If Marilyn Mosby has any trepidation about the future of her bid for re-election, it’s not apparent.
Dressed in a dark power suit with a delicate string of pearls, the Baltimore State Attorney recently sat in front of a room full of female attorneys in New York City. It was there that she delivered an emboldening message of triumph in the face of unscrupulous opposition.
For the 38-year-old wife and mother of two, the last three-plus years spent in the public eye have been equal parts challenging and victorious. Just four months into her role as the top prosecutor in the city, her decision to press charges against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray made her a known hero to some and a nefarious target for others.
Though her nonconforming stance against police brutality brought her a host of detractors, Mosby told ESSENCE during a branded event co-hosted by the Association of Black Women Attorneys (ABWA), “I feel like I was in this position for a reason. Romans 8:31 — If God is for you, who can be against you?”
It’s this level of optimism and faith that keeps the Boston-born litigator focused on the positive changes produced from her foray into the national spotlight. When asked if she was okay with her legacy being forever tied to one consequential case, Mosby answered thoughtfully:
“We're in the midst of change in Baltimore and it feels somewhat uncomfortable, but I feel like we're going to look back in retrospect and be able to say that this was a turning point for this country.” She adds, “Every hurdle, every obstacle that I had in the Freddie Gray case brought this country one step closer to equality and justice, so I'm okay with that.”
Although the court ultimately ruled against what Mosby, activists and many Baltimoreans believed was in the best interest of justice, the verdict never deterred the central mission at the state attorney’s office. “I feel like I went into this to reform the criminal justice system and we were able to successfully do that in 18 months. So I can wake up each day and look at myself in the mirror and know that I'm doing the right thing.”
According to Mosby, it’s this unwavering commitment to fair and equal justice that has officials at all levels of government eager to remove her from office.
“There's a reason why they are so angry and want me out of this position,” she explained. “There's a reason why they started a super PAC in my local elections. That has to do with the fact that any sort of progressive reform, like criminal justice reform, is going to form on a local level. And the federal system doesn't have any control over it.”
To mince words would seem counterproductive for the woman who now serves as the youngest chief prosecutor of any major American city. Instead, the 2015 electee brazenly defines her objectives and sets the tone for an office that goes by the motto “justice over convictions.”
Along the way, she’s learned from—and leaned on—some of the best. From the late Ken Thompson in Brooklyn to Jackie Lacey in Los Angeles to Kamala Harris (who Mosby notes sat down with her for six hours during her first bid for office) in San Francisco, to Kim Foxx, Kimberly Gardner, Aramis Ayala, Sherry Boston and others. Mosby has found a camaraderie among Black progressive prosecutors who have walked a day in her shoes and have the stories (and scars) to prove it.
“It's important when you represent one percent that you have that support system," Mosby says. “If there’s an issue that one of us is having, we text each other for advice, encouragement and support. It's something that I value.”
Something else she values is the collective strength of women. Although the HBCU grad often makes headlines for her reformist approach to a city plagued with one of the highest homicide rates in the country and a police force riddled with controversy, Mosby would like her legacy to include a piece of legislation that benefits victims of sexual abuse, including “a number of women of color in Baltimore city.”
She explained that in 37 other states, past infractions by serial predators can be used against them during a trial, but in Maryland, information of prior offenses cannot be employed as a tool for conviction. “This is something that we've taken up in my office, and I'm really excited about it. Hopefully, we'll get closer to conforming Maryland laws with the federal standards this year,” she says.
When her mind is made up, Mosby charts her steps carefully and takes a steadfast approach toward the goal. It’s this unique brand of self-assuredness that makes juggling motherhood, a career, and being a wife possible. It also serves as a testimony for other women looking to prosper at all three.
“We can do it all," Mosby insists. "There's nothing that we can't do. And we cannot allow the naysayers and the haters to define our destiny.”
She’s certainly not letting them define hers.
Marilyn Mosby seeks re-election as Baltimore City State’s attorney on June 26, 2018.