Freddie Gray: Another Disturbing Case of Our Broken Justice System

With last week being the Republican National Convention, and this, the week of the Democratic National Convention, the news cycle has been saturated with politics, politics, politics. Now, for a political news junkie, like myself, I usually enjoy reading all the articles, watching the different convention speeches, and listening to the dialogue of the various pundits on CNN. I know that I probably watch it too much, but I like to stay informed, and have as good of a grasp on all the issues of the Presidential campaign race as I possibly can.

This morning, while I was at work, I was listening to NPR, trying to catch up on what happened during the DNC last night. After some talk of the convention, the host briefly turned away from the constant political reporting, and talked about the decision of Baltimore’s State Attorney Marilyn Mosby to formally drop all charges against the three remaining officers who were involved in the Freddie Gray case.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Freddie Gray, or don’t remember, he was the young Black man from Baltimore who was arrested for running from the cops, thrown in the back of a police van, (without being buckled in, mind you) and he ended up being transported to the hospital where he died a week later of a severed spinal cord. The medical coroner ruled Freddie Gray’s death a homicide. The language here is important. The coroner didn’t call it a tragic accident. Or an unfortunate tragedy. He deliberately chose the term homicide because that is what the medical evidence showed upon examining Freddie Gray’s cause of death. The definition of a homicide is: “The deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another; murder.”

When the world learned of his death at the hands of Baltimore police officers, many people were rightfully outraged. The Black Lives Matter movement helped organize protests in cities around the country. I remember watching the news last year when the story first broke. I was heartbroken and angered at yet another Black life needlessly lost at the hands of the police. I remember asking the same questions that always seem to come up when these situations keep happening.

How many more lives must be taken wrongfully? When will the killings stop? Why can’t so many in our country see we have a problem with the killing of unarmed Black men at the hands of police? When will our justice system be fixed? How many more protests need to take place before people start listening?

I remember watching Marilyn Mosby’s press conference when she charged the six officers with the killing of Freddie Gray. I was definitely surprised that such intense charges were brought against the officers involved, and that they were brought so quickly. In that moment I was hopeful that maybe this time would be different. Maybe this time, justice might actually be served.

Sadly, and predictably, that was not the case.

Over the next year, three of the officers were tried in court.

Trial #1: Declared a mistrial due to a hung jury. Therefore the officer was not able to be charged for a crime.

Trial #2: The officer was acquitted on all charges. Verdict: Not guilty.

Trial #3: The officer was acquitted on all charges. Verdict: Not guilty.

After three straight defeats in court, with no officers convicted of killing Freddie Gray, it was looking more and more like all the officers would be acquitted.

And that brings us back to today, where we learned that Marilyn Mosby did in fact, drop the charges against the three remaining officers. Each of the six officers were exonerated. They were free. They could resume their daily lives. They could be reunited with their families and friends. Not only were they free, but they were alive. None of these things were true about Freddie Gray.

Freddie Gray was not free. He could not resume his daily life. He was not reunited with his family and friends. Freddie Gray was killed. His life ended on a day when it should not have been.

I sat there stunned. A familiar knot formed in my stomach, the same knot that always forms when I stop and think about a horrific injustice. The juxtaposition of the officers and Freddie Gray was too disturbingly real.

The more I thought about the case throughout the day today, the more my heart broke over the injustice that occurred.

How could a medical coroner rule Freddie Gray’s death a homicide, and not ONE person was convicted or held accountable for his death? 

The more I tried to wrap my head around the fact that no one was convicted, the more angry I became.

I reworked out the facts of the case in my mind, trying desperately to see if I was the one missing something here:

The medical coroner ruled Freddie Gray’s death a homicide. A homicide!! That means that he was killed intentionally, deliberately, unlawfully. There was evidence that the police did not put Gray’s seat belt on in the back of the van, therefore during the drive to the station, Gray, who had his hands cuffed behind his back, was thrown around like a rag doll. These are what the Baltimore Police Department call “rough rides,” where they intentionally do not seat-belt people while they drive them very roughly in to the police station. The goal of these rides being to “rough up” these “thugs, criminals, villains, etc” before they throw them in jail. The city of Baltimore has paid millions and millions of dollars to families in settlements of the unjust treatment of these rough rides.

Even with all of this evidence, all of these damning facts, and the systemic pattern of unethical, borderline criminal, behavior by the Baltimore Police Department, that still wasn’t enough to convict a single soul. That isn’t justice. It shouldn’t be acceptable. It shouldn’t even be considered human.

My heart weeps for the Gray family, who learned today that not one officer was convicted in the murder of their son. I can’t even begin to imagine the terrible pain and hurt they are feeling at the lack of justice.

My heart weeps for the Black community across America, who received even more evidence of a criminal justice system that continues to fail them. A criminal justice system where police officers are always, “Innocent until proven guilty,” but they are rarely given the benefit of the doubt.

My heart weeps for Black parents who struggle to find the words to explain to their sons and daughters why the men who killed Freddie Gray were set free. Who have to explain to their children that it doesn’t even matter if they fully comply with officers like in the case of Philando Castile, they could still be killed by the law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect them.

My heart weeps for a nation that continues to be divided on issues of race and policing in America. For a nation that can’t seem to figure out if we even have a problem with racial profiling among police, no matter how many times we witness it with our very own eyes.

Even though today was a day of mourning, pain, and injustice, it is still a day of hope.

Hope for a nation that will be strong enough to walk along the road to racial healing.

Hope for a justice system that can be dramatically and radically changed in order to provide equity and justice for all.

Hope for my people to begin to listen to our Black brothers and sisters as they explain their experiences of pain and injustice in this country.

Hope that that evil will never win in the end.

Hope that “Love Trumps Hate.”

 

 

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