Victims speak out against Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty

On Wednesday a scene all too familiar on the plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center played out. A group of over 50 people came to demand change. There were signs, speakers, passion, and emotion. But this rally was different from those I’ve witnessed in the past — very different.

This rally demanded justice for victims, not criminals. And the crowd was clear who was impeding justice — Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty.

FREE Mary Moriarty rally signs October 2023

Wednesday’s rally was organized by the families of victims of violent crime in Hennepin County — black and white families who were victimized once by violent criminals, and who feel they have been victimized a second time by the Moriarty who has made a practice in 2023 of offering absurd plea deals to defendants in murder, assault, robbery, and sexual assault cases.

“She’s doing this under the auspices of eliminating mass incarceration.  However, all of us will now be inhabiting the open-air prison.”

Brian Markey, brother of murder victim Stephen Markey

Moriarty was elected to a four-year term beginning this past January to serve as the lead prosecutor in Hennepin County. She had spent her entire career as a defense attorney and served as Hennepin County’s Chief Public Defender before being removed after allegations of creating a hostile workplace.

Despite the obviously poor fit as a lead prosecutor, the MN-DFL endorsed Moriarty, and Hennepin County voters put her in office for four years. That poor decision was exposed almost immediately, and story after story in 2023 has focused on Moriarty’s bizarre plea deals and sentence recommendations, which have all been made over the strong objections of victims and surviving family members of victims.

One of the key complaints of the victims and family members who spoke out at the rally, was the lack of input they have been given by Moriarty’s office and the courts. In some cases, murderers have been offered plea deals to serve only a few years behind bars, before returning to the street.

The common refrain from rally speakers was that Moriarty’s office had entered into these woeful agreements without consulting the family or victims and had given them just a few hours’ notice before court appearances where the deals were finalized.

Unfortunately, none of this should come as a surprise to Hennepin County residents.  Moriarty was clear about her intentions as a progressive prosecutor. She campaigned on themes of massive criminal justice “reform,” including alternatives to incarceration, decriminalizing many criminal actions, and focusing on police reform.

One of Moriarty’s favorite themes suggests that “science” has determined the human brain isn’t fully developed until 25 years of age. This “fact” is cited time and time again by Moriarty’s office when proposing light sentences for younger offenders who have committed extreme violence.

One of the victim advocates who spoke Wednesday astutely pointed out — if a violent criminal’s brain has not developed to the point where they understand killing is wrong, how can Moriarty argue they should be back on the street?

Moriarty’s time as Hennepin County Attorney will no doubt be remembered as a low point in our public safety journey. Change will occur when Hennepin County and Minnesota citizens wake up to what “progressive” criminal justice system policy really means. It shouldn’t be confusing to us anymore.