Friday, December 15, 2006

New Reports of Abu-Jamal Confession after 25 years

PHOTO: Dec. 9, Philadelphia demonstration for Mumia.


On 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's arrest, NBC 10 television reports two new accounts of Abu-Jamal's "hospital confession"
by Hans Bennett


Twenty five years ago black death-row prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was arrested for the murder of white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and later convicted in a 1982 trial that Amnesty International has declared a
"violation of minimum international standards that govern fair trial procedures and the use of the death penalty.”

In the weeks leading up to December 9 (the 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's 1981 arrest), there were numerous stories in the local press about Abu-Jamal. Future Philadelphia mayoral candidate Chaka Fattah (currently a US congressman) came under attack from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) because he has long supported a new trial for Abu-Jamal.

Despite the FOP threat that they would actively campaign against his mayoral bid, Fattah stood by his support for a new trial. However, just days later, he voted for a congressional resolution condemning the French city of St. Denis for naming a major street after Abu-Jamal (passed 368-31).

Fattah said in a statement that despite being unconvinced that justice was served in the case, he voted for the resolution because "anyone who stands convicted of so terrible an offense is an affront to those who risk their lives on a daily basis to serve."


"The House action" said Pam Africa, chair of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, "is designed to weigh in on and promote an atmosphere in the U.S. judiciary that is prejudicial to Mumia's receiving any form of justice today."

Also noteworthy was a public concession from Joseph McGill (who was the prosecutor at Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial) in the Philadelphia Inquirer that Abu-Jamal could have been convicted of a lesser homicide charge if he had waged a “true defense.”

Two More People Say Mumia Confessed?
While these two news pieces were important, perhaps the most shocking story to emerge
amidst the flurry of news stories published last week was a Dec. 8 NBC 10 story reporting that two more people now say that they heard Abu-Jamal confess at the hospital before treatment for his gunshot wound.

NBC 10 reports that on Dec. 9, 1981 William Colarulo (now a Chief Inspector for the Philadelphia police) was a “rookie cop assigned to guard the door to the emergency room.” Colarulo told NBC 10 that after Abu-Jamal arrived at the hospital, he confessed to his then partner Tom Brady. "He said to my partner something to the effect, 'I'm glad I shot the M-F’. That’s what my partner said (Abu-Jamal) told him,” said Colarulo.

The second new account from that morning comes from Kathleen Gerrow. Now an executive producer at NBC 10, Gerrow was a radio reporter in 1981 covering the story at the hospital. "I distinctly remember a very distinctive voice shouting, 'I shot the mother f----er, I shot the mother f----er,” said Gerrow.

Pam Africa argues that these two new accounts show that the pro-execution lobby “is getting desperate. While these new accounts are supposed to strengthen the case against Mumia, it actually further exposes the confession story for what it is: a fraud. In 1982 it was unbelievable that police forgot about the confession for two months. Now we're supposed to believe that it took 25 years for these new people to remember it?”

Africa emphasizes that these new accounts come just months before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments and then decide if Abu-Jamal deserves a new trial. The FOP and other pro-execution forces “are scared that Mumia will get a new trial and years of injustice will be exposed. This is a desperate attempt to sway public opinion against Mumia.”

The Hospital Confession: a contentious history
Arguably the strongest evidence presented against Abu-Jamal in court, the “hospital confession” has long been one of the most contentious issues in the debate between the pro and anti-Mumia factions, and has been cited by Amnesty International as one of the reasons the organization calls for a new trial.

The first report of Abu-Jamal confessing to the murder of Faulkner came from the high-ranking Inspector Alfonso Giordano (former Captain of the Civil Defense unit). Arriving at 13th & Locust within minutes, Giordano claimed that Abu-Jamal confessed to him while lying in the police wagon. While the Philadelphia Bulletin immediately reported that Mumia “admitted shooting the police officer in a brief comment to Police Inspector Giordano,” the prosecution did not cite this during the 1982 trial—likely because of credibility issues. Shortly after Mumia’s arrest, Giordano resigned after learning that he was under federal investigation for corruption. Years later he pled guilty to federal charges of tax evasion for not reporting at least $55,000 earned from extortion in 1979 and 1980.

The first official police account of the “hospital confession,” was suspiciously introduced two months after Abu-Jamal's arrest. When interviewed (in February, 1982) by the police Internal Affairs Bureau investigating Mumia's police brutality complaint, Officers Wakshul, Bell, and hospital security guard Priscilla Durham then reported Mumia's supposed “hospital confession” for the first time.

Mumia allegedly declared (in the presence of 15-20 other cops that have never confirmed it): “I shot the motherfucker and I hope the motherfucker dies!”

