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Activists and residents say protracted legal proceedings could heighten city’s anti-incumbent mood

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ERICA ALSTON: I think we celebrated prematurely because we don’t know the process. STPEHEN JANIS, TRNN: Words of caution during the first day of court proceedings this week for six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Sandtown Winchester resident and activist Erica Alston, concerned that the vagaries of an unwieldy legal system could prolong the court proceedings in a city already enveloped in an emotional roller coaster of protest and passion on the eve of the trial. ALSTON: The best case scenario I believe is maybe the driver will have some charges. But I’d be very–it’d be silly for me to believe that all of these officers are going to be brought to charges. JANIS: Caution that took on even greater significance after Judge Barry Williams ruled in favor of segregating the defendants, meaning that each would be tried separately and consecutively. It’s a move that could prolong the legal proceedings well into next year, and observers of the city’s political scene believe it could turn the trial into more than just a matter of guilt or innocence, but the final arbiter of the city’s fragile political future. SEAN YOES: But the roller coaster ride is going to be just played out that much longer. JANIS: A development which they say bodes particularly poorly for anyone associated with its past. YOES: Obviously you’re looking at the mayor’s race in April. The Democratic primary. So the trials will still be in process. It will absolutely have an impact, and it will be a constant reminder of what happened in April of 2015 and who was presiding over what happened. JANIS: Host of Morgan State’s First Edition and Afro-American newspaper columnist Sean Yoes says the prospect of a series of trials stretching into the primary season early next year and into the election in April could have serious implications for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s bid to keep her job. He thinks that acquittals or even protracted court proceedings could remind the public of the failure of her administration to implement long-term police reform. YOES: Those challengers are going to be constantly pointing to what’s happening on the periphery at that time. And that’s going to be the trial, the Freddie Gray trial. JANIS: Which is why Yoes says the ongoing courtroom drama could pave the way for an outsider like State Delegate Jill Carter, who is the city’s only politician outspoken against the department’s zero-tolerance policy and aggressive tactics. We talked to her about the prospect of running last week. JILL CARTER: You know, I’m looking around to see if any quality candidate really understand the great need to completely change the politics of the city, and thus far I haven’t seen that person arise. But you know, it’s something I very much want to do. It’s just that I don’t want to do anything that doesn’t have a probability of success. JANIS: Another potential candidate is talk show host Wes Moore, who Yoes said could attract a wide swathe of voters because he would be perceived as an outsider. YOES: I think that there is a population of Baltimore that would gravitate to him. If you have Nick Mosby, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Sheila Dixon, possibly Katherine Pew, possibly Carl Stokes, possibly Jill Carter, if you have six black candidates, right, that would be a significant split of the black vote. If Wes Moore could grab a significant amount of the white vote, which in my mind seems viable, he would be a really formidable–he could be a formidable opponent. JANIS: A public hunger for leaders without ties to the past, shared by protesters outside the courthouse on Wednesday who say they are tired of the political establishment whose lack of leadership they believe is responsible for the process of justice that may now take years to resolve. LEE PATTERSON: And she’s building all types of big, gentrifying, big luxury housing for the rich while poor people have to not have any place to live. All these abandoned houses with trees growing out of them. JANIS: Stephen Janis and Taya Graham reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore.


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Host & Producer
Stephen Janis is an award winning investigative reporter turned documentary filmmaker. His first feature film, The Friendliest Town was distributed by Gravitas Ventures and won an award of distinction from The Impact Doc Film Festival, and a humanitarian award from The Indie Film Fest. He is the co-host and creator of The Police Accountability Report on The Real News Network, which has received more than 10,000,000 views on YouTube. His work as a reporter has been featured on a variety of national shows including the Netflix reboot of Unsolved Mysteries, Dead of Night on Investigation Discovery Channel, Relentless on NBC, and Sins of the City on TV One.

He has co-authored several books on policing, corruption, and the root causes of violence including Why Do We Kill: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore and You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths about Policing in Baltimore and Beyond. He is also the co-host of the true crime podcast Land of the Unsolved. Prior to joining The Real News, Janis won three Capital Emmys for investigative series working as an investigative producer for WBFF. Follow him on Twitter.