Can Baltimore Prosecutor Win Police Cases After Gray Mistrial?


No new trial date was set for Baltimore police officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case. The New York Times says legal experts are parsing what this week’s mistrial means and debating whether the cases had been strong enough to bring in the first place. Did prosecutor Marilyn Mosby overreach, as her critics have said, or did it simply mean 12 people could not agree? “It was a weak enough case that they didn't win,” said criminologist Geoff Alpert of the University of South Carolina. “You can call it a mistrial, but the prosecution lost.” Not so, said Joanna Schwartz, a University of California, Los Angeles, law professor who teaches on police accountability. “This wasn't a loss, this was a hung jury,” she said. “I don't take from this that it was a baseless prosecution or a waste of time. It was a difficult case with conflicting evidence.”

In an era of intense controversy over whether prosecutors are moving aggressively enough to root out police misconduct. Mosby stands out. As David Jaros, an associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore who has been following the trial, said, “I think there can be no question that Marilyn Mosby pursued this case vigorously.” While she may win plaudits for trying, she faces complex questions about how to proceed and whether it will be necessary to make a deal with Porter to save her other cases. The state considers Porter, who testified in his own defense, a “material witness” in the case of the next officer to be tried, Caesar Goodson Jr., who drove the police transport van in which prosecutors say Gray suffered a spinal cord injury that killed him. Porter cannot be compelled to testify if there is a pending case against him.

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