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Baltimore State's Attorney Known For Understanding City's Poor Communities


Now, more about the woman who's building the case against those six officers. Marilyn Mosby is 35 years old. She just took the office of chief prosecutor in Baltimore four months ago. NPR's Nurith Aizenman reports.

NURITH AIZENMAN, BYLINE: At a news conference announcing her decision to prosecute police officers in connection with Freddie Gray's death, Marilyn Mosby made a point of highlighting a key element of her background.


MARILYN MOSBY: I come from five generations of law enforcement. My father was an officer. My mother was an officer, several of my aunts and uncles. My recently departed and beloved grandfather was one of the founding members of the first black police organization in Massachusetts.

AIZENMAN: But Mosby's personal story also resonates with people in Freddie Gray's neighborhood. She's young - at 35, one of the youngest chief prosecutors in any city in America. She's African-American. Neither of her parents went to college. And she describes the part of Boston that she grew up in as the inner-city. Her husband is a Baltimore City councilman who represents the area where Gray lived.

Now, Mosby is being praised for being a tough prosecutor who's also in touch with a community that has long felt invisible. Maryland representative Elijah Cummings said when he first heard of Gray's death, he wondered if anybody truly saw him.


ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Did they see this man who was a mother's child? Did they see this man who was just trying to get through life? Did they see him as a human being? And I have come here today to thank God that Marilyn Mosby and her team saw him, saw him.

AIZENMAN: Although Mosby is new to the job, those familiar with her work say she's already established a track record of going after hardcore criminals who need be off the streets. Elizabeth Julian is a public defender in Baltimore.

ELIZABETH JULIAN: She has as part of her platform that she wants to go against violent repeat offenders - the scary individuals that are charged with gun crimes and murders and things of that sort - rather than drug possession.

AIZENMAN: But for the low-level offenders...

JULIAN: Her approach seems to be more toward enabling a person to re-enter society rather than crippling them.

AIZENMAN: University of Maryland professor Larry Gibson says at first Mosby wasn't considered a strong contender when she decided to run for state's attorney. Her opponent was a well-connected incumbent. But Gibson was impressed with her.

LARRY GIBSON: I concluded that this was an exceptional young person who had a lot of potential - intelligent, decisive, energetic and she is courageous.

AIZENMAN: Gibson helped her win prominent endorsements of her own. Now those connections have prompted some questioning. Baltimore's fraternal order of police released a letter calling on Mosby to mostly recuse herself because of her political and family connections. But Cummings and other supporters say the importance of the message she has sent to blacks in the community cannot be overstated.


CUMMINGS: They'd never seen a victory. And they had begun to believe that the system could not work for them. So many of them have felt like the system had worked against them.

AIZENMAN: Nurith Aizenman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.