As All Charges Dropped in Freddie Gray's Death: Baltimore Mayor Says Reform Doesn't Hang on Verdicts

July 28, 2016


Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

the mayor of Baltimore and the secretary of the Democratic National Committee. She replaced Debbie Wasserman Schultz in opening the Democratic convention.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Wednesday she was dropping all charges against the remaining three police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. Gray died in April 2015 of spinal injuries after he was arrested and transported in a police van. Four officers in the case went on trial earlier this year. None were convicted on any of the charges they faced, which included murder. We get reaction from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from PhillyCAM, Philadelphia’s public access TV station. The Democratic National Convention’s entered its final day. Tonight, Hillary Clinton will make history when she becomes the first woman to accept a major-party presidential nomination. On Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden warned about the dangers of a Donald Trump presidency.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No major-party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less or has been less prepared to deal with our national security. We cannot elect a man who exploits our fears of ISIS and other terrorists, who has no plan whatsoever to make us safer, a man who embraces the tactics of our enemies—torture, religious intolerance. You all know. All the Republicans know. That’s not who we are. It betrays our values.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama also spoke, urging the country to reject Donald Trump’s cynicism and fear.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And that’s another bet that Donald Trump will lose. And the reason he’ll lose it is because he’s selling the American people short. We’re not a fragile people. We’re not a frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way. We don’t look to be ruled. Our power—our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that We the People can form a more perfect union." That’s who we are. That’s our birthright, the capacity to shape our own destiny. That’s what drove—that’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny, and our GIs to liberate a continent. It’s what gave women the courage to reach for the ballot, and marchers to cross a bridge in Selma, and workers to organize and fight for collective bargaining and better wages. America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us. It’s about what can be achieved by us together, through the hard and slow and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring, work of self-government.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama addressing the Democratic National Convention last night, as we turn now to Maryland, where the Baltimore state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, has announced she will drop all charges against the remaining three police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray died in April of 2015 of spinal injuries after he was arrested and transported in a police van. Four officers in the case went on trial earlier this year. None were convicted on any of the charges they faced, which included murder. Mosby announced the dropping of the charges on Wednesday.

MARILYN MOSBY: As the world has witnessed over the past 14 months, the prosecution of on-duty police officers in this country is unsurprisingly rare and blatantly fraught with systemic and inherent complications. Unlike with other cases, where prosecutors work closely with the police to investigate what actually occurred, what we realized very early on in this case was that police investigating police, whether their friends or merely their colleagues, was problematic. There was a reluctance and an obvious bias that was consistently exemplified, not by the entire Baltimore Police Department, but by individuals within the Baltimore Police Department, at every stage of the investigation, which became blatantly apparent in the subsequent trials.

AMY GOODMAN: Joining us now is Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore and the secretary of the Democratic National Convention. She replaced Debbie Wasserman Schultz in opening the Democratic convention.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! We’re going to talk about the convention in a minute. But first, to this breaking news of all of the charges being dropped against the remaining officers, which mean that none of them will be held accountable for the death of Freddie Gray. Your response?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think it’s interesting that that’s how the question is phrased, that no one is being held accountable. We have a justice system that requires guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s if you’re a police officer, a doctor, a person that’s living with substance abuse or disability. Everyone has that same entitlement, to be a found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is how we find people responsible in the court system. And repeatedly, the judge determined that the state’s attorney did not have the evidence to get anywhere near guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That is the process of justice, period.

AMY GOODMAN: Right. I guess many would say, did Freddie Gray have that choice?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I don’t understand what you’re saying.

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning he died. He died in police custody before—

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: And that’s why, after taking a look at the facts of the case, taking a look at the information, I reached, very, very promptly, and even taken criticism for it—I reached a settlement with his family, because he did die in police custody, and I wanted to bring closure. There are—there are no guarantees. A verdict is never a guarantee in any case. But I knew that for the sake of the family to have closure and for there to—for them to be able to move forward in the healing process, that’s why we settled the case.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your message to the community around police accountability in Freddie Gray’s death?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: The message is that the work to hold the police accountable, to have more transparency and to have a better police department was happening before the tragic death of Freddie Gray, and it’s been happening subsequently. I think that it is a mistake to—for anyone, for a prosecutor, for a mayor, for a member of the public, to hang the—hang their hopes that reform happens or accountability happens because of a verdict. That never is the case. What happens is the hard work of reform that has been happening under my administration.

