LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
You may remember Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby from her very public role in the indictment of six police officers involved in the death of 25-year-old Baltimore native Freddie Gray.
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MARILYN MOSBY: The findings of our comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation, coupled with the medical examiner's determination that Mr. Gray's death was a homicide has led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Shouting) Yes.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mosby's office was ultimately unable to convict any of the police officers. But now in her second term, she continues to push her message of reform - this time by ending the prosecution of any marijuana possession cases.
MOSBY: My policy is based on the fact that we will no longer go after marijuana possession cases, regardless of weight or criminal history. So if you are arrested for having and being in possession of marijuana, you will then be released without charges.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What has informed your thinking on this? Why have you decided to move forward?
MOSBY: I think it has to do with the fact that public safety is always my no. 1 sort of priority. And when we look at sort of the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws, it has been disproportionately impacting poor black and brown communities. 2016 - 94 percent of the civil citations were issued to black people. In 2017, 95 percent of the citations that were issued were to black people. And the most staggering sort of statistic is that 42 percent of those civil citations were issued in the western district. The western district in Baltimore is 95 percent black and disproportionately impoverished. So what that tells me is that rather than focusing on Tommy (ph), what the police department have been doing is focusing on Tyrone (ph) in West Baltimore.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Your Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle disagrees with this. He says police will continue to make marijuana arrests, quote, "unless and until the state legislature changes the law regarding marijuana possession." Doesn't this make your plan - what has been said is - political theater?
MOSBY: Not at all - I mean, because at the end of the day, he's well within his right as the police commissioner to want to utilize his manpower to - if he wants - to focus on marijuana possession. I'm sure that mother who lost her son - I'm sure she would much rather us spend our resources on actually finding the killer and not on marijuana possession. And what I'm doing is I'm utilizing my discretion. They can very well arrest people for possession of marijuana. But I'm going to release them without charges. So they will not have to go into court, go through witness preparation or trial preparation and picking a jury and going to trial. I think it's very compelling that, you know, when we look at the violence in our city, where do we want our resources to go?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You are using the word prosecutor discretion. And some who oppose this say that this is overreach of that discretion. Cops say, you know, the laws need to change. That's what lawmakers are tasked with. Are you just supposed to ignore laws that you don't like?
MOSBY: So at one point, there were laws that existed in this country, like Jim Crow. And people were in a position to actually conform or to not conform with those laws. And so I, as the State's Attorney - the people elected me to use my discretion and to do the right thing. And in this case, I will never ever be complicit in the discriminatory enforcement and application of laws against poor black and brown people.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is your second term. In your first term, you clashed repeatedly with the Baltimore police. Most people will remember you prosecuted the Freddie Gray case. The six officers involved were all cleared, and that case fell apart. Do you believe you have any capital to spend with the police on this?
MOSBY: Let me just say we had an innocent 25-year-old black man by the name of Freddie Carlos Gray Jr., who made eye contact with the police, who was unconstitutionally arrested, placed into a metal wagon headfirst, feet shackled and handcuffed. And his pleas for medical attention were subsequently ignored. I followed the facts with the law. And I charged those responsible. I wouldn't do anything differently.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you have any regrets about the way the trial went?
MOSBY: Not at all - you had accountability across the board, which you weren't having across this country. The accountability led to exposure. A week after I charged those officers, the Department of Justice came in, exposed the discriminatory policing practices of the eighth largest police department in the country. And because of that exposure, we now have reform. And because of that reform, we have a spotlight on the entrenched police corruption. You know, I went into this to reform the criminal justice system. I can say that we successfully did that in 18 months. And although those individual officers weren't held individually and criminally responsible, every single police officer is being held accountable for the actions of a few.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you look at all the challenges, what are the things that keep you up?
MOSBY: So I think of the homicides, you know, the level of distrust among law enforcement in our communities - that's something that we're attempting to break down each and every day. That's something that my office takes very serious, hoping that we can really get the very small number of individuals that define the negative perception of our city off of our streets. You know, I live in the heart of West Baltimore with my two little girls and my husband. I don't have to turn on the news and open up the newspaper to see the violence plaguing my community. All I have to do is open up the door. I have a vested interest.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Thank you so much.
MOSBY: Thank you.
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