Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore prosecutor leading the case against six police officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray, knows crime and law enforcement up close.
Both her parents were police officers, as were her grandfather and several uncles. As a young teenager growing up in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, she lost a cousin to gun violence – a 17-year-old mistaken for a drug dealer, killed outside her home by another 17-year-old.
It was that family tragedy, she has said, and being a youngster in Boston’s school desegregation program, that led her to study and then begin a legal profession aimed at seeking justice – a path that has thrust her into the international spotlight focused on racial equality and police conduct across the United States.
When Ms. Mosby won election last year as Baltimore City State's Attorney, that made her the youngest chief prosecutor of any major city in the United States. (She’s 35 years old.)
Given her short time on the job and relative inexperience, plus the typical slow pace of other official investigations involving alleged police misconduct (and the hesitancy of some prosecutors to seek indictments in such cases), many were surprised at the swiftness of her announcement last week.
The six Baltimore police officers suspended in the death of Freddie Gray – who suffered a spinal injury and died a week after his arrest – were charged with multiple felonies, including false arrest, assault, manslaughter, and second degree murder. (Mr. Gray was black; three of the officers are white, three are black.)
But there was no hesitancy in her words or her tone as she made the announcement.
"To the people of Baltimore and demonstrators across America, I heard your call for 'No Justice, No peace,'" she said. "Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man."
One who was not at all surprised by Mosby’s quick action was Nick Mosby, her husband, a member of the Baltimore City Council, and the father of their two young daughters.
"She's a strong woman," Mr. Mosby told CNN. "She was built for this.”
The two met at Tuskegee University, the historically black school in Alabama, where she studied political science and was the first in her family to graduate from college.
She went on to earn a law degree at Boston College, then worked as a prosecutor and an insurance company lawyer before defeating the incumbent state’s attorney in Baltimore last year.
The police union in Baltimore has accused Mosby of a “rush to judgment” in charging the officers. Other critics say she has a conflict of interest, given her husband’s public comments in the wake of Gray’s death.
"This is bigger than Freddie Gray," he told Fox News. "This is about the socioeconomics of poor urban America." He also seemed to justify protesters he said were exhibiting "decades-old anger and frustration for a system that's failed them.”
Mosby says there’s no conflict of interest between her job and her husband’s.
“My husband is a public servant. He works on the legislative; I am a prosecutor, I am also a public servant,” she told reporters. “I uphold the law; he makes the laws. And I will prosecute any case within my jurisdiction.”
Successful prosecution of the police officers is no slam dunk. Given the community’s emotional response, including some protest violence, it’s possible that any trial could be moved to another jurisdiction.
In any case, the unfolding story of alleged police misconduct and the official response likely will remain a key point in Marilyn Mosby’s professional history, marked from this time forward.
"At the end of the day I’m here to do my job," she told MSNBC. "It’s about applying justice fairly and equally to those with and without a badge. Did I treat this case any different in the pursuit of justice? No, I didn’t.”
"Law enforcement is instilled within my being. I understand and respect that the majority of police officers are risking their lives day in and day out," she said. "Recognizing that, I also know that some officials usurp their authority…. When they do that, you have to hold those individuals accountable."
In 2013 and 2014, the Baltimore Sun named Marilyn Mosby one of “50 Women to Watch” – a prescient prediction, as it turns out.