Sean Yoes

My friend A. Dwight Pettit is one of the top defense attorneys in Maryland and during his decades long career he’s seen a lot.

I remember him telling me about being called to the Sutton Place apartment of James “Turk” Scott shortly after his murder on July 13, 1973. Scott was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, a bail bondsmen and allegedly a heroin kingpin. His bullet riddled body was found in the parking garage of the swanky hi-rise building, lying near his Cadillac. He had allegedly been gunned down by members of, “Black October,” a vigilante group formed to rid Baltimore’s Black community of “treasonous” drug dealers.

He told NPR this week, “(William)Porter is going to be the key to everything. What he negotiates or doesn’t negotiate, whether he’s acquitted or whether he’s convicted, he is going to be the determiner of how the other five proceed,” Pettit said.  I believe him.

When newly elected Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced her decision in May, to indict the six officers connected to the death of Freddie Gray less than a month earlier, the city, still reeling from the uprising exhaled collectively. The Black community in particular, beaten down and shot up by oppressive policing policies and a criminal justice system weighted heavily against it, clung to a glimmer of hope perhaps for the first time in decades.

It seems like an incalculable burden for one case to bear. But, this is where we are.

“I have my doubts about whether or not we’re going to see any convictions at all in any of these cases. I don’t know,” said Leigh Maddox during the Nov. 30 broadcast of, “First Edition.” Maddox, an attorney, is a former captain in the Maryland State Police and an executive board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

“We are basing so much on this trial. Even the police commissioner (Kevin Davis) said something to the effect of, `Everything’s at stake, the future of our city is at stake.’ And I really think we need to change that narrative because I don’t think we should base the future of our city on these trials,” said Sheryl Wood, a legal analyst and principal attorney at the Wood Law Firm.

“We need to change the narrative because this gives the opportunity for public officials and those in charge to throw up their hands, if this doesn’t go well. What does it mean for this to go well? Does it mean a conviction? Does it mean an acquittal,?” Wood added.

Further, what happens if there are acquittals in the case of all or any of the six officers?

“The fear is palpable in many circles that I’ve walked in and many that I have spoken to on this issue,” Maddox said.

“What I think is the community and the leadership in Baltimore City right now has a very narrow window, when they can do some big outreach to the community, outside of the courtroom, outside of these verdicts, outside of all this stuff and use this as a moment to heal,” Maddox added.

“There has to be a plan outside of the courtroom and somebody’s got to lead that charge,” Wood said.

“We cannot have everything at stake based upon this imperfect trial…in this imperfect criminal justice system.”

Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.