By J. K. Schmid, Special to the AFRO
The State’s Attorney office of Baltimore City (SAO) is celebrating a victory with the passing of a “much needed” vacatur law earlier this week on Tuesday.
“We are extremely pleased this much needed legislation will finally become law, giving prosecutors across the state the procedural right to revisit convictions for those that were unfairly or wrongly convicted. so they can proactively seek justice over convictions,” State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby said in a press release.
The AFRO previously reported the reception to Mosby’s advocacy as “chilly.” In keeping with that description, Governor Larry Hogan neither signed nor vetoed the bill, letting it pass into law when the deadline for executive action lapsed.
Touted as a bi-partisan effort by the SAO, the co-sponsors, Delegate Erek Barron (D-24) and Senator Christopher West (R-42), both have backgrounds in law. Barron is a former state and federal prosecutor.
“I cannot thank Delegate, Erek Barron, and Senator, Chris West, enough for their leadership and partnership in ensuring this important prosecutorial tool in reforming our state’s criminal justice system became law,” Mosby said in the same release.
The bill will give legal recourse to the SAO to set aside previous precedents against defendants.
Mosby’s previous efforts to vacate convictions that her office has repeatedly described as “hopelessly tainted” were stymied in court by judges ruling that Mosby had no standing to seek justice on behalf of defendants.
SAO, jointly with the Office of the Public Defender, had filed 155 motions to vacate prior to the passing of the bill.
Mosby’s office has been reviewing as many as 2,000 cases since the investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department’s (BPD) Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) revealed a vast conspiracy of crimes, including drug dealing, robbery and theft of overtime.
This bill now fills the gap between the known excesses of the GTTF, unknown amount of illegitimate convictions, and SAO’s unique ability to pursue what Mosby calls, “the pursuit of justice over convictions.”
The bill becomes effective October 1.