Marilyn Mosby’s office is 0-4 in the prosecution of officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. In December, the jury trial of Officer William Porter ended in a hung jury and mistrial. Mosby’s office has said they will try him again. Officers Edward Nero and Caesar Goodson were both acquitted after bench (judge) trials in May and June. Just today, Judge Williams announced his verdict and found Lt. Brian Rice not guilty on all charges.
In a jury trial, the jury makes all findings of fact and the judge makes rulings on the law. In a criminal jury trial, the jury would make the determination of guilt or innocence. In a bench trial, the judge makes this determination.
Maryland is one of the limited number of jurisdictions that allow a criminal defendant to opt out of a jury trial without the consent of the prosecution. Looking back on the trial of Officer Nero, his defense attorneys essentially created a playbook for each subsequent trial. The most important strategy has been to opt for a bench trial.
It seems that after four trials, Mosby’s office has presented very little new evidence or shown any new strategy or approach. Judge Williams pulled no punches in his ruling today. During his ruling from the bench, he made it very clear that Mosby’s office failed to prove that Rice was aware he had a duty to buckle Gray into a seat belt and furthermore, and most importantly, they failed to prove that Rice deliberately breached his duty in an effort to endanger Gray.
“There are a number of possibilities this court could entertain, some that are innocent and some that are not,” Williams said. “However, the burden of proof rests with the state, and the court’s imaginings do not serve as a substitute for evidence.”
With this acquittal there have been renewed demands for justice for Freddie Gray and renewed demands for Mosby’s office to drop the charges against the remaining officer.
It’s logical to think that Mosby would drop charges against the remaining officers after four failed attempts to secure a conviction. However, multiple sources believe Mosby’s office will continue to prosecute each remaining officer. She made a promise to the citizens of Baltimore to get justice for Freddie Gray’s death, and despite what’s being said about her in the national media, she arguably remains quite popular in Baltimore City. Even if her office fails to secure a single conviction, she can always state that she kept good on her promise, but the courts failed to give Freddie Gray his justice.
Will Mosby go 0-5 or will her office get on the board with a conviction? Popular opinion amongst the legal community seems to indicate another acquittal is likely, but perhaps her office will learn from its four failed attempts and devise a new strategy. Stay tuned -Officer Garrett Miller is scheduled to begin his trial on July 27.