Lawsuits filed by Baltimore police officers against Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby must be dismissed, according to the law. The United States Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors acting within the scope of their duties in pursuing criminal prosecution are immune from civil suits.
The role of a prosecutor in a criminal case is to seek justice and represent the People of a given jurisdiction against a person charged with committing a criminal offense. This is exactly what Marilyn Mosby did when the officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death, which the medical examiner ruled a homicide, were indicted by a grand jury.
In criminal cases, particularly felonies, facts are presented to a grand jury to determine if there is probable cause to proceed with criminal charges. If the grand jury feels that there is enough probable cause to proceed, they return an indictment. In the case against the officers, a grand jury felt that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute in the death of Freddie Gray. At that time, the case goes through a process leading up to trial.
During a trial, the prosecutor has the burden of proving that the defendant is, in fact, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The first officer tried for the death of Freddie Gray was William Porter. Porter was tried in front of a jury and at the end, the jury could not return a verdict. There were some jurors who felt that Porter was guilty and some who felt that he was not guilty.
This fact was overshadowed when the remaining officers elected to have their case heard by Judge Barry Williams, who determined that they were not guilty. Based upon proof presented at the jury trial, some jurors felt that William Porter was guilty, which indicates that Mosby did the right thing in pursing and prosecuting the officers based upon probable cause. One must remember that there are different standards of proof in proceeding with a case versus finding a person guilty.
A single person, in this case the judge who presided over the bench trial, cannot be the determining factor when deciding if a prosecutor abused her power. Mrs. Mosby followed the laws and rules of criminal procedure, she did nothing wrong. We cannot allow people to begin filing civil suits against prosecutors because a defendant is found not guilty. There are men and women found not guilty in trials all the time and it has always been maintained that absent some showing of blatant misconduct, the prosecutor is immune from such civil suits and bar complaints…this case is no different.
If we begin to allow people to bring such suits against prosecutors, then everyone who is ultimately found not guilty or later exonerated after a criminal conviction must be allowed to bring civil suits or bar complaints against the prosecutors in their cases. Under the logic of the officers who seek to sue Mrs. Mosby or have her disbarred, O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, and Michael Jackson should have been able to sue and seek disbarment of the prosecutors who pursued their cases.
Mosby’s office did what a prosecutor’s office is supposed to do – there was an investigation followed by a presentation to the grand jury, which returned an indictment, and the case was put before a trier of fact. What America has become used to are prosecutors becoming the trier of fact. We saw this in Cleveland, with Timothy McGinty, and Chicago, with Anita Alvarez.
Prosecutors have never been the trier of fact under the rules of criminal procedure. Their role is to present evidence to the people charged with determining what’s true or not and if the facts fit the elements of the crime charged. When a prosecutor follows the role placed upon them by the criminal justice system, they cannot be subjected to disbarment or civil suits…especially in the absence of gross misconduct, which was not present here.
Mosby should be commended for taking the difficult road and pursing charges against the officers involved in the night Freddie Gray died. It is time for Baltimore police and its union to move forward and work with Mosby in the pursuit of law and order to keep the citizens of Baltimore safe.
Benjamin L. Crump, former president of the National Bar Association, is the attorney for the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and represents victims of former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who was convicted of rape charges for preying on African-American women in his capacity as a police officer.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty