Intense public interest in the criminal case against the six Baltimore police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray could shape how it proceeds and establish precedent for how such high-profile cases are tried, reports the Baltimore Sun. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys have cited publicity surrounding the case to buttress their arguments. Defense attorneys want a change of venue, citing a “media frenzy” that has tainted the jury pool. Prosecutors, who oppose that motion, cited extensive media coverage when arguing that the judge should bar the release of evidence. The defense has argued that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby should be removed for trying to fan the flames of public opinion.
Judge Barry Williams is expected to rule soon on these issues. His decisions could have big implications for the Gray case and also a lasting impact on the court system itself, by establishing how to handle future cases in the media spotlight. “This is a whole lot of case, so you have to work hard with the world watching, with your client watching, with the public watching,” said José Anderson, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and a former public defender in Baltimore. “A case like this tests the strength of the process, and the process should be tested by a case of this size and importance, to see how it does.” Courts have yet to decide on policy for venue changes in a media-saturated environment where widespread Internet access means information about a case can be just as easily accessed in Sandtown-Winchester, the neighborhood where Gray was arrested, as anywhere.