This morning I’ve listened to a lot of news reports on the indictments of the six police officers in Baltimore. In every single instance so far whenever a legal authority commented he or she expressed skepticism over the ability of prosecutors to secure convictions for the most serious of the charges. Some, like Alan Dershowitz, did so in very harsh terms:
“This is a very sad day for justice . . . Today had nothing to do with justice. Today was crowd control. Everything was motivated by a threat of riots and a desire to prevent riots,” Dershowitz said on “The Steve Malzberg Show.”
“The mayor outrageously said we’re going to get justice for the victim, the family and people of Baltimore, never mentioning the defendants. Under our Constitution, the only people who are entitled to justice are the defendants.
“They are presumed innocent, they need due process of law, and the mayor and the state attorney have made it virtually impossible for these defendants to get a fair trial. They have been presumed guilty.”
The skepticism is very much in line with what I’ve been saying. Those who are convinced that justice for Freddie Gray lies in putting police officers behind bars for second degree murder should prepare themselves to be disappointed.
I don’t know what the truth of this case is. I’m reserving judgment, as I think all of us should. However, I do know that the presumption of innocence is the golden thread that runs through the web of the criminal law. The very large number of would-be Madame Defarges who are crying for blood today does not lead to a good place.
I told my wife that these six cops, guilty or innocent, are going to be made to pay the price for decades of midnight beatings, throw-down guns, jailhouse beatings, stops by the side of the road, “attempts to escape”, nickel rides and many other instances of police brutality. Doesn’t make it right, but it is what it is. They will be the stand-ins for every bad cop that ever beat or otherwise tormented or murdered a suspect. Yes, the ghost of Madame DeFarge is present, I hear her voice, and she’ll carry the day on this one.
They’ll request a change of venue and they’ll get it. If trials take place, they will be held in Maryland’s equivalent of Simi Valley.
Does a community have a right to REJECT a trial being moved to its locale? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near this trial.
It might be that my Simi Valley allusion was lost on you. The trial of the police officers accused of beating Rodney King was moved to Simi Valley in Ventura County. Simi Valley is a relatively small and tightly knit community a significant distance outside Los Angeles. It’s the home of quite a few retired police officers and firefighters. It and Ventura County in which it is situated are very different demographically from LA proper.
Paraphrasing Rick in Casablanca, I wouldn’t advise those who might be so inclined to riot there. That’s the sort of place to which we might expect a change of venue in this case.
The problems won’t be there. They’ll be in Baltimore.
I understood your reference, and I’m still saying I wouldn’t want the trial in my community. At the very least you’re going to be ground zero for a media circus.
And I’m saying all this in part because I’ve got a good friend who lives in a Maryland equivalent of Simi Valley.