Testifying in 1982, Bell (Faulkner's partner and “best friend”) claimed the two month mental lapse resulted from being so upset about Faulkner’s death.

At trial, Durham contradicted her statement to police and testified that she reported the confession to her supervisor the next day. While neither her supervisor or the alleged hand-written statement were presented in court, the DA sent an officer to the hospital--returning with a suspicious typed version of the alleged report. Sabo accepted the paper (not signed or dated) despite both Durham’s disavowal of it (because it was typed and not hand-written) and the defense’s protest that there was no establishment of authorship or authenticity.

Unfortunately, the jury never heard the most explosive evidence discrediting the confession. While the DA called Bell and Durham to testify, Wakshul was suspiciously absent. On the final day of testimony in 1982, Mumia's lawyer discovered Wakshul's statement from Dec.9—the morning of the shooting. After riding with Mumia to the hospital and guarding him until his treatment, Wakshul reported: “the negro male made no comment.”

When the defense immediately sought to call Wakshul as a witness—the DA reported that he was on vacation. On grounds that it was too late in the trial, Sabo denied the defense request to locate him for testimony. Subsequently, the jury never heard from Wakshul or about his written report. When an outraged Mumia protested, Sabo cruelly declared: “You and your attorney goofed.”

Gary Wakshul Publicly Beaten
Wakshul's “negro male” report was key evidence at the PCRA hearings, and it was well-known that he would have to testify to defend his “confession” story. Unknown to Mumia's lawyers, on July 13 (days before his PCRA testimony) Wakshul was savagely beaten by undercover police officers in front of a Judge in the Common Pleas Courtroom where he worked as a court crier. Almost two years later, the two attackers (members of Philly's Vice Squad) were suspended without pay as punishment. With the motive still unexplained, the beating was likely used to intimidate Wakshul into maintaining his “confession” story at the PCRA hearings.

On the stand, Wakshul defended both his Dec.9 report and the two month delay as just being a bad mistake. Further discrediting the “confession” story, he repeated his incredible statement given to the IAB investigator in 1982: “I didn’t realize it had any importance until that day.”

The original trial's injustice was further exposed when Wakshul testified to being home for his 1982 vacation—in accordance with explicit instructions to stay in town for the trial so that he could testify if called.

The “confession” story has been thoroughly discredited. As Amnesty International concluded: “The likelihood of two police officers and a security guard forgetting or neglecting to report the confession of a suspect in the killing of another police officer for more than two months strains credulity.”

25 Years of Lies
Advocates of Abu-Jamal's execution say the “hospital confession” reveals Abu-Jamal to be an arrogant and unrepentant killer--more than just proof of guilt. On the other end of the spectrum, supporters of Abu-Jamal argue that holes in the police account expose fabricated testimony.

In a recent essay contextualizing these new accounts within the 25-year execution campaign, longtime Abu-Jamal supporter Kevin Price has written that “these two new stories are weak attempts to piece together a fabricated confession that has long since crumbled. A quarter century later the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) are still desperately attempting to complete the task that they failed in 1981: the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

“In 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal was shot with a bullet through the lung, had his head repeatedly rammed into a steal pole, and in this critical condition was driven around Philadelphia in the back of a police paddy wagon for nearly an hour (even though the hospital was within a few blocks) as the police waited for him to die. Since Mumia did not die, the state’s next best option was to fabricate evidence and railroad him.”



This article is the latest installment in Bennett's series on Abu-Jamal focusing on December 9 and Abu-Jamal's upcoming oral arguments before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Check out the new series at:
hbjournalist1.googlepages.com/ms


All work by photojournalist Hans Bennett
hbjournalist@gmail.com www.insubordination.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 09, 2006

INDYMEDIA FOR MUMIA!: Hans Interviewed by Uprising Radio / IMC Web Feature

INDYMEDIA FOR MUMIA!


Uprising Radio/

KPFK Los Angeles

25th anniversary of Mumia’s Arrest


Published on 7 Dec 2006 at 10:05 am.

Link to Uprising Radio and listen to interview


GUEST: Hans Bennett, Philadelphia based photo-journalist who has been documenting the free-Mumia movement


Nearly 25 years ago, on December 9th, 1981, a young journalist named Mumia Abu-Jamal was arrested in Philadelphia in connection with the murder of a police officer. Abu-Jamal was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death a year later, in a trial that Amnesty International recently declared, was a “violation of minimum international standards that govern fair trial procedures and the use of the death penalty.” Mumia Abu Jamal is widely considered to be a political prisoner and his supporters include the Japanese Diet, the European Parliament, and members of the British and German Parliaments. In 2003, he was declared an honorary citizen of Paris, the first since Pablo Picasso was similarly honored in the 1970s. And in April of this year, the Paris suburb of St. Denis named a major street after Abu-Jamal. Yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution denouncing the street naming. Supporters of Mumia are organizing for December 9th of this year to mark the 25th anniversary of his arrest in Philadelphia.


