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THEY KILLED FREDDIE GRAY

THE ANATOMY OF A POLICE BRUTALITY COVER-UP

Complex, dense in detail, and sharply argued: a firm indictment of injustice committed on the street and in the courtroom.

An examination of a system that allowed malign police officers to walk free after murdering a suspect.

As with the case of George Floyd five years later, Freddie Carlos Gray Jr. was the victim of a judicial killing. Arrested by Baltimore police officers for possessing what they called an illegal weapon, he died of injuries after being in custody for less than an hour. According to investigative reporter Barron, Baltimore city authorities conspired to cover up the facts of the case, which included Gray’s being shackled and handcuffed and then bounced around unrestrained on a “rough ride” in the back of a police van, which may have resulted in the spinal injury that led to his death. Working through the discovery file, Barron flags numerous instances of misconduct coupled with ineptitude, willful obfuscation, and sometimes-inexplicable decisions. Maryland State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, for example, initially filed charges against six Baltimore officers that specified that the supposedly illegal knife was actually legal—therefore, “the arrest wasn’t legal and so constituted assault.” Yet as the proceedings moved forward, she dropped the charge, apparently acceding to an opposing attorney’s demand that the legality of the knife be excluded. Media reports, Barron adds, tended to uncritically repeat the police account of the incident, by which “Gray caused his own death by banging his head” repeatedly against the door and walls of the van. The Baltimore Sun, “the paper of record in the Gray case,” was particularly loyal to the police account. Meanwhile, notes the author, the U.S. Department of Justice appears to have suppressed or at least not presented eyewitness accounts that indicated that excessive force before the ride began may have been the true cause of death. In the end, whether by design or indifference, Barron ably demonstrates, the system definitively failed Freddie Gray. Rabia Chaudry provides the foreword.

Complex, dense in detail, and sharply argued: a firm indictment of injustice committed on the street and in the courtroom.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2023

ISBN: 9781950994250

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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UNDER THE BRIDGE

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Godfrey reconstructs a horrific murder with a vividness found in the finest fiction, without ever sacrificing journalistic integrity.

The novel The Torn Skirt (2002) showed how well the author could capture the roiling inner life of a teenager. She brings that sensibility to bear in this account of the 1997 murder of a 14-year-old girl in British Columbia, a crime for which seven teenage girls and one boy were charged. While there’s no more over-tilled literary soil than that of the shocking murder in a small town, Godfrey manages to portray working-class View Royal in a fresh manner. The victim, Reena Virk, was a problematic kid. Rebelling against her Indian parents’ strict religiosity, she desperately mimicked the wannabe gangsta mannerisms of her female schoolmates, who repaid her idolization by ignoring her. The circumstances leading up to the murder seem completely trivial: a stolen address book, a crush on the wrong guy. But popular girls like Josephine and Kelly had created a vast, imaginary world (mostly stolen from mafia movies and hip-hop) in which they were wildly desired and feared. In this overheated milieu, reality was only a distant memory, and everything was allowed. The murder and cover-up are chilling. Godfrey parcels out details piecemeal in the words of the teens who took part or simply watched. None of them seemed to quite comprehend what was going on, why it happened or even—in a few cases—what the big deal was. The tone veers close to melodrama, but in this context it works, since the author is telling the story from the inside out, trying to approximate the relentlessly self-dramatizing world these kids inhabited. Given most readers’ preference for easily explained and neatly concluded crime narratives, Godfrey’s resolute refusal to impose false order on the chaos of a murder spawned by rumors and lies is commendable.

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-1091-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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