Freddie Gray Case
Judge rules it is unreasonable to expect cops to obey the law
The cops charged in the death of Freddie Gray had another good day in a Baltimore courtroom, on Monday, May 23, 2016, when one of the six officers was found not guilty of second degree assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment. Officer Edward Nero had opted not to undergo a trial by jury, so the case was decided by a Black circuit court judge, Barry Williams. The trial of another cop, William Porter, ended in a mistrial back in December when the jury deadlocked on all four counts. If Officer Porter is tried again, it will be after the trials of all the other cops are completed.
But Officer Nero is home free, because Judge Williams ruled that there was “no evidence that the cop intended for a crime to occur.” Judge Williams was affirming the triple legal standard that exists in American law: one standard for cops, another for civilians in general, and no reliable expectation of justice at all for Black people.
Officer Nero was one of the cops WHO arrested Freddie Gray, dragged his limping body to a police transport wagon, and then failed to secure him with a seatbelt. Gray was given a wild ride through the streets of Baltimore, his handcuffed body crashing into the sides and front of the vehicle, fatally severing his spine.
Lawlessness begins with
Freddie Gray’s only offense was to run away after making eye contact with a police supervisor—which is not a crime in anybody’s law book. But, as my colleague Bruce Dixon often says, cops are like hounds, and Black people are treated like rabbits, and when a rabbit runs away from the hounds they will chase it down and tear it apart.
So, the hounds are on trial in Baltimore. The prosecution maintains that the cops had no right to arrest and move Freddie Gray—that this amounted to second-degree assault on his person. In her closing arguments, deputy state’s attorney Janice Bledsoe said “people get jacked up in the city all the time” by cops, and such behavior must be punished. But, the judge seemed to think it would be ridiculous to treat every arrest as criminal just because there were no grounds for arrest. Officer Nero’s lawyer agreed, saying it didn’t make any difference if the cops acted illegally in arresting Freddie Gray. “Wrong or right isn’t the standard,” said the cop’s attorney. “The standard is, were they so wrong that it was unreasonable?”
So, cops have to be more than just guilty of breaking the law; they must be “unreasonably” guilty—whatever that is.
Warren Brown, a defense lawyer who observed the proceedings, said: “If you’re going to go back and charge every police officer whose arrest was determined to be illegal with assault, or every search that’s deemed to be absent probable cause, [then] you’re going to indict the entire police force.”
Sounds good to me. Indict them all, and empower the people to form a security force that respects, and is answerable to, the community it serves. But, of course, it would be “unreasonable” for Black people to expect anything that smacks of justice in America.
—Black Agenda Report, May 24, 2016