Confusion Follows Dismissal of Charges Against Cops in Freddie Gray Case


In the West Baltimore neighborhood that bookended Freddie Gray’s foreshortened life and far beyond it, the realization quickly set in.

“Nobody is getting punished for it,” said Medina Gaither, 54, a resident of Gilmor Homes who had known Gray since he was a little boy.

“This is awful,” the actress Kerry Washington tweeted shortly after prosecutors announced Wednesday morning they were dismissing charges against the remaining officers, having failed to garner convictions in four previous trials. “Where is the justice.”

The decision by State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby closed the book on the prosecution of six Baltimore Police officers charged in the April 2015 arrest and death of Gray, who suffered severe spinal injuries while he was being transported in a police van. But the issues raised by his death, and the subsequent protests and rioting in Baltimore, continue to ripple through both local and national discourse.

The Democratic nominee for Baltimore mayor, State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, said she supports Mosby’s decision but added that “still a lot of discussions … need to be had.”

Speaking from Philadelphia, where she is attending the Democratic National Convention, Pugh pointed to effortss in Annapolis to change the make-up of police trial boards to give civilians a role in disciplining police officers.

“Baltimore does not want to experience a situation like this again with Freddie Gray,” Pugh said. “No family should have to go through this again.”

The dismissal of remaining charges came a day after the DNC heard what Pugh called a “heart-wrenching” presentation from a group of mothers whose children had been killed by police.

“When you see what’s happening across the nation, every situation presents a moment of reflection,” she said.

Back in Baltimore, the shock of the announcement that charges would be dropped was quickly followed by anger, resignation and bewilderment among those who had hoped for some accountability in the criminal justice system.

Joshua Harris, who is running against Pugh as the Green Party nominee, said the decision reflects “business as usual in the city.

“This is 15 months after the death of Freddie Gray, and there is still no justice,” Harris said. “We have an opportunity in November to show the city is ready for real change and break up the same old, same old decisions and leaders in our city.”

Russell White, 52, kept repeating one phrase: “Crazy.”

“No one is going to be held accountable,” the Penn-North resident said. “It’s crazy. How are you going to kill somebody and act like nothing happened?

“In a way, I’m really mad and in a lot of ways I’m really not,” White said. “People have given the police too much power, so they just do what they want to do.”

White added that he believes the same standards for justice are not applied to normal citizens. “If that was somebody like me, or somebody else out here, they would’ve locked them up,” he said.

Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West died during an altercation with police in 2013, said she wasn’t surprised at the decision to drop the charges in the Gray case.

“I’m disappointed, but at the same time, I figured it was going to happen because of the way the cases were going,” said Jones, who has been outspoken on police brutality issues.

No charges were filed in West’s death and Mosby said earlier this year that there was no new evidence to justify reopening the case.

In the Gray case, at least there were criminal charges filed, which represents progress, Jones said.

“For (Mosby) to put her life, her job on the line for our city, that still means a lot to me,” Jones said. “I hope it doesn’t stop there. I hope she continues going after more cops.”

The dropping of the charges represents a frustrating end to the case, said the Rev. Cortly “CD” Witherspoon, a community activist involved in police brutality issues.

“As far as the remaining officers not being tried, I completely disagreed with that because Freddie Gray was indeed alive before he came into contact with the Baltimore Police Department,” Witherspoon said. “The medical examiner’s office determined his death to be a homicide … No one was held accountable.”

So many times in the past, police had not been charged criminally for deaths in their custody, Witherspoon said, and the charges in Gray’s case offered hope for accountability. Having the charges dropped represents a “miscarriage of justice,” Witherspoon said.

“There was this one opportunity for us to receive police accountability and we were deprived of that,” he said.

Baltimore residents already frustrated with the criminal justice system are likely to feel even more like they aren’t represented or listened to, Witherspoon said.

“I think, inevitably, we will definitely see that people respond to that feeling of abandonment and that feeling of being forgotten about,” he said. “I don’t know how they will express that feeling and emotion. Certainly, we hope that will be in a constructive way.”

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Source: Baltimore Sun | Jean Marbella