Baltimore Lawyer Skeptical About Prospect Of Convictions In Freddie Gray Case
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
One man who's been skeptical from the start about the prospect of convictions in the Freddie Gray case is Steven Levine. He is a Baltimore criminal defense lawyer, a former prosecutor who has not represented any of the six in this case. But he has both represented and, before that, prosecuted police officers in the past. Thanks for joining us once again.
STEVEN LEVIN: Good afternoon, Robert.
SIEGEL: A year ago you told here that convictions would be very hard if not impossible to achieve. Officer Goodson, as we've heard, is charged with second-degree murder, also manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, misconduct in office. Would you still expect an acquittal?
LEVIN: I do expect acquittal based on the evidence that has been publicly disclosed. Nobody watching the case against Officer Nero, who was one of the officers who put Mr. Gray in the van - nobody watching that trial was surprised by the acquittal. There was simply no evidence of criminal conduct on the part of Officer Nero.
What we've heard opening statements today hardly suggests that the state's case against Officer Goodson is particularly strong.
SIEGEL: Well, I guess you would say that the second-degree murder count is a case of overcharging somebody. But what about reckless endangerment or misconduct in office? If an officer violates departmental rules about belting in a suspect and the suspect sustains fatal injuries, as a prosecutor, you don't think you cold win a conviction on one of those counts?
LEVIN: Well, I don't think a prosecutor should necessarily win a conviction on those counts. A violation of a police department policy is not per se a criminal violation. And the question here is not so much what charges should have been brought. I think the better question to ask is whether or not the process that allowed for these charges to be brought was flawed.
I mean, we have to go back to last year to look at the process that Marilyn Mosby, the state's attorney, followed. You know, she conducted her own parallel investigation rather than relying on an investigation by experienced law enforcement agents. She announced charges, making extrajudicial statements on the steps of the Baltimore City War Memorial, which is unusual. I mean, everything about this case has been unusual.
SIEGEL: Let's say that you're right and in the end there are no criminal convictions in this case despite the fact that somebody died in police custody and some departmental regulations were ignored or not even known about by the officer. Is the lesson that lapses by police officers, even if they have lethal consequences, just hardly ever add up to even a manslaughter conviction in a criminal trial?
LEVIN: Robert, every death is a tragedy, but not every death is a crime. And I think what we've seen here is that the city has settled a civil suit with Mr. Gray's family, but it doesn't mean that there were criminal actions committed by any of these officers.
SIEGEL: Do you assume that all the trials will go ahead even if this one were to end in an acquittal?
LEVIN: I think I might have answered that question differently a few weeks ago, but in the last two weeks, a number of civil suits against Marilyn Mosby, the state's attorney, have been unsealed. These are civil suits filed by the officers who've been charged in the various state cases. And I think were Ms. Mosby to dismiss charges against the remaining defendants if Officer Goodson is acquitted, Ms. Mosby may subject herself to perhaps losing the cases that will ultimately follow the criminal cases.
SIEGEL: Mr. Levine, thanks for talking with us once again.
LEVIN: Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: Steven Levine is a criminal defense lawyer in Baltimore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.