Once Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that her office was bringing charges against the six police officers allegedly involved in the death of Freddie Gray, all media piercing eyes were focused on her with extreme scrutiny. There was very little praise for Mosby conducting her own individual investigation instead of relying on the police to police and investigate themselves. There was little discussion of her investigation except to say that it was swift. Yet, the police concluded their investigation in the same time period and no one questioned their swiftness. The media mostly focused on her age, her lack of experience with homicides, potential conflicts of interests with the Gray family attorney, bias against the police, conflicts due to her husband’s position and a host of other things. Almost nothing good has been said about Mosby in the media.
At 35 years old, she is the youngest chief prosecutor in a major city. Ms. Mosby worked at the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office for five years before moving on to obtain other work experience. And I hate to let the media in on a secret. Ms. Mosby will not likely be trying the case by herself. She will most likely have a team of seasoned prosecutors involved on the case. As a former Baltimore prosecutor, the State’s Attorney’s Office has many senior career prosecutors. She did not conduct the investigation by herself. She used her own team of investigators and lawyers. To their credit and respect for her, no one leaked that there was a simultaneous investigation occurring alongside of the police investigation.
The main focus has been on her alleged speed in investigating the Gray case. Just about every interview has asked about the speed of the investigation—as if it were lightning fast and referring to a “rush to judgment.” The problem is not with Ms. Mosby’s speed but with the other police involved killings in other jurisdictions and Maryland that took months to investigate without charges being filed. It should not and does not normally take months to investigate a homicide. Although police are involved, at the end of the day, it’s still a homicide case. Like all homicide investigations, her office’s investigation will be ongoing. A homicide investigation does not end just because charges have been brought. Just as the police are continuing their investigation, Ms. Mosby undoubtedly will continue her investigation. Once Mosby had enough information to bring charges based on probable cause, her office prepared the necessary paperwork to bring the charges. Probable cause is a far much lower standard from reasonable doubt.
As if the attacks on her age, level of experience and competence weren’t enough, the media questioned her bias against police officers and potential conflict with the Gray family attorney, William “Billy” Murphy. Any bias questioned against her for bringing charges against the police is utterly unfounded. According to Mosby in interviews, her family consists of police officers for generations from her parents, grandfather, two uncles and other relatives. The alleged potential conflict of interest with Mr. Murphy and his association with her campaign is also a non-issue. Mr. Murphy gave money to Mosby’s campaign and the Fraternal Order of Police also contributed to her campaign. Clearly, no apparent conflict exists. As for her knowing William Murphy, he is a prominent attorney in the Baltimore community and most attorneys, and particularly African American attorneys, are familiar in some way or another with Mr. Murphy. Then the media questioned whether a conflict of interest exists with her handling the case because her husband, Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby represents the district where Freddie Gray resided. It is the area in which she and her family reside. There would be no reason for Ms. Mosby to recuse herself in every case involving her district. I doubt if any other State’s Attorney was ever asked to recuse his or herself due to where they lived. She represents the entire City of Baltimore, including the district where she and her family reside.
What most of the media got wrong with Marilyn Mosby is their failure to address her intelligence, savvy, ingenuity and boldness in taking the action that she took. If she were a young, white male prosecutor, she would have been described as a rising star, an emerging legal figure with a keen and brilliant legal mind or a legal maverick. Ms. Mosby is all those things and many more. But most of the media has chosen and probably will continue to focus on negativity when referring to her and her office. The six police officer’s attorneys and some of their fellow officers will continue to put their negative spin on Ms. Mosby in the media. In contrast, Mosby will not try the case in the press. She will have to wait patiently until the case proceeds through the legal system to prove her worth. Many in the media act as if Marilyn Mosby is on trial. She is not the one on trial in this case.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She appears on MSNBC, Al Jazeera, BET, C-Span, CCTV- America, Sky News, PBS and TV One, among others addressing legal issues. She is a native of Baltimore, MD.