School of Law Dean Ronald Weich: Single Prosecution Can't Solve Broad Social Problems
November 29, 2015
Contact: University Relations
In an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Ronald Weich says that no single trial can solve broad social problems—but efforts are underway to address a number of persistent issues that hamper the criminal justice system.
Considering the upcoming trials of six Baltimore police officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray, Weich says these prosecutions cannot form the basis of social change.
"Some ... hope the officers' trials will advance the agenda of the 'black lives matter' movement. But a single prosecution (or six) cannot solve broad social problems or reform troubled institutions," Weich writes. "Instead, the question in these and any other criminal trials is narrow: Has the defendant violated a specific law?
"We might wish that the trials will reveal the true story of Gray's fateful ride in a police van following his arrest on April 12. But a criminal trial is a notoriously bad way to tell a story. The presentation is fragmented. The narrative is constrained by technical rules of evidence. Those who expect the trials to answer all the questions or to solve all the problems highlighted by Gray's death are bound to be disappointed."
Instead, Weich contends, a stronger, more effective justice system may result from efforts that are underway to curb issues such as racial profiling, mass incarceration and police accountability.
"We needn't await the conclusion of these trials, or insist on specific verdicts, to begin the process of improving justice on the streets of this great city," Weich writes.
Read the op-ed.