Craig M. Kadish: Case against Baltimore cops no slam-dunk for prosecutors

Hard challenges loom for Baltimore’s top prosecutor, who acted swiftly to charge six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray and now must prove her case.

The case is complicated, legal experts say, and the stakes — illustrated by protests and looting that followed Gray’s death April 19 — are high.

Legal experts say the case is fraught with challenges. The widely shown video that captured the nation’s attention shows Gray, 25, being loaded into a police transport van, but not what happened once he was inside. Other than the accused officers, the only known witness is a convicted criminal later placed in the van’s other holding cell, unable to see what was happening with Gray.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby on Friday charged the six officers with felonies ranging from assault to second-degree depraved heart murder. By bringing charges less than two weeks after Gray’s death, Mosby, 35, said her decision showed “no one is above the law.”

Within hours, the city’s police union questioned the prosecutor’s impartiality, accusing her of a rush to judgment and demanding she recuse herself from the case.

To win a conviction, prosecutors will have to convince a jury that van driver Caesar Goodson acted so recklessly that he knew his actions could take Gray’s life.

And some worry further violence might erupt if she fails to win convictions.

“The concern of many in Baltimore, not just in the bar, but all around the city is: Should there be an acquittal of one or more of the officers, it would make the rioting you have seen thus far look like campfires that you roast marshmallows over,” Baltimore defense attorney Craig M. Kadish told the Herald.

Regardless of the motivation, the announcement of the charges immediately shifted the prevailing mood on the city’s streets from one of rage to relief.

In Baltimore yesterday, chants of “no justice, no peace, no racist police” echoed through the streets during a march that organizers billed as a “victory rally.” At a grassy plaza across from Baltimore’s City Hall filled with thousands of people yesterday, speakers praised Mosby.

“I think it has to do with Ms. Mosby living here in West Baltimore: They took seriously the sentiment of the youth,” said Kustanya McCray, a 41-year-old Baltimore resident who joined thousands of people at the demonstration. “Our city council, the mayor — they’re all from here. They’ve lost family members to violence. They understand what’s been happening. They understand they have no choice now.”