Applying the Law, Not Emotion

By Barry Rascovar

June 27, 2016 – If there is a bright spot in the widespread damage done to Baltimore and Maryland by the Freddie Gray conflagration and its aftermath, it is the sterling performance of Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry G. Williams.

While Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby placed politics and placating the city’s riotous crowd above her duties to pursue prosecutions based on rigorously impartial and complete investigations, Williams did the opposite.

Applying Law, Not Emotion

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams

He ruled only on the basis of facts and the law. He didn’t let mob psychology or the passions of protesters seeking a scapegoat deter him from doing his duty as an officer of the court.

He wasn’t swayed by pressure from fellow African-Americans demanding convictions of police officers because someone had to be held responsible for Freddie Gray’s unexplained death in the back of a police paddy wagon.

He didn’t take Mosby’s bait to rush to judgment against the officers on the basis of her prosecutors’ suspect conspiracy theories, novel legal theories and “logical inferences.”

Instead, Williams quietly and sternly administered the law to the nth degree. He gave weight only to solid, verifiable facts, not suspicions.

Sparkling Example

He took seriously the legal precept that the accused can’t be found guilty unless there is so much evidence there is no longer “reasonable doubt.”

All this comes from a lawyer who spent much of his career in the U.S. Justice Department investigating and prosecuting bad cops who gave prisoners “rough rides,” denied defendants their legal rights or harmed minorities in their custody.

Williams has been a sparkling example of how a judge is supposed to act in trials large and small. Like Detective Joe Friday in the old TV series “Dragnet,” Williams wants, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Then he applies the factual presentation of defense and prosecution lawyers against what is written in the Annotated Code of Maryland and in appellate court interpretations of the law.

That’s the way justice is supposed to be meted out in the United States. The highly politicized rulings of the current Supreme Court don’t appeal to Williams. He remains faithful to the law, not emotions or social movements of the moment.

Such bedrock reliance on fact-based and statute-based decisions deserves widespread applause.

Indeed, the next time U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin is asked to recommend a name to the White House for a federal judicial post, Williams should be on Cardin’s short list. And the next time Gov. Larry Hogan is in the market for an appellate judge from Baltimore, Williams should get top consideration.

Faithful to his Oath

There’s a reason Williams was selected to preside over a complex series of hyper-sensitive trials. He runs a strict, no-nonsense courtroom. He’s super-smart. He doesn’t get caught up in Court House politics or appeasing an angry populous. He remains faithful to his oath to apply the law fairly and without partiality.

Williams has more Freddie Gray cases on his docket – unless Mosby drops the cases rather than risk looking inept and foolish for stubbornly pursuing cases that already seem to have more holes than Swiss cheese.

Within legal circles, Mosby’s reputation has taken a mighty hit. Her hurried prosecutions are imploding. She doesn’t appear up to the job. Yet she should have no trouble getting reelected given her star power within the city’s African-American community. She almost certainly will be challenged, though.

Applying the Law, Not Emotion

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby

More serious is her frayed – some argue broken – relationship with the city’s police department. It’s a situation of her own making that could lead to future blow-ups and deep divisions hurting her ability to piece together winnable cases.

How Baltimore’s all-but-certain next mayor, state Sen. Catherine Pugh, handles this delicate and highly explosive situation could determine whether the city’s criminal justice system wages an effective fight against those bent on victimizing and harming Baltimore residents.

That issue has been ignored amid the media and political focus on Freddie Gray.

Maybe it’s time for cooler heads to prevail. City officials certainly could take their cue from the way Judge Williams objectively handles the “hot-potatoes” tossed into his courtroom.

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5 thoughts on “Applying the Law, Not Emotion

  1. michellesmith991

    Thank you for your defense of the police officers. Join the throngs. When the medical examiner rules a death a HOMICIDE, it means someone other than the victim killed The Victim. There was no rush to judgement – the police actually killed Freddie Gray. The judge should preside over all the bs cases the prosecutor’s officers brings in Baltimore County – but I digress. Just say that all cops are right all the time and be done with it. Your glee that they will all get away with murder is disconcerting – and disregards the actual plight of real people brutalized by the Western district on a daily basis. As for her “frayed relationships” the sooner the BPD gets rid of every officer on whose behalf millions of dollars (you know, taxpayer dollars) have been paid out for brutality, the better. Then the officers who want to Protect and Serve (not just your community) can begin to shine. It is going to take awhile, but I feel trust can be EARNED, but should never be given. Especially to those who feel your life is of little value.

  2. boberl

    According to published reports, the performance over-all by the State’s attorney’s office was incompetent at best, and perhaps should be investigated by the bar association for its ethical lapses.

    I’m not at all surprised by Marilyn Mosby who tried to turn a tragic accident into a murder case to further her own political career and has watched it blow up in her face.

    I was surprised at the reported poor performances by Mike Schatzow and Janice Bledsoe, both experienced prosecutors. In my opinion, they expected to conduct the cases before juries, using all the emotion and innuendo they could muster. If so, they outsmarted themselves.

    They probably never expected Judge Williams, who had a record of prosecuting police misconduct, to be the savvy, straight-arrow judge he turned out to be. Defense lawyers apparently realized this from watching him over the pre-trial and first-trial months, and wisely opted for bench trials.

    There are those who would argue that Ms. Mosby filed charges against the six cops “in good faith.” The results at trial have shown that she charged ahead without an adequate investigation to support the charges. Now she pays the price.

    The best thing Ms. Mosby can do, for the city and for whatever shreds of her professional reputation are left, is to quickly withdraw all the remaining charges in the four cases left, and then seriously consider “spending more time with her family.”

    Ms. Mosby has no credibility left and the longer she remains the more crippled will be the effectiveness of the State’s attorney’s office.

    Mr. Schatzow and Ms. Bledsoe might consider returning to private practice.

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