By Sarah Rankin and Denise Lavoie Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court on Monday blocked a lawsuit against Baltimore’s top prosecutor filed by five police officers who said she maliciously investigated and charged them in the death of a man who suffered a fatal spinal injury in custody.
The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling by a lower court judge, court records show. That judge had allowed key parts of the lawsuit against Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to go forward.
Freddie Gray, 25, died in 2015, a week after he suffered a spinal injury in a police van. His death sparked days of protests and rioting in Baltimore. Mosby charged six officers in Gray’s arrest and death. Three were ultimately acquitted, and Mosby dropped the remaining cases.
“I support the court’s opinion that the people of Baltimore elected me to deliver one standard of justice for all, and that using the legal system to reach a fair and just resolution to Gray’s death was not a political move, but rather it was my duty,” Mosby said in a statement.
Mosby’s lawyers had argued that as a prosecutor, she has immunity from the lawsuit.
The court agreed.
“We resoundingly reject the invitation to cast aside decades of Supreme Court and circuit precedent to narrow the immunity prosecutors enjoy. And we find no justification for denying Mosby the protection from suit that the Maryland legislature has granted her,” the court wrote in its opinion.
The officers’ lawyers argued Mosby did not have enough evidence but charged them anyway to ease public unrest. They also allege she omitted key information about a witness who said Gray was banging his head against a wall of the van.
The court said the fact that the officers disagree with Mosby’s decision to prosecute or with the information provided in legal documents “does not entitle them to litigate their disagreement in court” or recover damages.
“Perhaps to the Officers’ chagrin, they must accept that they are subject to the same laws as every other defendant who has been prosecuted and acquitted. Those laws clearly bar the type of retaliatory suits that the Officers brought here,” the opinion said.
Attorneys for the police officers did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment.
The U.S. Justice Department declined to bring federal civil rights charges against the six officers — three white and three black — meaning no individual was held criminally responsible for Gray’s death. The van driver and the highest-ranking officer in Gray’s arrest also were cleared of any administrative wrongdoing by a police panel. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis subsequently decided to scrap a final trial board against another police supervisor.