By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Embattled Baltimore, MD State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby received some financial help over the weekend from Black and white lawyers. They are helping her raise funds to ward off opposition to her re-election from the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3. The organization is allegedly trying to raise one million dollars to defeat her.
Up for re-election next year, Mosby has been targeted for defeat for indicting the six cops involved in the arrest of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died of spinal and neck injuries while in a police van. Mosby said Gray was illegally arrested and denied health care. Following Gray’s death, Baltimore was the site of numerous riots.
Mosby and her husband, Nick, a Baltimore State Representative, appeared at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition live broadcast, and later at a fundraiser held at the law offices of Quarles and Brady where Illinois Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) practices.
Among those at the fundraiser were Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Attorney Juan Thomas, president-elect of the National Bar Association, Attorney Natalie Howse, President of the Cook County Bar Association, and Attorney Lewis Myers, Cook County Board of Review Commissioner.
Myers told the Chicago Crusader, “For a number of months if not years, I’ve had a tremendous admiration for what she has done in Baltimore.”
Mosby comes from five generations of police officers starting with her great, great grandfather who was one of the founding members of the Black police organizations in Massachusetts. “Law enforcement was engrained in me, but having come from five generations of police officers, it was a tragedy that started my passion towards the criminal justice system.”
Mosby said her cousin was killed outside of her house in broad daylight, mistaken for a neighborhood drug dealer. At 14, Mosby said she couldn’t understand the complacency involving the fatal shooting of Black men. She went to court and saw her cousin’s killer who was also 17.
“I was perplexed seeing the number of African Americans in shackles. That is what sparked my passion to the criminal justice system,” she said.
“She really set the pace in the country for what Black district attorneys or Black prosecutors should be doing, and how they should be using the criminal justice system not against us,” Myers said.
“Very often, many Black district attorneys support 100 percent what the state is doing in terms of railroading Black defendants. She is an exception and we have to support her. We have to encourage her, and we have to let her know our community has her back,” said Myers.
Foxx introduced Mosby, who has been in office two and a half years. Acknowledging the support she received from Jackson, Mosby said it helped her “through the midst of the storm.”
“I did not know I was going to be a prosecutor,” Mosby said. “I didn’t know that this would be my calling. I just knew that we had to reform the criminal justice system…one that disproportionately affects so many communities of color.
“When I learned that 95 percent of the prosecutors in this country are white and 79 percent, white men, as a woman of color I represent one percent of all elected prosecutors in this country,” she stated.
While Mosby was in college, she didn’t know if she wanted to be a prosecutor or a defense attorney, only that the criminal justice system needed to be reformed.
When she worked for the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C., Mosby said she realized “the awesome amount of discretion that prosecutors have, which not only affects defendants and individuals that are accused of crimes and victims of crimes, but that awesome collateral consequences on our communities and we can see that all across our country,” she said.
Referring to the indictment of the six officers involved in the Freddie Gray case four months into her term, Mosby said, “I did my job. Had we not had that accountability we would never have had exposure.
“We subsequently had the Department of Justice report, which Chicago is very much in line with what we are dealing with, discriminatory policing practice…. That accountability led to exposure and that exposure led to accountability and reform,” she said.
Mosby said Baltimore now has a consent decree that attempted to be postponed by the attorney general. “You have to take a holistic sort of approach as prosecutors. You can’t continue to have this ‘tough on crime’ approach, especially in this administration” she says, that ends up with mass incarceration “that disproportionately affects communities of color.
“We need to address the systemic issues as to why crimes take place, and that’s essentially what we are trying to do,” she said. While achieving a number of accomplishments in her office, Mosby said they were overshadowed by the six cases.
According to Mosby 24 percent of Baltimore’s population lives in poverty and 35 percent of the children live below poverty. In 2015, Baltimore had 344 homicides; in 2016, 314, and to date there have been 117 homicides in 2017.
“If we don’t start addressing the systemic issues as to why crimes take place, we will continue to see the surge in violence in our communities,” remarked Mosby.
“Criminal justice reform is not going to come on the federal level. It’s going to come through state and local elections. As prosecutors, we are the torchbearers of justice. As prosecutors, we have to implement initiatives addressing these systemic issues,” Mosby said.
“Yes, we have to be tough on crime to ensure our communities are safe,” she said. Mosby said her office has a 93 percent felony conviction rate and she prosecutes over 50,000 cases a year.
She has a 97 percent special victims conviction rate “We are going to be tough on individuals, but we also have to be smart on crime. We need to holistically attack this problem and ensure that we get to our children before they get to the criminal justice system.”
Mosby said her office documented young people between the ages of 18 and 24 who died from being homeless, to now having others in a program run by her office, who are enrolled in college. She has students going through a problem where they can understand and appreciate the judicial system.
Participants in the six-week course, run in conjunction with the Baltimore University School of Law “… can see themselves as judges, police officers and prosecutors. We have to be able to break down those barriers of distrust,” Mosby said.
She has started a Conviction Integrity Unit; the first case ended in the exoneration of a person wrongly accused, convicted and incarcerated for more than 17-years. She said it was thanks to DNA evidence that he was exonerated. Unfortunately, three-months after he was freed, the exonerated man died of a heart attack.
“We have so much work to do in terms of criminal justice reform. We cannot be distracted by the tweets…by those who want us to be distracted from the momentum…,” Mosby said.
“My race is a local one but it has national implications. If they can make an example out of me in challenging the status quo, then they are absolutely wrong.” She said it would have implications on her other peers, like Foxx.