Law professor Byron L. Warnken said he was initially “very surprised” that city state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby’s announcement of charges to be brought against police officers involved in the Freddie Gray’s arrest came just a day after she received a copy of the Baltimore Police investigation.
“There’s no way in heck I could receive a report that long and start from square zero, digest that and make charging decisions in a 24 hour period,” Warnken said.
However, Warnken said, Mosby’s press conference Friday morning seemed to be an indicator of how thorough her own office’s simultaneous investigation had been.
FREDDIE GRAY COVERAGE
–Hogan: ‘We believe in the criminal justice system’
–From the steps of the War Memorial: Mosby speaks of Gray ‘homicide’
–Mosby announces murder, manslaughter charges against police in Gray’s death
–Records show worries over Baltimore officer’s mental health
“I wouldn’t want them to [bring charges] solely to please the people in the streets, but it sounds like the T’s were crossed and the I’s were dotted, and it sounds like they did their homework,” Warnken said. “You don’t have to have, at this level, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but you need to have probable cause to bring these charges, and it sounds like she had probable cause.”
Warnken, a criminal defense attorney and professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law who wrote a treatise on Maryland criminal procedure, said the high-profile nature of the case and the circumstances involved make it likely the defense will seek a change of venue.
“The fact that there is some level of race involved in this case — race plays out differently in different parts of the state,” he said. “Normally, if you’re a criminal defense attorney, you would like a Baltimore city jury.”
But a case where the victim is an African American and the defendants are members of law enforcement “changes the dynamics 100 percent,” Warnken said.
“If I’m a criminal defense attorney representing the officers, I don’t want a Baltimore city jury,” he said. “Because it’s such a big deal case, I think they could probably succeed in requesting a change of venue; they’d have a decent chance of succeeding.”