Baltimore, MD – Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced on Thursday that her office had dismissed almost 600 criminal cases.
Mosby announced in a press release on June 25 that her office had eliminated 586 open warrants for minor offenses, The Baltimore Sun reported.
She said her office was no longer prosecuting drug possession, paraphernalia possession, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offenses, open container, rogue and vagabond, and urinating/defecating in public.
Mosby’s office said serious traffic offenses, burglary, theft, and drug sales would still be prosecuted, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The Baltimore state’s attorney announced in March that she had instructed her staff to stop prosecuting crimes in order to reduce the jail population for coronavirus.
But police continued to make arrests for those offenses, despite the directive from the prosecutor, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“Unfortunately, we became aware that people were still being arrested due to open warrants for failing to appear in court on an offense the office no longer intended to prosecute,” the state’s attorney’s release said, according to WBFF. “Unlike a standalone offense, the Baltimore City SAO has to go to court to request that the warrant be ‘quashed’ before being able to dismiss the case.”
Mosby said she had prosecutors assess the open and pending warrants as of June and had them request hearings to eliminate the warrants and entered “nolle prosequi” to dismiss the charges.
“COVID-19 in jails is still a major public health threat, and we want to slow the number of people entering the criminal justice system,” she said. “As prosecutors, we are committed to protecting the safety and wellbeing of everyone in our community.”
“We are not prosecuting certain offenses, so logically we do not want people to be held on warrants associated with those offenses,” Mosby continued. “As we have shown in the three months since introducing our new policies, we can balance public health and public safety and this work continues along that path.”
She said her team did away with 540 warrants in district court and another 46 misdemeanor warrants were quashed in circuit court, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“We encourage everyone who is concerned about an outstanding warrant for these minor offenses to go to this website and see if their case has been dealt with,” Mosby said in the press release.
This is not the first time that the Baltimore state’s attorney has taken it upon herself to determine which laws to prosecute and which to ignore.
In January of 2019, she announced 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.