The overwhelming sentiment around Baltimore City as State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that the final three cases against police officers in the Freddie Gray trial would be dropped was resignation to say the least. No one expressed surprise. Many expressed anger outright, but more than anything they were resigned to the notion that in cases of police misconduct there will always be acquittals.
One activist has been steadfastly standing in front of the courtroom for every trial, adorned with a banner featuring Freddie Gray’s picture around his neck. It is a marked contrast from the overwhelming crowds that swelled around the courtroom back in December for the first trial for Officer William Porter, which ended in a mistrial. Then it was protestors shouting out, “No Justice, No Peace, No More Racist Police!” that surged up to the windows of the overflowed courtroom—only necessary because so many reporters had been inside attempting to chronicle the moments.
The mood changed within the city, quite quickly, as righteous anger and resistance turned into resignation after the mistrial of Officer Porter and the subsequent acquittals of Officer Edward Nero and the van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson. In fact, it was Goodson who faced the most serious charges of depraved heart murder and manslaughter. During the last two trials, Lt. Brian Rice and Officer Garrett Miller, who were the two arresting policemen, showed up to court in sunglasses. There are pictures of Miller and Rice in The Baltimore Sun, smiling as they left the courtroom. Inside, they chatted with other officers that were there presumably to provide support. As they sat in the front pews of the courtroom, they exchanged handshakes and sometimes laughter. Judge Barry Williams alternated between lambasting the prosecution for things like discovery violations and joking / laughing with them and the defense attorneys. Throughout the cases, Judge Williams often chastised both sides, even going so far as to yell at one prosecution witness, saying that he was being “sarcastic” and to just “stop.” He was not the even-keeled vessel of information that he self-identified as to the prosecutor Janice Bledsoe, who questioned one of his facial expressions as she spoke to him
In the first trial of Officer Porter, there was at least one moment where it was clear that a life was at stake. For this, it meant seeking the truth for what happened to a man that went into a police wagon alive and came out with a crushed voice box and a severed spine. Brandon Ross, 31, was one of Freddie Gray’s closest friends, who said that Gray “was like a brother to me.” He testified about walking with him the morning police took him into custody, that he saw Gray being tossed into the police van face-down in leg shackles and handcuffs. Prosecutors played the audio of the cellphone footage that Ross recorded in haste. Gray’s mother, Gloria Darden, sat in the courtroom, alongside other family members in anguish. It has been put on official record that Darden has attempted suicide since the death of her son.