NYT Pair Strongly Imply That Mosby's Cousin Was Killed by Police, When It Was a Black-on-Black Crime

May 3rd, 2015 11:41 PM

One could spend hours critiquing the horridly writen, agenda-driven Friday evening (Saturday print edition, front page) story at the New York Times about Marilyn J. Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore. On Friday, she announced the indictment of six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.

Earlier Sunday, "Open Blogger" at the Ace of Spades blog provided the Cliff's notes version of the report by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Alan Blinder — "exactly what one would expect from what is now the loudest national voice in support of mob rule." Especially egregious is the pair's strong implication, in the context of their writeup, that Mosby's cousin was killed by the police. It's hard to see how the average reader could reach any other conclusion after reading paragraphs 2 through 7 in their report (bolds are mine throughout this post):

... “It’s been 78 days since Michael Brown was shot in the street by a police officer,” Ms. Mosby said in October at her alma mater, Tuskegee University in Alabama. “It’s been 101 days since Eric Garner was choked to death in New York by a police officer, and 54 days since the New York City medical examiner ruled that incident a homicide. Neither has resulted in an indictment.”

Friday morning, Ms. Mosby made clear that she intends to proceed at a different pace. Her stunning announcement that she would prosecute six officers in the death of Freddie Gray landed her squarely in the national spotlight, making her a heroine to those demanding better police treatment of black men, but drawing sharp criticism from critics who accuse her of pursuing a political agenda and who say she moved too quickly.

At 35, Ms. Mosby — whose official title is the Maryland state’s attorney for Baltimore City — has been shaped by her own experience growing up black in a tough part of town. As a student in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester, she would awaken at 5 a.m. for an hourlong bus ride to attend school in a wealthy white suburb; she was the only black child there.

When she was 14, her cousin was mistaken for a drug dealer, and shot and killed on the doorstep of her home. As adults, she said in an interview, both she and her husband — Nick Mosby, a member of the Baltimore City Council — have learned what it feels like to be looked upon with suspicion by the police.

I’ve had experiences as an African-American woman where I’ve been harassed by police, or my husband has been pulled over and harassed by police,” she said in an interview Friday in her office, near police headquarters in downtown Baltimore. “Does that give me a perspective? I think it does.”

Ms. Mosby’s turn in the spotlight comes after just four months on the job. She was elected in November, ousting the incumbent, Gregg L. Bernstein, after campaigning aggressively on a vow to prosecute police misconduct. Some of her backers, including Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West was killed after a violent scuffle with the police, were in tears after listening to her on Friday.

The first two excerpted paragraphs are all about black men whose deaths involved police officers. The last two are about police harassment and misconduct. In the midst of those police-related paragraphs, there's a reference to how her cousin 'was "shot and killed," accompanied by an assertion that Mosby and her husband have allegedly been unfairly treated by the police over the years.

In that context, who wouldn't think that Mosby's cousin was "shot and killed" by police?

Except he wasn't, as Mike Barnicle reported at the Daily Beast:

When Marilyn Mosby’s Cousin Was Killed

The Baltimore prosecutor in the Gray case learned years ago, when she was just 14, how quickly poor black lives can be snuffed out.

When Marilyn Mosby, state’s attorney for Baltimore city, stood before cameras that introduced her to the world Friday as she declared that six Baltimore cops would face felony charges in the death of Freddie Gray, she arrived with personal knowledge of how the streets can swallow young black lives. When she was 14 years old in the summer of 1994, her closest friend, a 17-year-old cousin, Diron Spence, was shot to death by 18-year-old Kevin Denis, murdered simply because he was in the right place at the wrong time, outside her house in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston.

Barnicle at least told the truth about how Mosby's cousin died, but he depersonalized it by describing it as an example of "how the streets can swallow young black lives." No, Mike, it's an example of how black-on-black crime — particularly black criminals all too often killing other innocent blacks — "can swallow young lives."

Stolberg and Blinder will surely and most lamely claim that they didn't come out and say that Diron Spence was killed by the police. But if they really meant to accurately communicate the facts to their readers, they should have provided a fuller description of the circumstances, included the story of Mosby's cousin's death elsewhere in the story describing her upbrining, education and career, or — as "Open Blogger" suggested — left Spence, who they never named (perhaps in the hopes that others wouldn't research his death), out of the story completely. But they didn't choose any of those three alternatives.

I've seen enough examples of such "cleverness" to be long past giving reporters in these instances the benefit of the doubt. Unless they revise their work, the default assumption has to be that Stolberg and Blinder wanted readers to believe a fiction, namely that Diron Spence was shot and killed by police.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.