We Don’t Know Right Verdict for Freddie Gray Prosecutions

Police union pushes back on Freddie Gray prosecutions.

This we know: Freddie Gray is dead.

Beyond this, we can have suspicions but we don’t know anything.

I was reminded of this when I read NBC News on the police union reaction: “Officers Charged in Freddie Gray’s Death ‘Did Nothing Wrong’: Attorney.”

Gene Ryan, a union official, wrote in a statement that “they are all committed police officers who have dedicated their careers to the Baltimore City Police Department.”

“All that has been lost in all the publicity,” the statement said. The Baltimore lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police called for Mosby to appoint a special prosecutor that would decide whether or not to file charges against the officers.

Baltimore Police Lt. Kenneth Butler said the department was “extremely frustrated and shocked” by Mosby’s announcement.

Mosby said Friday that Gray’s April 12 arrest was illegal and his death a week later has been ruled a homicide.

Then there is this related headline at NBC news:

Baltimore’s top prosecutor was praised Friday for not wasting any time in charging the six police officers who arrested Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died in their custody.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision came just a little more than two weeks after Gray’s death and only a day after receiving confidential investigation notes from the Baltimore police department — a timeline that Oakland, California-based civil rights attorney John Burris called “stunning.”

“Stunning because it happened so quickly,” Burris, who specializes in police misconduct cases and worked on the Rodney King suit against Los Angeles, said. “Rarely has a district attorney’s office responded so quickly, so I was a little surprised.”

Okay, perhaps that makes you think that the age of justice has finally dawned for America. But it gives me no confidence at all.

The official letter from the Police Union makes some other claims, as reported by the Baltimore Sun:

The letter from Gene Ryan, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, also states that none of the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and death were responsible for the 25-year-old West Baltimore man’s death that spurred protests and unrest, including rioting and looting on Monday. The letter was released just minutes before Mosby announced charges against the officers.

“Not one of the officers involved in this tragic situation left home in the morning with the anticipation that someone with whom they interacted would not go home that night,” the letter states. “As tragic as this situation is, none of the officers involved are responsible for the death of Mr. Gray.”

Ryan requests that Mosby appoint a “Special Independent Prosecutor.”

“I have very deep concerns about the many conflicts of interest presented by your office conducting an investigation in this case,” the letter states.

“These conflicts include your personal and professional relations with Gray family attorney, William Murphy, and the lead prosecutor’s connections with members of the local media,” the letter states. “Based on several nationally televised interviews, these reporters are likely to be witnesses in any potential litigation regarding this incident.”

Murphy supported Mosby during her campaign last year. He donated $5,000 to her campaign and served on her transition committee.

So where does that leave us?

Is it possible that these police officers are guilty of the charges against them?

It is completely possible. We have lots of reason, in the abstract, to worry about what cops can do and usually get away with.

But these police have to be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. And our generalizations about police don’t necessarily apply to these police. We simply don’t know much.

Is it possible that politicians are publicly punishing these cops for things they didn’t do in order to advance their political careers and satiating the mob?

It is completely possible. We have lots of reason, in the abstract, to expect bloodthirsty posturing by politicians in order to give the people what they want. Destroying a few peoples’ lives would be an easy decision for many politicians. Since I don’t personally know Mosby, as far as I know she could be as corrupt and ambitious as any other politician in a Liberal city.

But it is possible, even if Mosby and others don’t care about justice and only care about their ambitions, that in this case they are still prosecuting guilty cops who ought to be prosecuted.

So where does that leave us? Ignorant. Things look bad and definitely should be investigated and perhaps tried, but that is not the same as knowing what happened or whether the police are guilty.

The bottom line with the Freddie Gray prosecutions is that both “black lives matter” and “blue lives matter” because all lives matter. If the Freddie Gray prosecutions move us closer to recognizing that fact, then well and good.

But I have no prima facie reason to hope for such an outcome. I’m praying for it, but I don’t have much reason to expect it in our current political environment.