Freddie Gray

Grand Jury Indicts Freddie Gray Officers

What happens when a prosecutor wants an indictment


Baltimore PD

A grand jury Baltimore returned indictment on most of the charges sought by the district attorney, Marilyn Mosby, against six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Three minor charges were dropped and three new ones added based on new information—but the prosecutor wouldn't say what that information was. The Associated Press reports the outline of the DA's case:

Gray was arrested in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore. According to court documents, Gray made eye contact with a police officer and took off running. He was apprehended two blocks away and arrested for possession of what Miller wrote in charging documents is illegal under a city ordinance.

Mosby said the arrest was unlawful because the knife is legal under state law.

None of the officers secured Gray's seatbelt in the van, a violation of police policy. Soon after he was placed in the van, Goodson stopped to secure him with leg irons because he had become "irate," police said.

After a ride that included several more stops, including one to pick up a second passenger, the van arrived at the Western District station house. By that time, Gray was non-responsive.

The defense for one officer, Edward Nero, argues the knife Gray possessed was illegal, or at least that the officer believed so, a defense against a charge of unlawful imprisonment.

While grand juries usually return indictments to prosecutors, it's not the case with cops. Yesterday I highlighted a Missouri prosecutor who had explained why that was the case. Via the Kansas City Star:

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker dismisses the idea that grand juries are manipulated by prosecutors.

"I've had grand jurors give an indictment to me and I've had them not give me an indictment," she said. "And I've certainly been surprised by their decisions."

If it seems that grand juries typically vote to indict, [Platte County Prosecutor Eric] Zahnd said, it's because ordinarily prosecutors only bring a case if they think there is evidence warranting an indictment.

"I'm not going to take a case to a grand jury in situations where I don't believe a crime was committed," he said.

The exception to that rule, Baker said, is police shootings. In those cases, she said, prosecutors generally turn to grand juries "to allow 12 impartial citizens from the community to decide whether or not to charge the officer and what those charges ought to be."

But if a prosecutor's made a decision that an indictment isn't warranted, how can a grand jury process led by her be impartial? Baker says because her office is an elected one she can be held more accountable for decisions on prosecuting police officers more than an independent prosecutor could, one part of efforts to place the authority to prosecute police officers accused of crimes somewhere other than with the prosecutors who work with police on a daily basis.

Baker's is a weak argument—the influence of police and other public unions, the benefits of incumbency, and the high barriers to entry all make the idea that the public could hold a prosecutor accountable at the ballot box, for a specific decision, an impossible one to swallow. Conversely, there were not unfounded fears the district attorney may have rushed to overcharge the officers. That would seem to be an effort to gain public support—an expected behavior for an elected office, in the justice system or not.

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  1. Corner’s? Where’s Sheriff Brody?

  2. The exception to that rule, Baker said, is police shootings. In those cases, she said, prosecutors generally turn to grand juries “to allow 12 impartial citizens from the community to decide whether or not to charge the officer and what those charges ought to be.”

    To take some heat off the prosecutor from their badged colleagues and an outraged public, actually. Anyway, they’ve managed to push back the next round of Baltimore riots until the inevitable acquittals.

    1. Maybe they can acquire some MRAPS by then.

  3. I’m not sure what evidence was reviewed to determine the charges. Is this first degree, premeditated? (I’ve not followed the car super closely).

    Unless there’s evidence that suggests the cops planned this killing, they’re over charged.

    1. Except we’re still talking about a situation where a person who was forcefully, physically taken (essentially kidnapped if we want to be honest) against their will for as far as we know no real reason, and then subsequently died while in the “care” of his kidnappers. Do the cops have no responsibility to ensure the safety of their kidnappees charges after they forcefully abduct them?

      Even if this wasn’t a nickel ride or police brutality, why is a previously otherwise healthy guy dead of really, really weird causes? Do you think there wouldn’t be heavy charges laid against another profession that did this? Like a taxi driver whose fare ended up dead of a severed spine? At best these cops are at least guilty of criminal negligence or something similar.

      In our quest to not let our dislike of cops get in the way of proper justice, let’s also not lose track of what exactly the situation is here, and how incredibly distorted the view of what constitutes an “accident” with the cops has become.

      1. I think you misunderstood me. I’m no lawyer (or Doctor), but it seems to me, peering into my acrylic ball, that what probably happened is the cops got pissed at their charge (Freddie Gray), roughed him up, held him down, what have you, and accidentally killed him. It’s hard to imagine that even cops could think they’d get away with murdering someone wearing bracelets in a police van and they’d get away with it.

        This seems like a classic case of a broken vase and the red-faced kids are just stymied as to how that possibly happened while Mom was at the store.

