Who Is Janice Bledsoe? The Freddie Gray Prosecutor Has Worked Hard To Ensure Integrity
On Thursday, a Baltimore Grand Jury indicted six police officers over the death of Freddie Gray. Gray was fatally injured in police custody in April, and his death prompted heated protests across the U.S., as the country reeled from a string of fatal interactions between unarmed black men and police officers. Thursday’s decision was largely expected, due to Baltimore state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby’s announcement of the charges at the start of May. The charges announced Thursday have changed little since that May announcement. Mosby is backed up by an experienced team of lawyers — one of whom is Deputy State's Attorney for Criminal Justice Janice Bledsoe. So who exactly is Bledsoe?
According to The Wall Street Journal, Bledsoe is an experienced and well-respected defense attorney, who has often dealt with police officers in court. She did so during a year and a half in charge of the Baltimore prosecutor’s office police integrity unit in 2011 and 2012 — an experience which will, no doubt, prove useful in the Gray case. During her time in this unit, she prosecuted misconduct cases involving Baltimore City officers, and was also a member of the Prison Corruption Task Force, where she helped to examine corruption in the Baltimore City jail.
Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the van in which Gray suffered his injuries, faces a charge of second-degree “depraved heart” murder, which carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison. Goodson, along with three fellow officers, has also been indicted on a manslaughter charge. Two other officers face charges of second-degree assault. All six officers are charged with reckless endangerment. But while the police officers' names are known, and their charges made clear, little has been said about the prosecutors who will lead the case.
When Mosby reshuffled her office in January this year, Bledsoe was one of her very first hires. The Baltimore Sun reported that Bledsoe would be heading a new division entitled “criminal intelligence,” and overseeing several units. Her state’s attorney office website stipulates that these include the Juvenile, Public Trust, Forfeiture, Criminal Strategies, and Criminal Investigations units.
Bledsoe’s professional profile also highlights that she’s a Maryland native, and an alumnus of St. Paul’s School for Girls. Her trajectory towards her current post is somewhat convoluted, with law only appearing as an interest quite late in her education. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in English at Loyola University, Bledsoe got a teaching certificate at Johns Hopkins, and taught special education for five years in Baltimore County schools. Only then did she earn her legal degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law. She worked at the Legal Aid Bureau, at the Child In Need of Assistance Unit, before going into private practice.
During her time as a private defense attorney, Bledsoe played for the other side — representing police officers rather than prosecuting them. One such officer was Jemini Jones, who was charged with several rapes. Jones was acquitted in 2007.
On a more personal note, Bledsoe is currently in a relationship with Jayne Miller, one of local station WBAL’s best-known investigative reporters. The relationship has drawn some attention as interest in the Gray case heats up, with WBAL fielding questions about a conflict of interest, given that Miller will report on the case. Bledsoe has not yet commented publically on the aspersions, but WBAL has strongly denied that there is a conflict of interest. Regardless, Miller has now said she will step back from the story.
The squabble is a footnote to the much larger controversy over Mosby’s own impartiality. The charged officers’ lawyers accused the state attorney of being compromised by virtue of her friendship with one of Gray’s attorneys, and her marriage to Baltimore Councilman Nick Mosby. The councilman’s district incorporates neighborhoods badly affected by the unrest that Gray’s death sparked. Mosby’s chief deputy has called the allegations “absurd,” and denounced them as speculative.
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