Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby quickly became a prominent national symbol of the fight for law enforcement reform in America after she officially took the SA’s chair in January 2015.
Yet, the mantle of reformer she has consciously taken on seems to have been augmented recently as her office has grappled with repeated cases of officer misconduct within the Baltimore Police Department (BPD).
“Misconduct by police that has led to dropped cases, overturned convictions and interrupted prosecutions of a startling depth, has waylaid prosecutors with hundreds of hours of review and dozens of court motions to clean up charges still pending,” my colleague Stephen Janis wrote recently in the AFRO article, “State’s Attorney Mosby: Nearly 900 Cases Tainted By Police Misconduct.” Mosby’s work even garnered praise from USA Today in an opinion piece Sept. 30.
“On Tuesday, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced her office’s decision to dismiss a large number of drug cases in response to troubling police body-camera footage…that have been or will be dropped since this issue first emerged over the summer. Mosby’s decision should be neither surprising nor controversial. The fact that it has been both, indicates that too many people in our nation still don’t fully appreciate the role prosecutors must play if we want to effectively combat police misconduct and restore community confidence in our criminal justice system.”
However, praise for Mosby, especially from the law enforcement community was almost non-existent just months into her tenure. On May 1, 2015, in the tumultuous wake of the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent uprising, she did what no prosecutor of a major city had done in many years; indicted police officers for alleged brutality. When she indicted all six officers connected to Gray’s death, she incurred the wrath of the Fraternal Order of Police, their supporters and legions of hate spewing, mostly anonymous internet trolls. And the attacks have been relentless.
“It was definitely something I did not anticipate…four months into my term it was kind of a precursor to what we see on a regular basis right now on Twitter. But, this happened immediately after I charged the officers,” Mosby said during the inaugural episode of, “The AFRO First Edition” video podcast that launched Oct. 9.
“I had a group, an organization called, “Red Nation Rising,”…on Twitter I was being blasted. I was getting death threats…and hate mail to my office. I can remember one incident where they described vividly how my husband would be killed coming outside of our house, in an obituary…and how when we would call for the police, no one would show up,” Mosby added.
“It was definitely something I did not anticipate. I can remember one note was, `You racist, ni–er bi–h.’ And I said, the irony of that.”
Indeed, it is the White supremacist triple play; the subhuman reduction of a Black woman to a “ni–er,” and a “bi–h,” while simultaneously making her “the racist” in the equation, the embodiment of the prurient race fantasy churning in the bowels of Trump’s America. Mosby said she quickly had to learn not to take the attacks personally.
“That’s something we can kind of laugh at now because we’re accustomed to it, but when I was going through it what I had to learn how to do, and rather quickly, is not to internalize it. And to understand that it wasn’t about me individually, about Marilyn Mosby, but about what Marilyn Mosby represents,” she said.
Ultimately, what Mosby represents is an attack against the status quo and the power structure of the U.S. criminal justice system that is inherently racist and sexist (as a Black woman Mosby represents about one percent of prosecutors who are women of color nationally).
Who she represents are the people of Baltimore and the disproportionate percentage of those residents engaged with the criminal justice system are mostly poor and mostly Black. Mosby said for them, the uprising of April 2015 did not happen in a vacuum.
“When we look at our city, which is in one of the richest states in the country, Baltimore’s population…24 percent of Baltimore’s population lives in poverty, 35 percent of children live below poverty. We have 18,000 vacant houses…the number of liquor stores that inundate our community…on top of the discriminatory policing practices against African-American men, and the violence that plagues our communities. I understood the emotions that were attached to the uprising,” Mosby said.
“And on May 1st (2015)… I did my job. And for the first time…in a long while you had accountability across the board.”
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore Editor, and host and executive producer of The AFRO First Edition w/Sean Yoes on the AFRO’s Facebook page.