Murphy, Falcon & Murphy Founder and Senior Partner Judge William H. “Billy” Murphy, Jr., along with Partner Hassan Murphy, recently shared their insight on the Justice Department’s decision to not pursue federal charges against the six police officers implicated in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, a young black man whose 2015 death in police custody ignited protests in Baltimore and garnered nationwide coverage. As Hassan Murphy states in a press conference following the DOJ’s announcement, the decision “is a bitter pill,” as no one will be held accountable for Gray’s death.
Although our legal team was successful in settling a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Baltimore that also brought about new policies for city officers to wear body cameras, the latest news concerns the criminal liability and guilt of the six officers involved. Previously, three officers were narrowly acquitted at trial, after which Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby dropped the remaining state cases. The only other avenue to ensure accountability and pursue criminal charges was for the federal government to bring charges against the officers. Criminal cases are notably different than cases handled in our civil justice system, as they require a higher burden of proof and concern whether defendants are guilty of a criminal offense, rather than only determining their liability for injuries or death.
While our firm and Gray’s family are disappointed the six officers will not face criminal prosecution, we take solace in knowing that we have helped Gray’s family secure a fair outcome in their civil case, brought about new and important changes to law enforcement in Baltimore, and that this tragedy has expanded the ever-growing conversation about important issues involving law enforcement and civil rights throughout the country. We maintain our belief that someone should be held accountable in this case, but are satisfied with the group of lawyers at the DOJ and the steps they have taken in this investigation. The limited jurisdiction of the federal government and an enhanced burden of proof in determining whether or not to prosecute played a critical factor in the Justice Department’s decision.
As we and others who have followed the case cope with the unfortunate decision by the Justice Department, Hassan Murphy notes, we understand it is “time now for all of us to reflect, to heal, to fight, and to continue our work in holding all of those with power over the rest of us to a very high standard.”