BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The departure of a veteran prosecutor is the latest ripple in the fallout that has ensued following the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office’s prosecution of officers related to the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.
As WJZ’s Mike Hellgren reports, prosecutor Lisa Phelps, who was assigned to prosecute two of the final three trials of officers charged in the case, quit abruptly on Friday.READ MORE: Former Baltimore County Youth Pastor Charged In 30-Year-Old Rape, Police Looking For Other Victims
Her resignation comes two days after her boss, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, dropped all of the charges related to the case, and just a day after Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said there was no truth to speculation she was leaving.
“That is absolutely untrue,” Schatzow said when confronted with the rumors at a news conference on Thursday.
Phelps’ departure marks the most recent in a string of incidents underscoring the frayed relationship between the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Baltimore Police Department since Mosby’s office pursued prosecution of the officers.
“She’s an incredible lawyer, and her loss is definitely a significant one, both of the State’s Attorney’s Office and for the people of Baltimore City,” said former prosecutor and legal analyst Adam Ruther.
The criminal justice system relies on cooperation between police and prosecutors. But the case surrounding Gray’s death and public comments by those involved has created a rift between the two hands of the system that has left observers wondering whether it can continue to work smoothly.
Mosby, meanwhile, has contended that while there are strong bonds between her office and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, there are flaws within the system that need to be addressed.
“We have a great working relationship with this commissioner,” Mosby recently said.
But recent comments from Mosby have struck a nerve with police.READ MORE: School Of Magic Arts In Baltimore Gives Students Life Lessons Along With A Few Tricks
In fact, her remarks that police detectives botched the investigation into Gray’s death led the commissioner to come to his department’s defense. “They are more than willing to hold persons who commit crimes responsible,” said Davis.
Police union president Gene Ryan has repeatedly criticized Mosby’s handling of the Gray case as “malicious prosecution.”
There are serious concerns that the respect that makes both agencies function in unison has been fractured to an extent, Ruther said.
“The real danger here is that the mutual respect seems to have been degraded to some significant degree,” said Ruther.
It’s not the first time the two agencies have shown signs of strain. During former State’s Attorney Pat Jessamy’s tenure, then-Mayor Martin O’Malley once launched into an expletive-laced tirade against Jessamy.
“I don’t think it’s asking a hell of a lot for our State’s Attorney to take it to a jury,” he said in part.
Mosby has pointed to a track record of dozens of convictions her office has secured by working with police as proof of the vital relationship between the two agencies.
Still, she believes the justice system didn’t work for Gray, who suffered severe spinal injuries in the back of a police van and died a week later last year.MORE NEWS: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott Among Leaders To Join President Joe Biden For Crime Prevention Roundtable
“Those are the sort of systemic issues that we need to address,” she said. “And that’s not an attack on the police department at all. That’s the reality of the situation.”