Baltimore, MD – Baltimore city judges on Friday tossed out a request by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to erase the convictions of almost 5,000 drug offenders.
Mosby announced in January that her office had stopped prosecuting marijuana possession cases and said she would ask the courts to erase thousands of marijuana convictions dating back to 2011, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“I’m announcing a monumental shift in public policy as it relates to marijuana possession in the city of Baltimore,” Mosby announced at a press conference. “Effective immediately, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases regardless of weight and/or criminal history.”
She went on to smugly announce that her office had already filed to vacate almost 5,000 Circuit Court and District Court marijuana convictions.
But Circuit Court Judge W. Michel Pierson and District Court Judge Kathleen Sweeney completely shot down Mosby’s request to erase those convictions on April 26, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Sweeney wrote a 10-page ruling that said Mosby’s request amounted to a “blatant conflict” because the state’s attorney is bound by oath to defend the state.
The judge said the writ of coram nobis filed by Mosby would normally be filed by a defense attorney, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Furthermore, Sweeney noted that Mosby herself had asked Baltimore police to crack down on drug users and dealers in March of 2015.
“Now, this same State’s Attorney claims that drug enforcement in Baltimore City, presumably her own efforts, have had a disparate impact on African-Americans,” the judge wrote.
Sweeney also said Mosby’s order failed to show how the almost 3,800 people convicted of marijuana crimes in District Court had faced significant collateral consequences, a requirement for the writ of coram nobis, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“With 3,778 opportunities, the State fails to identify any actual single consequence suffered by any of these individuals,” the judge wrote.
Mosby had proudly touted erasing almost 5,000 convictions as one of the boldest and most progressive policy-changing moves of her administration, and the judges’ ruling devastated those plans.
“The role that courts play in our society is to be a place of last resort for people who have been wronged,” Mosby wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun on Monday. “I am deeply disappointed that this ruling did not afford us any opportunity to present legal arguments and essentially eliminated the court from being a safe harbor for those that were harmed by the discriminatory enforcement of marijuana laws.”
In recent months, Mosby has shifted her focus from trying to prosecute Baltimore police officers to trying to undo convictions of criminal offenders.
She spent the first two years of her administration attempting to prosecute six officers accused of contributing to the death of Freddie Gray, who died in custody while being transported in a police van.
Angry protesters rioted, and burned parts of Baltimore, in the wake of Gray’s death.
However, three of the officers were acquitted in bench trials, forcing Mosby to drop the criminal charges against the rest.
Next, the Baltimore Police Department brought administrative charges against five of the same officers. Two of the officers pleaded guilty, accepted minor discipline, and went back to work, The Baltimore Sun reported.
A police disciplinary review board found Lt. Rice, the supervisor during the incident, and Officer Caesar Goodson, the van’s driver, not guilty.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis dismissed the administrative charges pending against the fifth officer.
Five of the six Baltimore police officers involved in the incident - Lieutenant Brian Rice, Sergeant Alicia White, and Officers Garrett Miller, Edward Nero, and William Porter - sued Mosby and Baltimore City Assistant Sheriff Samuel Cogen in April of 2016 for filing false charges against them.
But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the officers could not sue the state’s attorney for having prosecuted them because the prosecutor is immune from such lawsuits, even if she had malicious intent in her prosecution.