Last year as charges were announced against six Baltimore police officers for their role in the arrest and fatal injuries sustained by Freddie Gray, it seemed to many like a case in which police officers would finally be held accountable for the in-custody death of an unarmed black man.
Key facts were clear: An unarmed, skinny, relatively healthy 25-year-old black man was arrested without cause, and had his spine broken and voice box crushed while handcuffed in the back of police van in West Baltimore, dying a week later. When an EMT worker arrived at the scene and saw Gray, she said to the police officers transporting the young man, “what the [expletive] did you guys do?” She testified that Gray’s neck “felt like a bag of rocks.”
Even the demographics seemed to favor accountability in this case. This would not be a case of an all-white justice system exonerating white police officers. The officers involved in arresting and transporting Gray were both black and white; one is a woman. The police chief, the prosecutor and the city mayor were all African American at the time of the incident, and the population of Baltimore City, from which the jury in the case would be drawn, is majority African American.
Yet it is now certain that no one will be held criminally liable for Gray’s death.