Dropped cases up, conviction rate down – that’s the bottom line on the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, according to the Wall Street Journal, which found the trend began even before State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s failed prosecution of police in the Freddie Gray case.
Felony convictions in the city dropped soon after Mosby took office in January 2015, “and the lower rate has persisted at a time of increased violent crime,” according to the data analysis by former Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Calvert and fellow Journal staff writer Coulter Jones.
For the second straight year, Baltimore is on track to experience more than 300 homicides in 2016.
As of the week ending November 12, there were 268 homicides reported by Baltimore City Police – or an average of six homicides per week. Under this average, the year-end toll will be around 310 homicides. (In 2015, there were 294 homicides as of the second week of November.)
According to the Journal article, quarterly felony conviction rates have been lower under Mosby than under her predecessor, Gregg Bernstein, who served from 2011 through 2014.
About 53% of felony cases closed since Mosby took office have ended in conviction, compared with 67% in the previous four years, the Journal found.
Mosby Blames Police
Mosby declined to be interviewed for the article, but in a statement blamed the quality of police cases for hampering the efforts of her office. She also said convictions are not the best way to judge a prosecutor.
“It’s shameful to take pride in overwhelming conviction rates,” she said in the statement. “We are here to do justice and make Baltimore safer, not gloat.”
After her office failed to obtain convictions in the cases brought against six police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, Mosby likewise attributed the outcome to an uncooperative police department and a legal system biased toward officers.
In responding to the Journal article, she noted the unconstitutional police behavior outlined in a recent Department of Justice report and also faulted officers and witnesses for sometimes not appearing in court.
Yesterday, Mosby announced $2.4 million in federal grant funding to help crime victims and witnesses.
She said the money would be used mostly to hire staff members to work more closely with victims and guide them through the criminal justice process.
The Journal article notes that staffing gaps reflect a problem some critics say has been masked by the focus on tensions with police – the departure of senior prosecutors.
“Some former staff members interviewed by the Journal linked the rising number of cases dropped by prosecutors to an exodus of veteran attorneys, fueled by what they say was low morale and weak support for prosecutors by Ms. Mosby,” Calvert and Jones write.
They note that about 70 assistant state’s attorneys have left Mosby’s office, nearly all voluntarily, for a turnover rate of about a third of the staff.