        1. Mom Always Said, “Don’t Play Ball in the House”

        2. Your mom always says you’re terrible at explaining things clearly.

          1. Your mom doesn’t say anything about you, but she can’t with all that dick in her mouth.

            1. Thank your lucky stars. She’ll talk your ear off if you let her. Keep that mouth full if you value your sanity.

        3. Paul, the murder charge is 2nd degree, ‘depraved indifference’ is the mens rea.

          “In a depraved-heart murder defendants commit an act even though they know their act runs an unusually high risk of causing death or serious bodily harm to someone else. If the risk of death or bodily harm is great enough, ignoring it demonstrates a “depraved indifference” to human life and the resulting death is considered to have been committed with malice aforethought.”


  4. ‘If it seems that grand juries typically vote to indict, [Platte County Prosecutor Eric] Zahnd said, it’s because ordinarily prosecutors only bring a case if they think there is evidence warranting an indictment.’

    Oh bullshit.

    1. It’s a total non-comment. There is literally no new information imparted in those words. In fact, it’s very nearly tautological. Of course they’re only bringing cases up they think they can win. Otherwise they’d harm their precious conviction rate. And of course those tend to be the cases with evidence they can take to trial or, more likely, wheedle into a settlement. But none of that precludes the possibility that the grand jury is a rubber stamp for their indictments.

  5. If you’re worried about grand juries being rubber-stamps where ordinary suspects are concerned, I humbly put forward these to related reforms:

    -Let grand juries un-indict someone they’ve indicted if they get new evidence contradicting the prosecution narrative.

    -Let any person – including suspects – send evidence to the grand jury for its consideration – bear in mind this can be hearsay evidence, since grand juries aren’t bound by the rules of a court trial.

    In my scheme, if the prosecution provides the grand jury with only a one-sided version of the case, and the grand jurors indict, and they find out later there’s lots of evidence of innocence, they can withdraw the charges, and double jeopardy will probably preclude the defendant being re-charged.

    If prosecutors know the grand jury might un-indict if it decide they’ve been tricked into indicting, that will be an incentive to show the grand jurors the total case file, exculpatory as well as inculpatory evidence, to avoid the risk of the grand jury later pulling the rug from under the prosecutorial feet.

    1. (of course, after a conviction or guilty plea, it would under my plan be too late for the grand jury to un-indict)

  6. So either let the cops get away with doing everything or bowing to the will of the mob. Nothing can go wrong here.

  7. It’s like the system tends to cover up for cops except in cases where a bunch of people run around smashing things and demanding indictments. Then it’s scapegoat time.

  8. The ballot box is as magical and infallible as a drug-sniffing dog.

  9. Why bother with a grand jury at all? They were already charged.

    1. Grand juries are liks SWAT teams… they need usin’.

    2. What about this woman’s conduct makes you think they aren’t just blundering through mistakes because of bad PR?

    3. Not really, in states that use Grand Juries the charges are only pending until the Grand Jury approves them. The person is generally not on bail until the Grand Jury returns an indictment, for example.

  10. Irresponsible of you to show the mugshots Ed. Disrupts the narrative.

  11. I am the best commenter here. Anyone who disagrees, reply to this comment as quickly as you can.

    1. More evidence that this is an inside job.

    2. I hear you, and I understand what you are saying.

    3. Comment slut.

    4. You’re the only commenter here, the rest of use are just sock-puppets in your grand delusion…

      1. Jon Snow and Sam Tarly saw something terrible at the Fist of the First Men. And every day we see something terrible with the First of the Fist Men.

        1. You know nothing epi.

          1. The night, and also Warty, is dark and full of terrors! I at least know that, right? Right?!?

              1. Well duh, yeah, I knew that.

                Say, you got that $20 I loaned you two years ago by any chance?

              2. What is dead, typically remains dead.

    5. I just finished eating a rocket popsicle.

      1. I’m not sure about those popsicles. A display of American patriotism or are they stealthily French?

        I can’t decide.

        1. Depends on which orifice you put it in…

        2. USA. And then Canada if you can lick the blue away.


          1. Followed by Soviet after you lick the white away. So a good metaphor for the fall of the republic.

      2. There are rocket pop and bomb pops. I celebrate both. Rockets are RWB, and Bomb Pops are orange green red.

        What made you pick rocket pops?

  12. A grand jury only hears the evidence of the Prosecutor. The defense is not allowed to even be in the room. The entire system is weighted toward the government which is why the burden of proof is on them and the bar so high. As has been said by many in recent days, you can get an indictment on a ham sandwich. The real test will be on July 2nd when then officers are arraigned. It is very likely most if not all the charges could be dropped if a judge rules there is insufficient evidence to hold them over for trial. Mosley went way out on a limb to push a political agenda. She has made mistake after mistake since day one. She has tainted the prospective jury pool by making biased and politically motivated statements, so a change of venue is almost a given. The job of a prosecutor seek justice, not retribution for some perceived injustice against any specific group. In the end, if the charges are dropped or officers acquitted, she will pay a heavy price for her blatant politicization of the case. In addition, the statements of the NAACP illustrate that the once proud organization dedicated to the preservation of civil rights for all is now nothing more than an extension of the Democratic party.

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