Indymedia.org

Website Feature on Mumia

An excellent resource with several links to information about where Mumia's case stands right now.

Link to feature at global IMC site.


World-renowned black death-row prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in a 1982 trial that Amnesty International has deemed unfair (see report). Supported internationally by a variety of activists, workers, and educators, his books and radio essays challenging injustice everywhere have earned the former Black Panther the nickname "The Voice of the Voiceless."

His court case has now hit the fast track with oral arguments beginning any month. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals is considering four issues in regards to granting Abu-Jamal a new trial. Supported by the NAACP, NLG, UK Lawyers, and The German Parliament, Philly Journalists Linn Washington and Dave Lindorff have optimistically written of Abu-Jamal's chances for a new trial.

In April, longtime French support (2005 photos) continued when the Paris suburb of St. Denis named a major street after Mumia (see video) and was quickly condemned with government resolutions in the US (pdf booklet), while local media continued a long history of bias. In November, Philadelphia Republicans (radio interview) filed criminal charges against St. Denis and Paris for allegedly "glorifying" a "cop-killer". In response, Abu-Jamal and his lawyer wrote to Paris.

Abu-Jamal's support network is organizing a ,mass demonstration at Philadelphia City Hall on December 9--the 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's arrest. Also, German author Michael Schiffmann has just released a new book on Abu-Jamal's case, revealing new evidence and original ballistics analysis.

related links: Philly IMC journalist's series on Mumia | Trial Transcripts (on anti-Mumia site) | Mumia on Oaxaca | New Philadelphia Inquirer article | New Linn Washington article

For more information, visit www.mumia.org, and www.freemumia.org.




Hans Bennett’s article on Mumia Abu Jamal appeared in the November 2006 issue of Z Magazine. His current series on Mumia leading up to the 25th anniversary is at:

http://hbjournalist1.googlepages.com/ms




All work by photojournalist Hans Bennett
hbjournalist@gmail.com

Thursday, November 30, 2006

RADIO INTERVIEW: Is Honoring Mumia A Crime?

PHOTO: Pam Africa with French delegates inside the mayoral reception room at Philadelphia City Hall when the delegates were presented with miniature liberty bells, February 11, 2005.

Link to Bennett's new "Voice of the Voiceless" series on Abu-Jamal, published in the weeks leading up to December 9--the 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's arrest.

RADIO INTERVIEW
:
Is Honoring Mumia Abu-Jamal A Crime?

Telephone interview with Peter J. Wirs (Chairman of Philadelphia's 59th Republican Ward Executive Committee) about the new criminal charges filed against two French cities supporting journalist and death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

by Hans Bennett

PETER J. WIRS INTERVIEW, LINK TO:

15 minute version

6 minute version

2 minute version



Because the audio is an edited version (to be listener and download friendly) of the interview, the full-length transcript is included below so readers can read more and see the overall context to the questions. In doing the audio editing, I made my best attempt to accurately portray the interview.

Is it a crime to publicly honor the controversial black death-row prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal (convicted of killing white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in a 1982 trial that Amnesty International has declared a "violation of minimum international standards that govern fair trial procedures and the use of the death penalty")? Future Philadelphia mayoral candidate Peter J. Wirs thinks so.

Acting as the Chairman of Philadelphia's 59th Republican Ward Executive Committee, Wirs has filed criminal charges against the French cities of Paris and Saint Denis. Their crime?

In 2003 Abu-Jamal was declared an honorary citizen of Paris—the first time since Pablo Picasso was similarly honored in the 1970s. This April, the French city of St. Denis (a Paris suburb) named a major street after him. Rue Mumia Abu-Jamal leads directly to the largest sports arena in Europe: “Nelson Mandela Stadium.”