You know, the Department of Justice collaborative review, I asked the Department of Justice to come in and work with us on bridging the gap between the community and the police, before the tragic and untimely death of Freddie Gray. I asked the state Legislature to take a look at the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and reform that, before the tragic death of Freddie Gray. And many of the people that you saw in that clip, not a one was there fighting with me, testifying with me, trying to get that done. The Legislative Black Caucus wouldn’t even hold a vote to see whether they should support the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights reform that I put forth.

Now, after the unfortunate and untimely, tragic death of Freddie Gray, everybody wants to be on board with these reforms. You know, that’s not—to live in a reactionary world sets up all types of discord and disappointment in the community. You have to be proactive and continue to work on a consistent basis, and that’s what I’ve done.

AMY GOODMAN: You also called for the Justice Department to open a pattern and practice investigation into the Baltimore Police Department.

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: And I have been the—and the Department of Justice says I’ve been the most aggressive mayor they’ve ever experienced when it comes to fighting for reforms and transparency in the police department.

AMY GOODMAN: And have they done that? Has the Justice Department this?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Yeah, they’re there now. The investigation is almost complete.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby speaking Wednesday. She said there’s an inherent bias that’s a direct result of when police police themselves.

MARILYN MOSBY: There were individual police officers that were witnesses to the case, yet were part of the investigative team, interrogations that were conducted without asking the most poignant questions, lead detectives that were completely uncooperative and started a counter-investigation to disprove the state’s case, by not executing search warrants pertaining to text messages among the police officers involved in the case, creating videos to disprove the state’s case without our knowledge, creating notes that were drafted after the case was launched to contradict the medical examiner’s conclusion, turning these notes over to defense attorneys months prior to turning them over to the state, and yet doing it in the middle of trial. As you can see, whether investigating, interrogating, testifying, cooperating or even complying with the state, we’ve all bore witness to an inherent bias that is a direct result of when police police themselves.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the state’s attorney. Mayor Rawlings-Blake, your response?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think it’s important to take a look at what the judge said in the case after hearing the evidence. And none of that—none of those things were clear from the evidence that was put in front of the case. And if any of those things were the case, that’s what you say in a press conference, you know, before the trial, before you bring charges, that you can’t bring charges because of this inherent bias, because of these things. And that’s not what happened. Unfortunately, during the case, what the judge found is that the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence, that the prosecution violated rules that required evidence to be withheld from consideration.

You know, you can’t have it both ways. The rules have to work on both sides. And when that happens, that’s when justice happens. You know, I don’t—you know I’m an attorney by profession, and I understand the very high moral and ethical and professional standards that we have to have. And I also understand, as an elected official, what it means to impugn the integrity of the process, what it means to impugn the integrity of the judicial—of the judge, the investigators. You can’t say, on one hand, in a press conference, that you had—you did your own independent investigation, and that’s how you came to the conclusion, and then when it doesn’t work out, say that it was because it was flawed. Say that up front. Give people the information up front.

AMY GOODMAN: You called for the resignation of the former police chief, Anthony Batts, in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death. He spoke yesterday and said the state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, was immature and incompetent. What is your response to that?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I don’t have a response. He’s a private citizen. He’s entitled to his opinion.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned the suit that you arrived at—the settlement with the family. Baltimore has agreed to pay Officer Caesar Goodson more than $87,000 after he was found not guilty of second-degree murder and other charges. Reports are, the trial has cost the city more than $7 million. That doesn’t include the $6 million settlement with the Gray family. Can you talk about all the costs of the Freddie Gray case?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I mean, you outlined some of them. And there would have been more. Every time there’s a trial, every time we have to prepare for a verdict and the potential outcome of that, it costs the city money. And imagine—we know what it cost just for the criminal portion of the trial. If there were then to be a protracted civil case, as there have been in many jurisdictions, the cost would have gone up significantly more.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you be settling with other of the officers, giving money to them, as you did with Officer Caesar Goodson?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I don’t give—I would not and have not given the officers anything that they’re not entitled to by law and by contract.

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