ran away from a bike patrol officer and that police failed to buckle Gray into a seat belt or call a medic when he indicated he needed medical treatment.

State's Attorney Still Blames Police for Gray's Death

During a news conference Wednesday across the street from the public housing complex where police arrested Gray, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said she still blames police for Gray's death.

"We do not believe that Freddie Gray killed himself," Mosby said. "We stand by the medical examiner's determination that Freddie Gray's death was a homicide."

She angrily blamed the outcome on an uncooperative police department and a broken criminal justice system, outlining what prosecutors called sabotage and saying officers who were witnesses were also part of the department's investigative team. She said "obvious questions" weren't asked during interrogations. She alleged lead detectives were slow to provide information and failed to execute search warrants for key text messages. She also accused investigators of creating notes after the case was launched to contradict the medical examiner's conclusion that Gray's death was a homicide.

“We've all borne witness to an inherent bias that is a direct result of when police police themselves,” Mosby said.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a statement Mosby's decision was “wise,” and he called on residents to direct their emotions “in a constructive way to reduce violence and strengthen citizen partnerships.” He rejected Mosby's accusations that officers involved in the investigation were biased.

Ivan Bates, an attorney representing Sgt. White, said prosecutors should bear responsibility for the outcome because they had the opportunity to conduct their own investigation but instead left it to city police.

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks is disappointed with the decision.

"Once again, we face the painful reality that the life of yet another African American young man has been taken without a single person being held accountable," he said in a statement. "Freddie Gray and his family will not get the justice they deserve. Just as Trayvon Martin and his family received no justice and Eric Garner, and Michael Brown and Jamar Clark and so many others.

The head of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP said she, too, is disappointed by prosecutors' decision to drop the charges. Tessa Hill-Aston said she thinks the state's attorney's office did a "remarkable job" and she wanted the remaining officers to continue going through the legal process, but she understands the decision.

Prosecution Repeatedly Suffered Setbacks at Trial

Prosecutors suffered significant setbacks in almost every trial presented before Circuit Judge Barry Williams. At several points, the judge berated them for failing to turn over evidence to the officers' attorneys.

At the trial for Lt. Brian Rice, the judge sanctioned prosecutors by preventing them from using Rice's training records as evidence. During the trial for Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver, prosecutors said Goodson had given Gray a “rough ride,” deliberately driving erratically to injure the prisoner. After the state failed to present any evidence to support that theory, prosecutors all but abandoned the notion.

After Miller testified he alone arrested Gray outside the Gilmor Homes complex, prosecutors changed their theory of assault in Officer Edward Nero's case, arguing that any officer who arrests a suspect without probable cause could be liable for prosecution.

Prosecutors also sought to have the officers testify against each other, even though some of them had not yet been tried. Defense attorneys fought that idea before the Maryland Court of Appeals, where a panel of judges determined that the officers could be compelled to take the stand as long as a hearing was held to ensure a defendant's comments as a witness were excluded from his or her trial.

Prosecutors alleged that the officers were criminally negligent when they defied a written directive to buckle all suspects into a seat belt in the van. Instead, they were accused of placing Gray into the metal compartment on his stomach. The officers' further erred when they chose not to call for a medic after Gray indicated he wanted to go a hospital, according to the prosecution.

The judge ruled that although the officers may have exercised poor judgment, prosecutors failed to prove that the officers tried to hurt Gray. Without establishing intent, he said, the criminal charges were baseless.

Union Defends Officers Against State's Attorney

All officers charged in the case had pleaded not guilty.

The officers did not comment because they are facing possible disciplinary action. Two outside police departments are investigating the officers' conduct to help determine whether they should face departmental sanctions.

The Baltimore police union spoke for them.

Gene Ryan, president of Baltimore's police union, called Mosby's comments “outrageous.”

“The state's attorney could not accept the evidence,” he said. “She had her own agenda.”

Some of the officers filed civil lawsuits against Mosby for defamation. As a result, she refused to answer questions Wednesday.

Gray's Death Prompted Police Reforms

Gray's death added fuel to the growing Black Lives Matter movement and caused turmoil in Baltimore, including large protests and the worst riots the city had seen in decades.

"As a mother, the decision not to proceed on the remaining trials is agonizing," Mosby said. "However, as a chief prosecutor elected by the citizens of Baltimore, I must consider the dismal likelihood of conviction at this point."

Important police reforms resulted from the charges, Mosby said.

"In spite of the fact that the verdicts didn't go in our favor, there have been many gains to insure what happened to Freddie Gray never happens to another person who comes into contact with police," she said.

Since Gray's death, Baltimore revised the use-of-force policy. A body-camera program will require all field officers to be equipped while on the streets. Additionally, the General Assembly approved changes to a Law Enforcement Officers Bill Of Rights, the first updates to the document in decades.

Gray's father, Richard Shipley, said the family stands by Mosby.

"We are very proud of the prosecutors who handled the case," he said.

Shipley stood next to Mosby as she delivered her remarks.

“We're going to continue to be fighters for Freddie,” he said. “We are going to see that new legislation is carried out and new laws that will help this community and other communities. We're grateful that he didn't die in vain.”

Last year, Gray's family received a $6.4 million settlement from the city.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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