(BALTIMORE) — Prosecutors in Baltimore dropped all charges against the three remaining Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray despite holding firm in their belief that Gray's death was a homicide.
“We do not believe that Gray killed himself. We stand by the medical examiner's determination that Freddie Gray’s death was a homicide," Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby told reporters Wednesday morning, delivering a strong defense for her decision to prosecute six officers involved in Gray's death.
At the motion’s hearing for State v Garrett Miller Wednesday morning, prosecutors announced they would not pursue the remaining cases related to the arrest and death of Gray, bringing to an end one of the most closely watched police prosecutions in the country. The gag order against all parties involved, including prosecutors and defense attorneys and their clients, has also been rescinded.
“After much thought and prayer it has become clear that without being able to work with an independent investigatory agency from the very start, without having a say in the election of whether cases proceed in front of a judge or jury, without communal oversight of police in this community, without substantive reforms to the current criminal justice system, we could try this case 100 times and cases just like it and we would still end up with the same result," Mosby said, standing across the street from the location where Gray was arrested in April 2015.
Mosby charged six officers last year for their role in the arrest and death of Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody after he suffered a fatal spinal injury while being transported in the back of a police transport van. Prosecutors aimed to show that the officers were criminally liable for failing to secure Gray with a seat belt after he was loaded into a police transport van.
Gray died seven days after sustaining injuries in police custody. On the day of Gray's funeral, the city of Baltimore erupted into violent protests and riots, followed by looting and arson.
“Those that believe that I’m anti-police, that is simply not the case, I am anti-police brutality," Mosby said, adding that she was elected as chief prosecutor for Baltimore City and took an oath to seek justice.
"I take my oath very seriously," Mosby said.
But prosecutors failed to convict four officers who were tried in separate trials earlier this year. All three officers who were acquitted opted for a bench trial instead of a jury trial, meaning Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams decided the outcome of the trials.
Officer Edward Nero was found not guilty of all charges in May. Officer Caesar Goodson, who faced the most serious charge of second-degree depraved heart murder, was also found not guilty earlier this summer. And Lieutenant Brian Rice, the highest-ranking officer involved with the case, was cleared of all charges just two weeks ago.
Officer William Porter stood trial first and had chosen a jury trial. His trial ended in a mistrial last December.
All of the officers involved in the case had pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors failed to prove in court that Nero, Goodson and Rice acted in a grossly negligent manner and that they were aware of the risks to Gray and acted unreasonably.
They were also unable to prove that the officers "corruptly" failed to carry out an act required of them. Throughout the trials, prosecutors tried honing in on each officer's experience and training, suggesting that they should have known the consequences of failing to secure a shackled prisoner without a seat belt.
Williams was oftentimes incredulous throughout the officers' trials, determining that prosecutors failed to bring any credible evidence into court that could prove that criminal wrongdoing had occurred when Gray was arrested and placed into the back of a police transport van.
During Nero's case in May, Williams grilled prosecutors during closing arguments — questioning whether a crime was in fact committed.
“So, every time there’s an arrest without probable justification — it is a crime?” Williams asked. “I’m trying to make sure it was a criminal assault. Touching Freddie Gray is assault?”
“We believe that the search and arrest without justification are assault, your honor,” Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe responded. “There’s no question about that.”
Mosby said despite the acquittals from Williams, "We must respect the verdict rendered by the judge," and that her goal all along was to "always seek justice over convictions."
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