State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was under a gag order for nine months while prosecuting and ultimately failing to convict any of the officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. She’s spoken on the topic sporadically for the past few months, and today the New York Times Magazine published a new interview that seeks to illuminate the toughness of what she’s been up against, and contextualize her in the complicated and confusing world of Baltimore politics.
Baltimore vs. Marilyn Mosby is, from a writerly perspective, a strange profile, written like a Vogue cover story meets deep reporting plus some Wire-style insight into Baltimore political maneuverings, but from the perspective of someone’s inflated LiveJournal. (The piece opens with a scene from writer Wil S. Hylton’s backyard, in which Mosby and her husband, Nick, bicker mundanely over a phone call while Hylton makes them hamburgers on his grill.) However when the story swerves into the larger fabric of Mosby’s rise to power and efforts to hold police officers accountable for the death of Gray, it paints a troubling and complex picture of politics getting in the way of justice—and more substantially, what trouble the people of Baltimore are in. Most remarkably, on the rift between the police and Mosby since her efforts to prosecute their brethren:
“It’s a fractured relationship,” the cop at my house the other night said with a shrug. “It’s absolutely been fractured, and I won’t say it can’t be repaired, but I think it’s going to be a very, very long time.” As she was preparing to leave, I asked this officer if she was willing to admit that the conflict with Mosby, and the mutual mistrust, has led police officers to pull back from their essential duties. One of the most discouraging statistics in Baltimore has been a 63 percent increase in homicides last year. As I asked about this, I watched the cop’s face twist into a frown, which at first I mistook for a sign that she was offended by the question. Then she nodded.
“Absolutely,” she said. “You should get used to 300 murders a year.”
Mosby told the Magazine that she and her husband have both been stopped by police in their lives, and that her solution for police bias is to affect policy. “As a woman of color,” she said, “I represent 1 percent of all elected prosecutors in the country.” And similarly, her perspective on the Baltimore police department is that they were utterly indifferent about Gray’s death from the beginning, which has led to the disdain she faces from them now.
“We couldn’t trust that they were going to follow through with everything that we needed,” she said. One of her requests was to execute a search warrant on the personal cellphones of the officers involved. Mosby told me that she knew the officers exchanged several text messages while Gray was in the van, and she believed that the content of those messages would be important to determine what happened.
“We got a judge to sign off on the search warrant,” she said, “and a police investigator failed to do it. She didn’t execute it, and then returned it and didn’t tell us. It was just incredibly, incredibly frustrating. It was at this point where I was just like, ‘You all, we cannot rely on them, so we have to do something other than working with them.’ ” The lead investigator for the police, Dawnyell Taylor, told me that the cellphones were actually a “nonfactor” because another officer turned over a personal cellphone to the grand jury that contained innocuous messages with some of the cops involved. “You got to see it all,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t going to give us jack.” (A police spokesman defended the investigation, saying detectives worked with the “utmost integrity.”)
The piece assesses that Mosby’s office got much of the prosecution wrong, however, and that it’s led to a quagmire of political misdealing, bad feelings, and also strife within her marriage because of it. (Her husband is a City Councilman who recently launched a failed bid for Mayor.) It’s a mess, but an interesting look into a wrought city government and how it seems extremely difficult to prevail against police in deaths such as Gray’s. Read it all here.