Earlier this week, when Officer Edward Nero, one of six officers indicted in the death of Freddie Gray, was cleared of all charges many in the mainstream media seemed to be preparing for violence to erupt on the streets of Baltimore. In fact, I saw more than one cable network broadcast re-rack footage from last year’s uprising as they reported on the Nero verdict, while others posted news crews at Penn-North waiting for something to jump off.
At the end of the day, I think more people in Black communities across the city were more concerned with the latest torrent of rain during this extended stretch of dreary weather, than they were with the Nero verdict (I pray I’m right). Still, while the media waited for trouble, many news organizations (and individuals outside the media) began to spin the narrative of prosecutorial overreach on the part of Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
After all, of the six officers charged in Gray’s death, Nero seemed to have the least amount of physical contact with him during the arrest, which ultimately led to his demise. And during the First Edition episode on May 23, I openly asked if Nero should have been tried in the first place, but the decision to do so was not that simplistic. And the charge of prosecutorial zeal levied against Mosby is not that cut and dry.
“It was based on the way the case was charged, unfortunately, the case just wasn’t there,” said Sheryl Wood of The Wood Law Firm, who has been reporting on the case of the six officers charged in Gray’s death from the time the indictments were pursued by Mosby.
“Was it a rush to judgement? I don’t know. But, I think it was based upon the officers statements and it was based upon Miller’s statement that, we, quote, unquote, arrested Freddie Gray,” Wood explained.
“The problem was that none of the investigators in the police department thought that this was going to be charged criminally, that’s why everybody gave a statement except for Goodson, and then they never followed up that question with, `okay, who is we, and what did you do, versus what Officer Nero did?’ So, once they got to trial the prosecutors had to put on a witness and they didn’t know what he was going to say…so now they’re (prosecution) stuck,” she added.
Other legal experts praise Mosby’s courage for going down a somewhat unprecedented path in response to alleged misconduct by police.
“I really (commend) a prosecutor (Mosby), for following the evidence, for finding evidence that supported each of the charges,” said University of Maryland law professor Doug Colbert. “And even though the judge ruled that they hadn’t proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, it provided the transparency, it allows the public to appreciate what policing looks like in Freddie Gray’s community and then they can compare it with the policing that takes place in more upscale communities…that transparency is a good thing,” Colbert added.
“I don’t see it as a reach at all…I’m looking at the ability, the opportunity to make changes that are necessary so that we no longer have police making these kinds of stops and taking these kinds of actions.”
To state the obvious, Mosby is no god or saint, she is clearly fallible. But, before she is cast as overly ambitious or naive for the Nero component of her overall strategy, there are five more trials to be played out. And many are still waiting for some measure of justice.
“You don’t have Officer Nero’s hands on Freddie Gray…(but) in my way of thinking every police officer who’s involved in an arrest has a duty to make sure that the prisoner is in a safe situation,” Colbert said. Wood’s sentiment is on a similar tangent. “They’re not really understanding why you can go into police custody alive and come out dead and…one of the persons who arrested you is not guilty,” she said.
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.