Marilyn J. Mosby, Baltimore City State’s Attorney. (Courtesy Photo/State’s Attorney’s Office of Baltimore City)
By Stephen Janis
Special to the AFRO
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has instructed prosecutors not to sign off on so-called “no knock warrants,” a controversial police tactic that allows officers to enter a home unannounced.
The tactic which is used thousands of times per year is used disproportionately on people of color.
It has recently been in the national spotlight after the tragic death of Breonna Taylor during the execution of no-knock warrant in Louisville, Ky. earlier this year. Her death, the result of a botched raid, has sparked criticism over the use of this type of warrant which has been deployed liberally during the so-called war on drugs.
Mosby, in an email to her staff said the tactic was too risky.
“ASA’s shall no longer authorize so-called ‘no-knock’ warrants,” Mosby wrote, referring to Assistant State’s Attorneys.
“Recent events, such as the tragic killing of Breonna Taylor, have shown that the ends do not justify the means. Seventeen states do not allow this tactic, and our office will also no longer sign off on this dangerous measure. “
Taylor, 26, was killed during a “no-knock” raid in March of 2020. Police served a warrant as part of series of drug raids of which she was not a target.
During the raid, police claimed they knocked serval times and announced themselves. However, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker said cops kicked down the door after knocking several times, but never identified themselves as police officers.
As a result, Walker fired a single shot. Police returned fire, striking Taylor six times, killing her almost instantly.
Since her death, activists have called for the arrest of the officer who participated in the raid. However, a grand jury indicted just one of cops, Brett Hankinon, with three counts of wanton endangerment for recklessly firing shots into a nearby apartment.
Ultimately, a judge approves any warrant. However, prosecutors are usually involved in the process of seeking approval.
Mosby’s policy shift was not limited to “no-knock” warrants. She also sought to roll-back bench warrants for certain misdemeanors and minor crimes that her office is no longer prosecuting due to COVID-19.
This includes warrants for failure to appear for a trial which Mosby said could lead to lengthy incarceration in jails which have proven to be hotbeds for COVID-19 infections.
“We are currently quashing warrants for offenses we are no longer prosecuting, dismissing pending cases for certain low-level offenses, and do not want people to be held unless absolutely necessary Mosby added.
“The courts are backed up for a while so people will be held longer than usual pre-trial and COVID-19 is still a real public health problem in correctional facilities.”
Mosby’s new policy has support in the state capital.
State Senator Jill P. Carter says she plans to introduce legislation that would expand the ban on no-knock warrants by making it a state law. She says the tactic has been abused by police and ultimately violates the constitution.
“My bill will repeal the statutory provisions allows the courts to authorize no-knock warrants, they are violent and must be eliminated,” Carter said.
“They are routinely used in Baltimore and across the state to undermine public safety and justice,” she added.