News Report of Local Stabbing Death Obfuscates

Above the fold on page one of yesterday’s edition of my local paper–The Hartford Courant–under the headline, “Suspect Collapses in Court,” readers get an account of a scene in Enfield Superior Court involving a teenager accused of a fatal stabbing and a group of friends of the stabbing victim.  We learn that the spectators at the defendant’s presentment–forty of them–shouted obscenities at him in the courtroom, and we deduce that this was the cause of his collapse, in which he wept and fell to the floor during the proceeding. Some of the intruding spectators had to be escorted from the courtroom, and several started a brawl in the hallway and outside the courthouse. The defendant is pictured alongside the front-page text, a dark-skinned adolescent in tears, one of a small racial minority in Enfield, which is 90% Caucasian. 

The two journalists reporting the events in the courthouse and the events surrounding the stabbing very carefully avoided any mention of the racial implications of their narrative. They were forced to abandon key journalistic standards to accomplish this. For example, there is a quote from the defendant’s lawyer that her client was subjected to bullying at school in Enfield, but there is no attempt to support or rebut that charge or to connect it to the stabbing. The reporters mention that the accused boy withdrew from Enfield High School to finish his studies out of state, but they offer no further comment. No school official is quoted or even mentioned.

The stabbing occurred during a fist-fight on an Enfield street late at night, a fight that seems to have been precipitated by the boy who died. There is an implication that the boy showed up with friends to fight the defendant, but there is no clear statement from any witness relating to the details of the fight except a charge that the defendant stabbed the other boy more than once. The reporters mention that the accused had a bandage on his hand or wrist when he appeared in court, but they leave it to readers to discover from a photo that one of his eyes was swollen.

The journalists give readers no timeline whatsoever. The first event for which a time is mentioned is the 911 call, which didn’t come until after the stabbing. Left unanswered by the reporters: when the stabbing victim arrived for the fight, how long the fight lasted before the stabbing, and why law enforcement got no call until it was too late for help. Also neglected by the reporters is how a parade of disrupters could have taken over a courtroom full of law-enforcement personnel without being charged with any crime. The reporters tell us there was only one arrest.

Could the stabbing have been an act of self-defense? Was this dark-skinned defendant threatened by a crowd of light-skinned assailants? Did the light-skinned protesters get special treatment from court personnel? Is this an instance of institutionalized white supremacy? The Courant doesn’t tell us.

The headline should probably have read, “Lynch Mob Gathers at Enfield Courthouse.” Readers might have got a more complete account of what really happened.