Well, now we know what it took to end the riots and looting in Baltimore: just arrest some cops and charge them with assault, manslaughter and even murder.
That’s what happened when six police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray, the young black man who died while in police custody, were charged with various crimes by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Even though Gray had fled from police prior to his arrest, Mosby said that police lacked probable cause to arrest him. So, of course, that made their subsequent actions inexcusable.
Now, I have no doubt that the police made several major mistakes after they captured Gray. They shouldn’t have tossed him facedown in a police van, handcuffed and with his legs shackled, without strapping him into a seat belt. They shouldn’t have ignored his repeated requests for medical assistance. And they shouldn’t have driven around Baltimore for 45 minutes before taking him to a police station.
But is all of this enough to justify charging Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the van, with second-degree depraved heart murder? I hardly think so. All of the officers have been charged with multiple violations of the law. Goodson, one of three African-American officers who were arrested, was charged with both manslaughter and second-degree murder. That’s overdoing it a bit, since he can’t be convicted of both.
No, this rush to judgment in Baltimore has very little to do with justice or the presumption of innocence. It has everything to do with placating the mob. Alan Dershowitz, the famous Harvard Law School professor and civil rights attorney, agrees with this harsh diagnosis. In an interview with Newsmax TV, he said: “Today had nothing to do with justice. Today was crowd control. Everything was motivated by a threat of riots and a desire to prevent riots.”
Dershowitz said that “The worst-case scenario is a case for involuntary manslaughter or some kind of reckless disregard.” Bringing murder charges, he said, means “[t]his is a show trial. This is designed to please the crowd.” Well, of course it was.
When asked what he expects to happen, Dershowitz replied, “My prediction? They’ve overplayed their hand. It’s unlikely they’ll get any convictions in this case as a result of this. And if they do, there’s a good possibility it’ll be reversed on appeal and will just postpone the riots for months ahead.”
Ah, but no doubt the powers that be in Baltimore are thrilled that they managed to turn violent demonstrations into peaceful celebrations. Considering what had been happening in the city, it’s no surprise they consider this a victory worth celebrating.
On Sunday morning, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the 10 p.m. curfew in the city would be ending. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he would begin withdrawing the 3,000 National Guard troops who had been ordered to the city to help restore order. Once they’re gone, the state of emergency he proclaimed will end.
Who can blame them for wanting to celebrate, even if it means accusing a few heavy-handed cops of murder? I can only imagine the chilling effect this will have on other cops in Baltimore — and in every other city and town in America, for that matter.
Mike Davey, an attorney who represents one of the accused cops and said he was speaking for all six of them, said: “I have never seen such a hurried rush to deliver criminal charges.” And he predicted, “We believe these officers will be vindicated as they have done nothing wrong.”
It will take many more months to find out whether he’s correct — and how the city will react if these six cops are found innocent.
I can’t end this commentary without saying a few words about Toya Graham, the angry black mom who was caught on video cursing and smacking her 16-year-old son for joining the rioters. While some have hailed this mother of six as a “Mom of the Year,” and we can certainly sympathize with her desire to protect her son, I don’t think cursing and beating is the sort of parenting we want to encourage (nor is having several children by different fathers, none of whom live at home).
I’d rather we made heroes out of the many law-abiding citizens of Baltimore who stood between the police and the demonstrators to prevent more rioting and looting. And then they went to work to clean up the mess the rioters had made. These are the folks who deserve our praise.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.