Marilyn J. Mosby stoutly defended her record as state’s attorney against jabs by Ivan Bates and Thiru Vignarajah that Baltimore residents are less safe today than they were four years ago.
“It blows my mind for two opponents to question my experience when we look at the fact that I’m the only person in this race that has been state’s attorney [and] run an office of 400 employees and a $44 million budget in some of the most challenging times in the history of this city,” Mosby said today during a forum at the University of Baltimore.
All three candidates responded to questions from a panel with what often seemed like well-rehearsed sound bites.
Mosby bristled with statistics during the hour-long debate (“last year, we were able to maintain a 92% felony conviction rate. . . our gun violence enforcement division, year to date, we have a 90% conviction rate”), while Bates and Vignarajah had their own facts and figures to contradict her.
“When I look at the state’s attorney’s office, I see an office that in the past three years has lost 105 seasoned prosecutors,” said Bates, senior partner of Bates & Garcia. “This is a very young office, and they’re just not getting convictions at trials.”
Last year, according to Bates, the office won 175 trial cases and lost 237.
“When Miss Mosby tells you she’s got a 92% conviction rate, what’s she’s not telling you is that she doesn’t count the thousands of cases she drops, and she counts as a conviction every plea deal that she cut,” Vignarajah, a former Maryland deputy attorney general, added.
Freddie Gray Police Case
One area of contention was Mosby’s failed prosecution of five police officers involved in the 2015 arrest and death of Freddie Gray.
Asked by a panelist whether she would “do anything differently,” Mosby said, “I absolutely would not.”
She explained that “when you look at the fact that you had an innocent 25-year-old man who made eye contact with police, was unconstitutionally arrested, placed in a metal wagon headfirst, feet shackled in handcuffs, his spine partially severed in the back of that wagon, his pleas for medical attention subsequently ignored, I followed the facts with the law and did what I needed to do in charging the officers.”
A week after she charged the officers, Mosby said, the U.S. Justice Department began an investigation that “exposed” the discriminatory practices of Baltimore police, which led to today’s consent decree and reforms in the department.
Seizing upon her remarks, Vignarajah said, “Miss Mosby has this [tendency of] taking credit for everything and taking responsibility for nothing. If something [goes] wrong, she blames the judges, she blames the community, she blames the Department of Juvenile Services, she blames the police department.”
Vignarajah said he agreed with Bates that Mosby engaged in “a short, rushed investigation” of the five police officers and then grandstanded before the national media rather than try to unify the city in the wake of the riots that broke out after Gray’s funeral.
The two challengers also ganged up on Mosby about the state of juvenile justice.
Calling it the “most divisive and dysfunctional part” of the local criminal justice system, Bates said that 68% of juvenile cases are not adjudicated by the state’s attorney’s office.
“That means 68% of our children don’t have the opportunity to have the resources that they need. They don’t have the wrap-around services.”
Bates proposed establishing a team of “dedicated juvenile justice prosecutors” rather that the present system, which he characterized as using juvenile justice as a training ground for young prosecutors.
Vignarajah said the office needs to give prosecutors more discretion to determine which teenagers need to be in the juvenile system and which ones should be treated as adults.
Mosby retorted by saying that her two opponents were peddling “a lot of misinformation” to voters
“We have the most talented prosecutors that there are in the country. . . In my office, it’s not business as usual. We are reforming the criminal justice system,” she stated.
The Democratic Party primary for state’s attorney will be held on June 26.
Because there are no Republican candidates for the office, whoever wins the primary will run unopposed in the November general election and become Baltimore’s chief prosecutor for the next four years.