In the Media: Questions After Nero Acquittal; 1,650 Ballots Handled Improperly in Baltimore Election
A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.
From the Baltimore Sun: Freddie Gray case: After Nero acquittal, key questions remain
"The acquittal of Officer Edward Nero on Monday was a blow to prosecutors, but legal analysts said the verdict does not sink the cases against the five other officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.
"The case against Nero centered on two key questions: Was the initial stop of Gray last April lawful? And who had responsibility for making sure Gray was safe when a police van set off for Central Booking?
"Circuit Judge Barry Williams delved into those issues Monday as he explained his reasons for acquitting Nero. But he offered no sweeping answers.
"Instead, Williams was careful to clear Nero based on evidence that applied to the 30-year-old officer alone. He did not point fingers at any of the other defendants.
"'It was striking,' said David Jaros, a law professor at the University of Baltimore.
"Williams' approach means the lawyers will still have much to argue over in court as the five other officers charged in the case head to trial in the months to come.
"Still, Nero's acquittal comes as a setback for prosecutors hunting for their first win, after the trial of Officer William Porter ended in a hung jury late last year."
From the Baltimore Sun: Full transcript: Judge Williams’ ruling acquitting Officer Nero in Freddie Gray case
"Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams acquitted Officer Edward Nero on Monday of all four charges against him in connection with the arrest of Freddie Gray.
"Below are his full comments from the bench, as transcribed by The Baltimore Sun.
"WILLIAMS: All right, this court has been asked to render a decision in this matter and will give the information as follows.
"The state has charged the defendant with assault, misconduct in office by corruptly performing an unlawful act, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office by corruptly failing to do an act that is required by the duties of his office.
"In order to convict the defendant of assault, the state must prove that the defendant caused offensive physical contact with Freddie Gray, that the contact was a result of an intentional or reckless act of the defendant, and was not accidental, and that the contact was not legally justified.
"In order to convict the defendant of misconduct in office, the state must prove that the defendant was a public officer, that the defendant acted in his official capacity, and that the defendant corruptly did an unlawful act. For this count the state alleges that the defendant arrested Freddie Gray without probable cause.
"In order to convict the defendant of reckless endangerment, the state must prove that the defendant engaged in conduct that created a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another, that a reasonable person would not have engaged in that conduct, and that the defendant acted recklessly.
"Finally, in order to convict the defendant of the second count of misconduct in office, the state must prove that the defendant was a public officer, that the defendant acted in his official capacity, and that the defendant corruptly failed to do an act required by the duties of his office. For this count the state alleges that the defendant failed to ensure the safety of Freddie Gray by failing to secure Mr. Gray with a seat belt during the process of Mr. Gray being transported in a police vehicle while he was in police custody.
"The state has a burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt each and every element of the crimes charged. If the state fails to meet that burden for any element of a crime this court is required to find the defendant not guilty of that crime."
From the Baltimore Sun: About 1,650 ballots handled improperly in Baltimore election, state review finds
"About 1,650 ballots cast in Baltimore's primary election were handled improperly, a state review has found — prompting some to question the validity of the election results.
"The State Board of Elections concluded that 1,188 provisional ballots were inappropriately scanned into the vote tally on Election Day — without judges verifying that the voters were eligible — and 465 other provisional ballots were not considered. The board's findings were released Monday.
"'In many ways, this is worse than what anybody thought,' said the Rev. Cortly 'C.D.' Witherspoon, an activist with Voters Organized for the Integrity of City Elections, or VOICE. 'Although we knew there was a problem, we did not know it was to this magnitude. The citizens deserve better.'
"State officials pledged to work with the city to ensure the November election goes more smoothly.
"They ordered Baltimore's election results decertified this month amid concerns about voting irregularities. For several days, election workers from across the region conducted a precinct-level review of the city's primary — focusing on why there were about 1,000 more ballots cast than there were voters who checked into the polls on Election Day.
"Officials concluded the problem involved provisional ballots —ballots given to people who show up to vote but whose names are not on the registered voters list for the primary election at that precinct. Those ballots are supposed to be set aside so officials can determine later if the voter was eligible. These voters would not appear on the check-in list of those registered. State officials believe that in some cases, these ballots were not set aside but were scanned into the total.
"There were problems at precincts throughout the city, the review found. At only 75 of the city's 296 precincts did the number of voters who checked into the polls and the number of ballots cast match. At 11 precincts, there were at least 30 more ballots cast than voters who checked in.
"The 1,188 unverified provisional ballots — given to voters whose eligibility was in question — will not be subtracted from the vote tally because there's no way to tell now if they should have been counted or not, officials said.
"Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., the city's elections director, said the problem was that officials had to count regular and provisional ballots while 'having 140,000 people voting.' It was the first time in decades city voters were using paper ballots."