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Byron L. 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 Freddie Gray case and the circumstances involved make it likely the defense will seek a change of venue. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)
Byron L. 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 Freddie Gray case and the circumstances involved make it likely the defense will seek a change of venue. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Warnken: Charges speedy, but thoughtful

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.

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“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.”

About Lauren Kirkwood

Lauren Kirkwood covers the business of law beat at The Daily Record.

One comment

  1. I would still like to know the factual context of the arrest including, whether there was in fact probable cause for the arrest or at least reasonable suspicion that Mr. Grey was armed. I heard that they found a spring loaded knife on Mr. Gray, but that appears to be after the fact-what was the fact that led to the arrest? I suspect that if there was not probable cause for the arrest that something caused the officers to focus in on him-perhaps one of the officers knew Mr. Grey from a previous incident, perhaps there was information about drug transactions in the area, perhaps there was some departmental policy that led the officers to make the arrest-something had to cause the officers to focus in on him. I think it was more than just him “fleeing,” police do not necessarily chase people just because they are fleeing. And this is critical because I believe that the factual basis or lack of factual basis will set the stage for the rest of the case.

    I agree with Professor Warnken on the venue issue, and I think both the Mayor and Ms. Mosby may have done the defense counsel a big favor by going so public-their proclamations for “justice” sound more like proclamations for “revenge.” I understand that they felt compelled to calm the City down but they may have done it at the expense of venue. It will be interesting to see which judge is assigned to decide that issue-will it be someone who is up for election or re-election?

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