After watching the Freddie Gray case all day in court on September 2 as a legal eagle or legal geek, whichever you prefer, I came to my opinions about the main legal players involved. The presiding trial judge is Judge Barry Williams. A trial lawyer –defense or prosecution could not ask for a better and well qualified trial judge. All judges are not created equal. And Judge Williams ranks heads above most judges for his intelligence, judicial temperament, sometimes wit and all times no nonsense approach.
And above all, Judge Williams is fair. He ruled against consolidation of the trial with all six police officers tried in one case with their different charges ranging from assault to murder. Judge Williams ruled it would not be in the best interest of justice. He ruled on two motions in favor of the prosecution and denied one State’s motion. And he did not mince words to the lawyers. He pointedly mentioned to the defense that some of their motions lacked a paucity of any evidence. In addressing other defense motions, he said their tone was condescending when defense implied there would be a conflict due to State’s Attorney Mosby’s marriage to Nick Mosby—a City Councilman. I can’t wait to see more of his judicial temperament and rulings. And I will get my chance on September 10, when the motion to move the cases out of Baltimore is argued.
On the prosecution side, Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow who appears and should be the lead attorney for the prosecutors is tenacious, well prepared and eloquent in his presentation of the state’s case. The prosecution’s team is lucky to have him. He argued two motions. He is a pit-bull of an attorney who unabashedly fought for his position.
On the other side of the prosecution team is Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe who argued the motion on consolidation of the trial. Bledsoe could take some pointers and teaching from her colleague, Schatzow. While vigorously arguing her points, she showed an edge that sometimes bordered on condescending with the judge. Her comments to the judge such as “Are we good?” and “okay?” in tone implied that Judge Williams needed to catch up to her—when she was the one who was confusing at times. There is a deference that judges are accorded. At times, her tone fell below that threshold. I sat with another female trial lawyer who also commented on Bledsoe’s demeanor.
On the defense side was Catherine Flynn—a well-known and respected defense trial lawyer, Andrew Graham and others representing the 6 police officers. Flynn was eloquent in her approach and demeanor. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was present in the court room. She did not speak on behalf of the state. Yet, her presence was felt as she walked into the court room to sit with her lawyers.
It was interesting to see in a sea of many lawyers on both sides—that only one woman trial lawyer was present on each side. More women are needed in the court room. When all the lawyers were called up to the bench, we saw the more than 12 lawyers stand up. The court room still lacks women despite more women attending law school.
Overall on the defense side, the other lawyers representing the police officers were well prepared and well-spoken in arguing their respective clients.
Motions hearings will continue on September 10. The parties will argue the motion to change the venue. Judging by the earlier rulings, it seems likely the case will remain in Baltimore—for now. And the trial is scheduled to start on October 17—for now.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor.