Nicky Woolf – The Guardian
A Baltimore judge on Wednesday denied a raft of motions aimed at removing state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby from a case involving six police officers criminally charged in the death of Freddie Gray.
The motions filed by the defence team aimed variously to sanction or recuse Mosby, who became a national figure when she announced the charges against the officers.
The charges range from second-degree assault, a misdemeanor, to second-degree “depraved-heart” murder.
In court, judge Barry Williams described one of the motions – which claimed that by reading the probable cause statement in a press conference on the day her office filed charges, Mosby herself became a witness and should therefore be prevented from the case – as “mind-boggling”.
Gray died in April, a week after suffering a spinal injury in custody. His death led to protests and a riot that prompted the deployment of the national guard and the mayor to declare a city-wide curfew.
Outside the courthouse, a small crowd of protesters gathered, holding signs and chanting “tell the truth and stop the lies – Freddie Gray didn’t have to die”.
After the hearing began the group marched to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area, where one protester, Kwame Rose, appeared to have been struck by a car and arrested.
Megan Kenny, another protester, witnessed the event.
She said Rose also looked like he had been sprayed with pepper spray, but said Rose did not confirm this. “He had stuff around his eyes, around his mouth,” she said.
Police handcuffed Rose, Kenny said, and put him in an ambulance. After that, the protesters dispersed.
A spokesperson for the Baltimore City police department said “the arrested individual” was awaiting booking, but denied that he had been pepper-sprayed and said: “Contrary to some reports on social media, there was no Taser deployment.”
Baltimore police said the person had been arrested for blocking a roadway, and that an officer had sustained minor injuries in the process of making the arrest.
In court, attorneys for the defence claimed statements made by Mosby on the day she announced the charges “poisoned the minds” of potential jurors, “basically trampled” on the defendants’ fair-trial rights and “made a fair trial difficult or possibly impossible”.
The defence also claimed that Mosby had “led a sort of pep rally”.
As her representatives defended her against a motion they called “nonsensical and ridiculous”, Mosby sat silently in court.
“Forests have been destroyed by the amount of paper defense have used to argue these issues, and they are simply not trial issues,” the prosecution said.
Judge Barry Williams also ruled for a motion to separate the cases out into six separate trials.
At a press conference, mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that this would mean six potential “flashpoints” associated with them, but said the city would be prepared.
At the conference, police chief Kevin Davis, who recently replaced Anthony Batts, said that “today was a good day” in terms of police handling of the protest. “We saw Baltimore police at its best,” he said. “We treated a protest as a protest.”
Asked a question about Rose’s arrest, Davis said he had been charged with one count of second-degree assault, two counts of disorderly conduct, and one count of making a false statement.
Earlier, as dozens of sheriff’s deputies patrolled the streets, protesters outside the court carried yellow signs with slogans including “Stop racism now” and “Indict, convict, jail”. One banner read: “Justice 4 Freddie Carlos Gray”.
The protesters chanted: “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
One protester, Lee Paterson, said he remained concerned that charges could be dropped.
He also said: “You know, this whole thing is bigger than Freddie Gray. It’s about poverty.”