Just last week, the right-wing Media Research Center’s annual black-tie gala honored the three arresting officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray.
Officers Brian Rice, Edward Nero and Garrett Miller received standing ovations and "deafening cheers" while they explained how they have to deal with a hostile public that is down on cops in the aftermath of their trials and Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s indictment of them.
A day later, on Sept. 28, a controversial profile of Marilyn Mosby appeared in the New York Times magazine. The profile begins with family time between her and her husband, Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby, who ran a failed bid for mayor this year. The opening alludes to a rift in their marriage as a result of public scrutiny of the trials.
To let that reporter tell it, Marilyn Mosby, it seems, is to blame for it all. The underlying sentiment was that when women—young black women, specifically—are ambitious or go against the status quo, their marriages may suffer.
This is not how the media treats men who make unpopular decisions in the public sphere—one toupeed person comes to mind. No one is concerned about how his actions will affect his marriage or marriages.
Dan Rodricks in the Baltimore Sun jumped on the bandwagon a few days later, on Oct. 2, suggesting that on the day the unrest began after Gray's death, Mosby "screamed” at Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, blaming her for the fires and looting, and claiming that Mosby "shouted" charges against the six police officers. He went on to say that instead of Mosby "admitting that she lacked evidence of criminality," she blamed a broken justice system—rigged in favor of defendants who opt for bench trials—and accused the police who investigated Gray's death of "inherent bias" against her efforts at justice.
It should be baffling that Mosby has faced so much disrespect for seeking justice for an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody, while the officers responsible for his death receive applause.
But it isn't.
The language that has been used to describe Mosby—from saying she "screamed," is focused on her marriage or is incompetent, to suggesting that she is too young for the job—is both sexist and racist. She has received death threats, had people come to her house and threaten her, and been called derogatory names that wouldn't be used for a white male.
"It's really the [Fraternal Order of Police] and those that think like the FOP that have been attacking her," said longtime Baltimore activist Sharon Black with the People's Power Assembly. "It’s a scurrilous kind of abuse they have heaped on this woman, a kind that I have never seen someone in her high-ranking position being attacked in the way she has been."
Wil S. Hylton, writing for the New York Times magazine, talked about how the public felt she was "incompetent" and not qualified because she had only served as a corporate lawyer and worked in the state's attorney's office for six years before being elected to serve as the state's attorney.
"One thing you can't deny is the true grit of Marilyn Mosby," said lawyer J. Wyndal Gordon, who has worked in Baltimore for over 20 years. "It speaks to the incumbent [Gregg Bernstein] and how important it was to get him out of office. As a state's attorney, you're not really a prosecutor; you're an administrator or an executive. The only requirement to be state's attorney is admission to the bar and residence in the county for two years.
"Bernstein was bad for Baltimore. Talk about incompetent—he couldn't win a case," Gordon continued. "He was more concerned about how he looked in public than he was about ridding Baltimore streets of crime. There was a lot of criminal conduct happening in the Police Department, and he was turning a blind eye to it."
The whole notion that the decision to prosecute the officers was controversial or against the status quo is confounding. The grand jury came up with the charges for them. The medical examiner ruled Gray's death a homicide. Mosby's office made the decision to indict and announce it publicly. This was not a one-person operation, but Mosby has become a target simply for doing her job and having the nerve to care about justice for Freddie Gray.
"The FOP is not mad at her because she didn't do enough," said Black. "They're upset because she did anything. That she had the audacity."
Of course, it has not been just members of the media and police officers who have been critical of Mosby; some local activists have chided her for not getting convictions in Gray's case, while being a bulldog in cases like Keith Davis’. Davis was shot by police and convicted of a gun charge. Activists have come to her house and protested.
Still, while there was criticism from activists, this kind of abuse wasn't heaped on Gregg Bernstein after Baltimore resident Anthony Anderson was fatally injured while being arrested by police.
"She has been unfairly torn apart by the death threats and constant criticism for doing what she thought was the right thing to do in her role as the city state's attorney," said activist Hassan Giordano.
"Being on the street, people thought the charges for the officers in the Gray case should have been stronger. Especially for the three white officers that were the first to accost Gray, whose charges were less than the black police officers’. There was a disparity," said Black.
Still others were critical that the state's attorney's office didn't take enough time to investigate the case. In the New York Times article, Hylton, the reporter, who was not in the courtroom daily for the trials, poses a hypothetical scenario for how Gray's death occurred and why they could not get a guilty verdict. The reporter puts a "few pills of dope" in Gray's hand—a theory that never came up in trial or had any relevance to the case.
He also says that the police had no reason to "give him a rough ride" because one cop said, "There's no camaraderie" among officers. Which, one supposes, is the reason the officers had to be compelled to testify against one another at the trial. He goes on to detail what the hypothetical police narrative is and asks, if there was another narrative besides the one the officers offered, why was it so hard to convict?
If the New York Times reporter had been at the trial on a daily basis, he would understand why it was so difficult to convict: Police were slow in delivering evidence. The prosecution had a number of discovery violations relating to not getting evidence on time. Officers were unwilling to testify against each other. We never heard the van driver—the officer with the most serious charges—speak at all. CCTV footage had been erased during key moments of the arrest. Police investigators and prosecutors were locked in a battle. These are a few of the numerous reasons.
"You have a corrupt police force—as proven by the [Department of Justice] report—you're using to prosecute corrupt police. That combination is rarely going to get you a conviction," said Gordon. "But you can't stop trying. That's one of the things I like about Mosby. She won't be deterred to do what she feels is right."
And there were real reasons to be critical of Mosby and her office in the Gray case. The main one is that residents who witnessed his arrest, including Kevin Moore, who videotaped it on his cellphone but was never called as a witness, say that Gray was injured during the arrest, not in the van.
"Mosby's incompetence did not rest with overcharging; it lay with undercharging the guilty parties who, in fact, broke his neck," said Dr. Mary Anne Whelan, a retired Harvard-trained neurologist. "It didn't happen in the van. It happened when the arresting officers took him down, knelt on his back and folded his legs up behind him until his heels were nearly touching his skull."
Whelan criticizes Mosby for relying on police and the medical examiner's narrative. The medical examiner said, "We don't know from the autopsy that the way he was dragging his legs wasn't substantiated by any known injury."
That's a fair criticism of Mosby, but taken in a broader context, it's extremely rare for a prosecutor to question a medical examiner's determination.
This case was unprecedented. As Black from the People's Power Assembly stated, Mosby had the audacity to charge police officers in the death of an average, everyday poor black man in Baltimore. If there had been convictions, it would have upset the paradigm for police in every city in America.
"She saw efficient evidence to bring the charges and she bowed to her constituents," said Gordon. "If these political officials and appointed officers bowed to the political pressures of their constituencies, then maybe we wouldn't be in the position we are in today. They wanted a mayor that would give them the same quality of life in Sandtown as they receive in Roland Park.
“They wanted a Police Department that was fair, that had integrity and was honest, and that did not violate people's rights,” he continued. “It took a lot of courage to do what she did, and she prevailed in that we are going to see some improvements—from body cameras to more resources poured into neglected communities."