BALTIMORE — Six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray want their trials moved out of the city.
Lawyers for the officers filed a motion for a change of venue on Wednesday. They say their clients cannot receive a fair trial in Baltimore because of extensive pretrial publicity, civil unrest and public officials’ prejudicial comments.
Any effort “to seat six fair and impartial juries for these Baltimore City Police Officers would be futile given the fact that the events surrounding this case have impacted every citizen of Baltimore,” the motion says.
Gray was arrested April 12 and accused of possessing an illegal knife. He suffered a fatal spinal injury while being transported in a police van to a booking center, city authorities have said. He died a week later.
Violent street protests broke out hours after his funeral and lasted several days. Media coverage was intense and widespread, the motion says.
In the change-of-venue motion, the officers’ lawyers say State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby made “some of the most egregiously prejudicial public statements” about the officers.
For instance, the lawyers say she “aligned herself with the populist slogans of protesters and demonstrators” during a May 1 press conference by saying, “To the people of Baltimore and demonstrators across America, I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace.’ ”
Mosby’s fame has grown to the point that “she has been placed on a throne and continues to enjoy the spotlight. Mosby was literally under the spotlight during the Prince concert held for Freddie Gray at the Royal Farms Arena on May 10, 2015, when Prince invited her onto the stage,” the motion said.
The officers have already filed motions to have Mosby removed from the case. She says she will not voluntarily recuse herself.
The motion said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake prejudiced the case against the officers by criticizing the events leading to Gray’s arrest.
She also sent a tweet showing herself and members of Gray’s family with a message that said, “Honored and blessed to stand with the family of Freddie Gray to call for justice and for peace,” according to the motion.
The motion cites comments by Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and members of the Baltimore City Council.
The city has not responded to the defense motion yet.
The six officers face charges that, if they are convicted, could lead to decades in prison, based on their alleged actions that day. Among the charges: Illegal arrest, misconduct, assault and involuntary manslaughter.