IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Stunning': Prosecutor in Freddie Gray Case Acted Quickly

Baltimore's top prosecutor was praised for not wasting any time in charging the six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray.
/ Source: 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."

But the move is consistent with promises that Mosby, who at 35 years old is the youngest lead prosecutor in any major American city, made while campaigning for the city's state's attorney position.

She was sworn in in January after a surprise win over incumbent Gregg Bernstein, which she pulled off by portraying herself as a crime crusader who wanted to keep repeat offenders off the streets, and also pledging to hold police officers responsible for their actions.

"Police brutality is completely inexcusable. I'm going to apply justice fairly, even to those who wear a badge," she said in response to a Baltimore Sun investigation into alleged police beatings during her campaign.

Mosby has five generations of police officers in her family.

"I know that the majority of police officers are really hard-working officers who are risking their lives day in and day out, but those really bad ones who go rogue do a disservice to the officers who are risking their lives and taking time away from their families," she told Baltimore Magazine in January, when she started her tenure as state's attorney.

Her decision to charge the officers in the Gray case was met with strong support.

"The Congressional Black Caucus applauds the swift and decisive actions by the Baltimore City State's Attorney in conducting a thorough and independent investigation of the events surrounding the death of Freddie Gray," U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield, a Democrat who represents North Carolina and who serves as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement.

"This is the first of many steps to begin the process of mending the fractured relationship between law enforcement and the people of the City of Baltimore," he said.

On Twitter, the praise was just as loud. "Ever city needs a Marilyn Mosby!!" wrote one person. "Marilyn Mosby was unwavering as she stepped into the national spotlight. She means business." Others predicted she would be the next mayor of Baltimore, while another said, "Police need to be policed. Thank God for Mosby and her integrity."

Her quick response to Gray's April 12 arrest and April 19 death contrasts with other high-profile police deaths in the past year where no charges were filed, or that took months to investigations to conclude.

"The difference here is there's malice. It's not a legal requirement, but she's alleging that at least one of these officers hurt him and the other people, knowing he was hurt, didn't care. And there's no foundation for the arrest to begin with," said Eugene O'Donnell, a former New York Police Department officer and a professor of law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

"With Eric Garner, that's different. With Michael Brown, that's different," O'Donnell said, referring to the deaths of black men in police encounters in Staten Island, New York, and Ferguson, Missouri. "In this case, the guy was arrested for running."

Regardless, filing charges, especially this quickly, "is a bold move on her part to be commended," said Burris, the civil rights attorney.

But filing charges doesn't necessarily mean there will be a conviction.

"Let's be cautious because this is the beginning of the process," civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton told MSNBC. "We had charges in Sean Bell, we had charges in Trayvon Martin, and in the end, they were not guilty verdicts."