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Saint Noochie?

Adam Bernstein

The Post offers a Sunday obit feature called A Local Life, which structurally can be more relaxed than the standard "news obit" that immediately tells the who, when, where, how and why of a story.

I have tried to find subjects who are unpredictable, in some ways elusive. Two of my favorites in recent memory were of a pool hustler and an ex-con-turned-mediator named Robert "Noochie" Kinlaw Jr.

As expected, an e-mail arrived from a reader critical about the Kinlaw story.

In this eulogy for a criminal "convicted on several charges over the years" the Washington Post reports that this "ex-offender ["ex"?] turned mediator" "tried to help end the killings on DC streets" but that this "admirable chapter" of his "troubled life" ended "after an apparent heart attack" (no doubt some overdose). This "34-year old ex-offender" "had a lot of respect" among his fellow crooks because of his "jail record" and because he was "intimately familiar with their codes and grievances." I knew crooks had plenty of "grievances" but never knew they had "codes." Honor among thieves according to the Washington Post, which also reports that this "ex-offender," who "tried" to do so many good deeds ("tried to end the killings," "tried to look out for his family," was "trying to raise his teenage son"), "worked part-time" "when not in jail" but that "paychecks from his employers either bounced or did not come at all," implying that "his employers" really were responsible for his many misdeeds (which he accomplished). Another criminal victim story from the Washington Post. They even suggest that "Noochie" did "the ministry of the church." How does "Saint Noochie" sound to you?

At the core of the writer's argument is that somehow The Post has "eulogized" Kinlaw, sanctified him. The obituary provided a brief account of Kinlaw's life outside of crime. But we have neither withheld the "bad" stuff, nor condemned him for not trying to change his life sooner. The local police commander said Kinlaw played a role -- not the defining role -- in getting a truce between two gangs -- not all the gangs.

By Adam Bernstein  |  September 17, 2007; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Adam Bernstein  
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