Mary Moriarty’s consistently poor judgment
One would think Mary Moriarty might give pause to the belief that her role as lead prosecutor is to argue on behalf of violent, murderous defendants. Consistency is often a strength, but when a prosecutor consistently assumes a defense posture, public safety suffers. Such is the case in Hennepin County.
Brooklyn Park Murder
In March 2023, just a few months into her first term as Hennepin County Attorney, Moriarty made the staggering decision to argue on behalf of two teens who had executed a Brooklyn Park woman in her apartment during a home invasion.
Moriarty’s predecessor had charged the teens as adults with murder, and intended to prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Moriarty changed course and entered into a plea agreement that would adjudicate the murderers in juvenile court where they would receive two years of confinement and counseling, before being released from court jurisdiction on their 21st birthdays. Moriarty defended her decision based on her belief that the brains of these murderous teens were still developing.
Moriarty’s decision was heavily criticized — read about it here — so much so that Governor Walz and Attorney General Ellison stepped in and took the case from Moriarty’s office and placed it under the jurisdiction of the attorney general.
This was no small move. It should have been enough to resonate with Moriarty for years. Unfortunately, there is no evidence it ever resonated at all. Instead, Moriarty took a defiant stance against the governor and attorney general, and at the first opportunity she repeated her mistake.
Minneapolis Carjacking Murder
In 2019, a man sitting in his car in NE Minneapolis was murdered during an unsuccessful carjacking attempt. The two teenage suspects, who were both armed and who both fired shots at the victim, were arrested the next day after a string of other violent crimes. Both confessed to the murder.
Once again, Moriarty’s predecessor had made the appropriate decision to try the defendants as adults. The process for doing this took years for one of the defendants, Husayn Braveheart, now 20 years old. Braveheart had fought to have his case remain in juvenile court where the punishment would be far less severe, compared to his co-defendant who received a 22-year sentence in adult court.
In November 2022, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Braveheart should be certified for trial as an adult after determining the State had met the burden of proof on a series of public safety factors including Braveheart’s culpability and his history of failing to participate in programing and other therapy.
At a pretrial hearing last week, Moriarty announced that she had entered into yet another stunning plea agreement, whereby Braveheart would serve just 1 year in the workhouse and 5 years of probation.
Moriarty argued that Braveheart had changed in the 4 years he had been in pre-trial custody. She argued that Braveheart had been “extraordinarily responsive to the carefully selected treatment that he has been able to access since he’s been incarcerated…” The defense attorney argued that the plea reflected “well established evidence on brain science”- an apparent reference to Moriarty’s frequent argument that the human brain is not developed until the age of 25.
The victim’s family was adamantly opposed to the plea agreement and the victim’s father appropriately summed up Moriarty’s position as “an insult to my son.”
Moriarty’s justification for the lenient plea agreement hinges on her contention that Braveheart had made “extraordinary” progress in programing while in custody. A review of the Supreme Court ruling that made determinations on that specific issue suggests Moriarty’s claim is dubious.
In the ruling, the Supreme Court noted that as of November 2022, Braveheart had not successfully completed a single treatment program, and had in fact absconded from such programing throughout his history in the justice system. A psychologist’s report referenced in the ruling stated that Braveheart “is at high risk for future violence, including serious violence.”
The Supreme Court commented that Braveheart had participated in the Bar None program while in custody. It noted that Braveheart had what could “arguably” be described as a positive experience at Bar None, but “when he was ordered to return to Bar None and continue programming, he fled and reoffended by committing another felony.”
The Supreme Court concluded that Braveheart’s “record demonstrates (his) noncompliance at several placements and fails to demonstrate any experience when (he) showed a good performance following the programming.” The Supreme Court summed up the ruling by concluding it would not serve public safety to retain Braveheart in the juvenile court — which would have resulted in a sentence much like the lenient plea agreement that Moriarty has now entered into.
An inquiry with Moriarty’s office this week for any additional information on the programing she claimed Braveheart had been “extraordinarily” responsive to went unanswered.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Michael Burns has indicated that he will not immediately accept the plea deal, and would defer a decision until sentencing, currently scheduled for October 23, 2023.
State Patrol Deadly Force Case
On July 31 2023, a State Trooper used deadly force against a wanted felon who sped off from a traffic stop throwing two troopers who were attempting to arrest him onto a Minneapolis freeway at 2 a.m. The BCA is investigating the case — a process that can easily take several months to complete. The most important aspect of such an investigation is impartiality — for all involved.
In yet another stunningly poor decision Moriarty or members of her staff have reportedly met privately with the family of the wanted felon who died in this incident. Such a move, prior to the completion of the investigation and the review of facts, shows an incredible lack of judgment by the Hennepin County Attorney. One can imagine the justifiable outrage if Moriarty or her staff held a private meeting with the involved troopers prior to the completion of the investigation or legal review. Such a meeting would be wholly inappropriate, as it would shatter the impartiality and independence required.
The meeting has led to condemnation from the attorney’s representing involved troopers. In a letter to Moriarty, attorney Christopher Madel rightfully criticized Moriarty’s lack of judgment.
“Impartial prosecutors are critical to the public’s confidence that charging decisions follow the rule of law – and not political winds.”
“It is unfortunate that I must write this letter. We hope and expect that in the future your office’s participation in this matter will exhibit a much higher degree of simple fairness – the same fairness required by the Minnesota state and federal constitutions.”
Board of Public Defenders Ousted Moriarty in 2019
Sadly, none of this poor judgment should come as a surprise — least of all to Hennepin County citizens where she had served as chief public defender before being suspended and later ousted by the Board of Public Defenders in 2019.
In the decision to oust Moriarty from her public defender role, the state’s chief public defender Bill Ward stated:
“It is about questionable management decisions…It’s about the inability to work professionally.”
During her brief tenure as Hennepin County Attorney, and her previous tenure as Hennepin County Public Defender, Mary Moriarty has consistently demonstrated a lack of judgment which calls into question her ability to properly perform her duties. Criminal justice system leaders and the public must be relentless in their overwatch of Moriarty to ensure decisions she impacts are in the best interest of public safety.