Thursday, June 23, 2016
Eyes from around the country were on Baltimore Police Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. Thursday as he was aquitted of all charges related to the death of Freddie Gray.
But there's another person who is likely to draw similar attention: Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.
Political observers say the outcome of the officers' trials could have a large impact on the political career of Mosby, who gained international attention last May when she announced charges against the officers on the steps of the War Memorial building in Baltimore, days after arson and looting rocked the city.
Through three trials so far, Mosby's senior prosecutors have yet to land a conviction against the officers charged in Gray's arrest and death. Goodson, the driver of the van in which Gray sustained his fatal injuries last April, faced the most serious charges of the six officers accused in the case.
Circuit Judge Barry Williams cleared Goodson of seven counts against him, ranging from second-degree depraved heart murder to reckless endangerment
The acquittal means it will be difficult for Mosby's prosecutors to be successful in any of the other trials against the officers should Williams continue as judge in those cases, several observers said.
"This is their Waterloo. This is their Gettysburg," said attorney Warren A. Brown, a critic of Mosby's who predicts she will face several challengers for reelection in two years. "She is virtually persona non grata in the white community and her support is waning in the black community and will continue to wane if she continues to lose these cases."
Charles D. Ellison, host of "The Ellison Report" on WEAA radio, agreed that the trial's outcome "significant" to Mosby's political future, but believed she's a savvy enough politician to survive an acquittal.
"This is the case that everyone has been watching," he said. "There are going to be some who see Mosby as being ineffective. It's not just a verdict on a Goodson. It's a verdict on her performance. But that's something she can pull through. She's a very talented lawyer and talented politician."
Mosby surprised many in Baltimore in 2014 when she unseated incumbent State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein despite a notable fundraising disadvantage. She's landed high-profile convictions against murderers, rapists and gang members, but those have been largely overshadowed by the charges she brought against the officers in the Gray case in which critics accuse her of a "rush to judgment."
Still, as Mosby has endured some criticism, polls have showed her remaining popular in Baltimore. About 3-to-1 Democratic primary voters polled last fall said they supported her handling of the case.
"There are going to be a political repercussions, but I don't believe this will be a death knell," said former state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, who hosts the "C4" show on WBAL. "What the citizens of Baltimore wanted was a prosecutor who would have the courage to bring charges when it appeared that the police had done something wrong. She will get credit for that."
Even so, Mitchell said, she will probably never again encounter a case with this much national and international attention.
"Nothing is going to be bigger than these cases," he said. "This is going to be the biggest case she has in her term."
Attorney Richard C.B. Woods, a Mosby supporter, said continuing losses at trial could result in repercussions for Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow, who was accused of not turning over exculpatory evidence to the defense team.
"If there's a failure in this case in overcharging, I don't think that should be laid at her feet," Woods said. "You don't go after the State's Attorney for that; you go after the trial team."
Members of the Peoples Power Assembly gathered outside the courthouse for the verdict. The group has regularly held small protests during court hearings for the officers. The group is also planning a second evening event at Pennsylvania and North avenues in West Baltimore, where violence and looting erupted following Gray's funeral in April 2015.
Another group, which includes the family of Tyrone West, who died during an altercation with police in 2013, is also planning to gather outside the courthouse, to "take to the streets if police Officer Goodson is let off, or given a slap on the wrist in the death of Freddie Gray," according to a statement.