Imagine for a moment what life must be like for former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Imagine first the mental anguish that comes from taking another man’s life, regardless of the circumstances. Regardless of the aftermath. Imagine how that moment would eat away at your psyche, how you would continually question and doubt yourself, no matter how clear-cut your decision seemed to be at the time. Could you have done anything differently? Could you have saved both his life and your own? What will you say to your Creator when the time comes? These questions alone could be enough to drive a man to madness.
Now throw local and national vilification on top of that. Imagine Wilson, dealing with the serious mental implications of shooting a man, now having to face a wave of intense outrage. Outrage that ultimately cost him his job, his reputation – his entire life as he’d always known it.
And yet still, there are millions who think he got away with murder.
The Baltimore police officers charged with the death of Freddie Gray are in a similar situation. With one hung jury and one not guilty verdict already handed down, the chances of them being convicted grow smaller every day. But even if they are exonerated, their lives can never go back to normal. They will forever be tainted by an incident that may very well have been out of their control.
Two of those officers are fighting back. Alicia White and William Porter have filed suit against Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, Sam Cogen of the Sheriff’s Office, and the state of Maryland in an attempt to get some basic compensation for what they claim was an “overzealous prosecution.”
According to the lawsuit, Mosby made several public statements last year that were untrue and inflammatory, thus harming the officers’ reputations and their right to justice. The suit claims that neither Mosby nor Cogen had the right to charge them criminally “when such charges were unsupported by the facts and evidence.”
They allege that the charges and the statements were pushed through for ulterior motives.
“These among other statements were made not for the purpose of prosecuting crimes that had allegedly been committed by White and Porter, but rather for purposes of quelling the riots in Baltimore,” says the suit.
Whether or not the suit is successful, the fact that these officers are fighting back in court may be enough to discourage overzealous prosecutors in the future. Mosby took a calculated risk. She likely knew there was not enough evidence to charge these officers; she only did it because of the public outcry. Same as in Ferguson. Same as in Sanford, Florida. These were all examples of mob justice, played out under the facade of the legal system. Mosby wanted to keep rioters from burning the city down. And since there was no real risk involved, it was an easy choice.
But this suit shows prosecutors that there are risks to using the justice system for crowd control. We can’t suspend due process just because there’s an angry mob outside. Without the rule of law, we become nothing more than animals. Our court officials must follow that law, not the whims of unemployed, aimless losers who have nothing better to do than march down the street.