This January, we wrote about questions we had regarding new State’s Attorney Ivan Bates and the office he took over from former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Six months into Bates’ tenure, we can reflect on some of those questions and compare data to the prior administration.
In the first six months of Ivan Bates’ administration, we observed 274 Baltimore City Circuit Court bail review hearings. For context, we are comparing that period to the first six months of 2022 under Mosby’s administration, when we observed 684 hearings. That difference in total hearings is largely due to judicial policy changes regarding bail review dockets and overall trend changes due to a shift in judicial COVID-19 policy.
We questioned whether Bates would continue Mosby’s practice of asking that defendants be kept in jail until trial in a great majority of bail review hearings. Overall, in the first six months of 2023, Bates’ office asked for the most restrictive condition of ‘held without bond’ (HWOB) 79.6 percent of the time. This is still the overwhelming majority, though less than 85.1 percent under Mosby during the compared time. The Bates administration also requested electronic home monitoring in 10.2 percent of hearings, slightly higher than Mosby’s 8.9 percent.
We also asked if Bates’ SAO would use a defendant’s previously dropped charges or charges that did not end in a conviction in their arguments for HWOB. Comparing the first six months of 2022 under Mosby to the first six months of 2023, Bates’ staff used dropped charges and charges that did not end in a conviction as supporting evidence for their request at pretty much the same rate as Mosby’s staff (Bates 9.1 percent vs. Mosby 9.2 percent). In 21 out of 25 such hearings, Bates’ office used that category of charges to argue for HWOB — or, in plain English, keeping someone in a cage until trial.
Another question we asked was whether Bates would deny that staff miss hearings on a regular basis. Of the 48 hearings with a missing prosecutor, 41 occurred after an assistant state’s attorney (ASA) filled in at the last minute for a colleague who had not shown up. The other seven hearings had no prosecutor show up at all. Those 48 hearings represent 17.5 percent of the total hearings we observed. While Bates’ office has staff missing hearings, they also insist that a defendant missing a court appearance (labeled ‘failure to appear,’ or ‘FTA’) is a reason to keep a person in a cage while awaiting trial. Judges similarly excuse prosecutorial truancy while harshly judging defendants for the same. FTAs often result in judges issuing bench warrants, and consequent arrests.
We also wondered if Bates would allow his staff to request that children be kept in cages in adult facilities, as his predecessor did. We are horrified that this policy has continued under Bates. Of the 274 hearings we observed, 27 — about 10 percent — involved children being charged as an adult. One of those children was a 17-year-old chased and shot by a plainclothes Baltimore Police officer while running away. The officer, Cedric Elleby, who fired into the child’s back, was not charged by Bates.
Beyond charging children as adults, we criticized Mosby’s administration for requesting the harshest pre-trial status (HWOB) more often for children than they did for adults. While Bates’ SAO has requested HWOB for child defendants in 25 of 27 hearings, statistically, the small number of cases we’ve seen so far makes it too soon to compare percentages with Mosby’s office. However, we can say that there is no obvious difference or change from Mosby’s SAO seen in the data thus far.
The harsh treatment of children by Bates’ SAO is aligned with the current hyperfocus on extreme punitive measures by city leadership. Bates’ first six months have also seen him support a youth curfew, advocate for longer sentences, denounce academics for using studies to contradict his policy proposal, direct police to use discredited ‘broken windows’ policing, and support a crackdown on squeegee workers.
Reviewing his tenure, we must also commend Bates for following through by dropping charges against Keith Davis Jr. and releasing him after more than seven years and five trials. This decision does not mean that Bates is making strides in halting police violence. In the first days of his administration, Bates announced he would not press charges against Baltimore City Police Officer Connor Murray, who shot and killed Donnell Rochester in February 2022. In May, as mentioned above, Officer Cedric Elleby chased and shot a 17-year-old in the back as he ran away. Rather than charge Elleby, Bates quickly charged the teen.
Bates has pursued charges against some officers during his tenure. In March, Bates announced that Officers Walter Wilson and Larry Worsley were indicted by a grand jury. Wilson is charged with misconduct in office and Worsley is accused of assaulting someone with a firearm, outside of a bar, while off duty. While details are sparse in each case, neither appears to confront systemic police violence. The standard seems to be that blatant corruption and off-duty violence will not be tolerated, but violence in support of the state will be protected.
This all confirms what we wrote in January and learned long before then. The whole system is guilty as hell. There are no good police, no good prosecutors, no good judges in a system built on, by, and for white supremacy.
Baltimore Courtwatch is made up of Baltimore citizens who watch court proceedings and report what they see in order to hold court actors accountable and end the injustice of the criminal legal system. Learn more about them at baltimorecourtwatch.org.