Daniel Nichanian

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby faces two challengers in Baltimore’s Democratic primary: former Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah and Ivan Bates, a former assistant state’s attorney who now works as a defense attorney.

Mosby is known nationally for prosecuting six police officers over the homicide death of Freddie Gray. After the first trials resulted in acquittals and a mistrial, her office dropped remaining charges. Vignarajah and Bates have criticized her handling of these prosecutions as “rushed,” with Bates charging that she “failed Freddie Gray” by not obtaining a conviction. (These trials have become a campaign issue in a different way in nearby Harford County; here a former Baltimore City prosecutor running in the GOP primary is facing attacks by an opponent for having played a role in prosecuting police officers.) As for Vignarajah, he is best-known for currently handling the prosecution of Adnan Syed, whose 1999 conviction was investigated by the podcast Serial; Bates has promised to drop Syed’s case if elected.

Mosby and Vignarajah both returned a detailed questionnaire prepared by The Justice Collaborative. Here, as elsewhere, Vignarajah makes a range of reform commitments that Mosby rejects. You can read all of Mosby’s answers here, and Vignarajah’s here. In their answers, Mosby and Vignarajah both commit to increasing recourse to diversion programs, creating safe injection sites, adopting a presumption against prosecuting actions that are a symptom of homelessness, and considering the immigration consequences of prosecutorial decisions. (Mosby recently instructed her staff to consider these consequences.) Their responses diverge on cash bail, however. Mosby says that she would “minimize, not eradicate the role of money bail,” while Vignarajah pledges to abolish cash bail and instruct prosecutors to never seek it.

Moreover, Vignarajah is the only one of the two to answer in the affirmative on a number of other questions, including whether he commits to not seeking life without parole sentences for juvenile sentences, to fighting the automatic charging of juvenile defendants as adults, and to more often refraining from seeking maximum sentences. Bates, meanwhile, has campaigned on reducing incarceration for low-level offenses, and simultaneously on prosecuting people charged with violent offenses more aggressively than Mosby has. He disagreed with Vignarajah at arecent debate on predictive policing tools, which Bates criticized as as conducive to racial discrimination. On the campaign trail, Mosby has repeatedly attacked Bates for his work as a defense lawyer. “I didn’t become a defense attorney and defend robbers and rapists,” she said during one debate, a statement that drew direct criticism from Baltimore City Council member Ryan Dorsey.


Update: Marilyn Mosby won a second term.