A judge on Wednesday ordered that six Baltimore Police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray be tried separately.
The ruling was one of three that Judge Barry Williams handed down during the first pre-trial motions hearing in the case. Williams earlier denied defense motions to dismiss charges against the officers and to recuse State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office from the case.
Prosecutors argued to have the six officers tried in groups, while defense attorneys had argued their clients should be tried separately.
Defense attorneys had sought to have the charges against their clients dismissed due to prosecutorial misconduct, and for Mosby and other prosecutors in the State’s Attorney’s office to be recused from the case because of alleged conflicts of interest.
They argued that Mosby had gone too far in her remarks when she publicly announced charges against the officers on May 1. But while Judge Barry Williams said while he found some of Mosby’s remarks “troubling,” he said they did not prevent the officers from receiving a fair trial.
Defense attorneys cited alleged conflicts of interest that they said required Mosby’s office to be recused from the case. On that motion, Williams said the defense “didn’t come close” to justifying a removal of the prosecutors’ office.
A second pre-trial motions hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10, when the sides are scheduled to argue a defense motion to move the trial out of Baltimore.
Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody on April 12 and died from his injuries a week later. The six police officers were indicted on charges ranging from second-degree depraved heart murder to misconduct in office.
Andrew Graham, a defense attorney for Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., argued that when Mosby publicly announced the charges against the officers on May 1, she “adopted and encouraged the public’s cry of ‘no justice, no peace,'” and that her statements tainted the jury pool.
“She handled this as though it was some sort of pep rally,” Graham told Williams.
Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said Mosby’s comments were taken directly from a statement of charges and that Williams should consider the words she spoke and not accept the defense’s “gross distortion of what she said.” He said any effort to calm the unrest throughout the city served a “legitimate” law enforcement purpose.
Catherine Flynn, a defense attorney for Officer Garrett E. Miller, argued for the recusal of Mosby and repeated arguments made in written motions that prosecutors in Mosby’s office became witnesses in the case through their independent investigation of Gray’s death.
She said the court should decide on the issue prior to allowing the case to go to trial. Schatzow argued that prosecutors had no conflicts of interest, noting prosecutors regularly perform investigative tasks.
“None of these conflicts represent real conflicts that require recusal of anyone, let alone the entire State’s Attorney’s Office,” he said.
Williams, who at times cut off both the defense attorneys and prosecutors arguing their points, raised questions about statements made by Mosby made, including when she answered a reporter’s question about whether the police officers had cooperated with the investigation.
Source: Baltimore Sun | Kevin Rector and Justin Fenton