Murder charges against police officers in general are relatively rare in the U.S., murder convictions are even rarer. Although this case does not involve a shooting death, it is noteworthy that while 41 officers had been charged with either manslaughter or murder during a 7-year period ending in 2011, the FBI had reported 2,718 justified homicides by law enforcement people. The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), uses the “Deaths in Custody Reporting Program” (DCRP) to collect data on deaths that occur in the process of arrest, or while inmates are in the custody of local jails or state prisons. The number of arrest related deaths in the U.S. between 2003-2005 was 1,095. More than 4,800 arrest-related deaths were reported from 2003-2009.
The more difficult problem for prosecutors has been the general perception of the public (and jurors) that police officers are good and honest people doing a tough job. This morphs into the belief that a police officer is more likely to tell the truth on the stand than the defendant or any of his witnesses. This notion is now rapidly changing. As we have recently noticed, new technology, especially cell phone cameras, have evened the playing field when it comes down to what happened. In this case, the prosecutor is confronted with the added difficulty of a lack of independent eye witnesses- it seems that the witnesses are mostly all police officers. This could prove to be a tough case for the state to prove, especially the single second-degree murder charge. However, circumstantially, the case appears strong- Freddie Gray did not paralyze himself.