Was Freddie Gray's Arrest Legal?

by Melissah Yang

The six Baltimore officers involved in the fatal arrest of 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray were charged with various offenses on Friday, the most serious being second degree depraved heart murder for the driver of the police van where Gray sustained fatal spinal injuries. One of the key moments of prosecutor Marilyn Mosby's statement as she announced her intent to prosecute the officers, however, was the investigation's determination that the knife found in Gray's pocket was legal under Maryland law, which would have made the arrest illegal. So was Freddie Gray's arrest legal? Court papers obtained by the Associated Press showed one officer claim the arrest was warranted based on a city ordinance that could have made the knife an illegal blade to carry.

According to the AP, Officer Edward Nero, who faces second-degree assault, misconduct in office, and false imprisonment, claimed the knife described as a "spring-assisted, one-hand-operated knife" was an illegal weapon under Baltimore's switchblade ordinance. The city carries a different definition of what constitutes as a switchblade than Maryland does, the court papers argued.

The motion filed Tuesday provides the first look at one defense strategy as the officers prepare to contend their charges. For Nero and another officer, their charges depend on the legality of the arrest. Should the arrest be found legal, those lesser misdemeanors would be dropped. In a statement, Nero's attorney Mark Zayon said:

We will litigate the issues of the legality of the arrest of Freddie Gray in the courtroom. I am quite confident Officer Nero will be acquitted.

The court papers also demanded the prosecutor's office produce the knife so that it could be evaluated. In a statement released Tuesday, Mosby refused to release evidence before the trial and condemned the information leaks, calling them "unethical disclosures" that would prevent her office from conducting an impartial judicial process for everyone involved.

While the evidence we have obtained through our independent investigation does substantiate the elements of the charges filed, I refuse to litigate this case through the media.

Gray sustained a mysterious spinal injury while in police custody on April 12. He died a week later, sparking mass protests nationwide against police violence that culminated in riots in his city of Baltimore last Monday.