Nearly two and one-half years have passed since Freddie Gray’s neck was broken during a “rough ride” in the back of a Baltimore police van. And now it seems that no one will be held accountable for his death. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Tuesday that no federal civil rights charges will be brought against the six officers involved. They say that when it comes to judging their intent in a court of law, it’s all about what they can prove.
When he jokes about police brutality,
he's laughing at Freddie Gray. pic.twitter.com/G6gZ9BZwCq
— IrrepressibleYouth (@The1APeople) August 1, 2017
Not Enough Proof?
In spite of the federal probe that exposed the Baltimore Police Department’s deep-seeded patterns of abuse and misconduct, prosecutors say that they couldn’t find enough evidence to prove that the officers “willfully violated his civil rights,” according to the Associated Press. The Justice Department called Gray’s death “undeniably tragic,” but they will not pursue criminal charges.
“Prosecutors considered multiple theories of liability, based on multiple constitutional provisions, including theories of false arrest, excessive force, and deliberate indifference to the risk off serious harm to Gray,” the department said in a statement.
Denials All Around
Lt. Brian Rice, Sgt. Alicia White, and officers Caesar Goodson, Edward Nero, Garrett Miller, and William Porter have collectively maintained that they didn’t intentionally injure Gray. They denied knowing that being handcuffed and shackled without wearing a seat belt could be dangerous for him. And somehow the blood and vomit on Gray’s face along with the fact that he seemed to stop breathing were merely overlooked, not deliberately ignored. Hence, they will not be held accountable.
“[T]he government must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer acted willfully,” the DOJ statement reads. “This high legal standard–one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law–requires proof that the officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident, or even exercised bad judgment.”
What Happens Next?
Now that all six officers have escaped federal prosecution and the state has failed to get any convictions, all except Porter will face internal disciplinary hearings starting on Oct. 30. Any hope of justice for Freddie Gray has been placed in the hands of Baltimore’s Blue Wall which will likely protect its own. But even in this Trump-era, local activists say they will remain vigilant.
“We know that spines do not break without cause, and the DOJ and BPD’s credibility to make change a reality in Baltimore hinges not just on their ability to institute much-needed reforms to police training, policies, and practices, but also on their success in bringing to justice officers who abuse their power and take the lives of innocent residents,” NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill said. “The onus is now on BPD to hold these officers accountable at their disciplinary trials this fall and winter. Baltimore will be watching.”
— Jemisha Johnson (@jemisha_johnson) September 13, 2017