Wirs and the GOP ward committee allege that these public honors "glorify" a "cop-killer" and therefore violate French Penal Code, Article 24 § 2 (L. 29 juillet 1881), prohibiting “the glorified perpetration of a crime [whose elements include] the voluntary trespass to another person's life or physical integrity ...”
The committee's press release explains the following:

“Wirs, a twice-elected state constable who specialized in civil rights investigations, said that his exhaustive examination of court records confirms what U.S. District Court Judge William Yohn also found; that Abu-Jamal received a fair trial despite his own ‘obstreperous conduct’ that hogtied his defense counsel’s representation, and that alleged post-mortem eyewitness recantations and inadvertent forensic deficiencies cannot overcome the sheer weight of circumstantial evidence, that only a Charter Arms .38 caliber revolver killed Officer Faulkner, being one of two firearms found at the crime scene, purchased by and registered to Abu-Jamal; the other being the fallen police officer’s service weapon; coupled with Abu-Jamal’s knowingly self-avowed confession that ‘I shot the motherfucker, and I hope the motherfucker dies’ heard twice by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital security personnel where Abu-Jamal was being treated after his arrest.”

“Abu-Jamal’s supporters seize on the Philadelphia Police Department’s admission they failed to test Abu-Jamal for gunshot powder, now a common test to verify one discharged a firearm; and because the bullet recovered from Faulkner suffered too much mutilation, it could not be conclusively matched with any specific Charter Arms revolver. Such contentions, Wirs asserts, does not mitigate the fact that the bullet specimen had eight lands and grooves with a right hand direction of twist consistent with a Charter Arms revolver; and that Abu-Jamal’s Charter Arms revolver was found next to him which contained five ‘Plus-P’ high-velocity spent bullet shell casings.”

Read local article

Calling Abu-Jamal a “punk,” Chairman Wirs proclaims that “Abu-Jamal’s gratuitous exploitation of genuine international opposition to the death penalty should be exposed for the 'snake-oil’ scam that it is.”

Wirs and the Committee's criminal charges coincide with two key events. First, Abu-Jamal's newest appeal has now gone through four rounds of reply briefs during the last year and now public oral arguments should begin before the end of the winter in early 2007.

Second, this December 9 will mark the 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's arrest and police officer Daniel Faulkner's death. Abu-Jamal's supporters are organizing a mass demonstration at Philadelphia's City Hall on December 9. (see announcement)

Peter Wirs has said that advocates of Abu-Jamal's conviction may also be organizing their own event that day a few blocks from City Hall at 13th and Locust: the scene of the crime that December 9, 1981 morning, but it is still undecided.

Mumia Abu-Jamal's Current Appeal

In December, 2001 Federal District Court Judge William Yohn affirmed Abu-Jamal's guilt but overturned the death sentence. Citing the 1988 Mills v. Maryland precedent, Yohn ruled that sentencing forms used by jurors and Judge Sabo's instructions to the jury were confusing. Subsequently, jurors mistakenly believed that they had to unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances in order to be considered as weighing against a death sentence.

Mumia's case is now in the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals. DA Lynne Abraham is appealing the death penalty ruling while Mumia is appealing the guilty verdict.

If the penalty ruling is overturned, a new execution date will be set for Mumia. If his ruling is upheld, the DA can still impanel a new jury to rehear the penalty phase, which could then sentence Mumia to death—regardless of the 3rd Circuit ruling.

Because the DA appealed Yohn's death penalty decision, Mumia has never left death row, and is still unable to have such “privileges” as full-contact visits with his family.

In December, 2005, the 3rd Circuit announced the beginning of deliberations and shocked many by agreeing to consider two claims not “certified for appeal” by Yohn in 2001.

Abu-Jamal's attorney Robert R. Bryan declared it to be “the most important decision affecting my client since his 1981 arrest, for it was the first time there was a ruling that could lead to a new trial and his freedom.” The courts are now considering the following four issues:

#1. Whether the penalty phase of the 1982 trial violated the legal precedent set by the US Supreme Court's 1988 Mills v. Maryland ruling. This issue was Yohn's grounds for overturning the death sentence and is now being appealed by the DA.

#2. “Certified for appeal” by Yohn in 2001, the Batson claim, addresses the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to exclude blacks from Abu-Jamal's jury. In 1986, the US Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that a defendant deserves a new trial if it can be proved that jurors were excluded on the grounds of race.

At trial, Prosecutor McGill used 11 peremptory challenges to remove black jurors that were otherwise acceptable. While Philadelphia is 44% black, Abu-Jamal's jury was composed of ten whites and only two blacks. From 1977-1986 when current Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell was Philadelphia's District Attorney, the evidence of racism is striking: from 1977-86, the Philadelphia DA struck 58% of black jurors, but only 22% of white jurors.

#3. The legality of McGill's statement to the jury minimizing the seriousness of a verdict of guilt: “if you find the Defendant guilty of course there would be appeal after appeal and perhaps there could be a reversal of the case, or whatever, so that may not be final.”

In 1986 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against McGill in another case (Commonwealth v. Baker) on the same grounds. When Abu-Jamal addressed this same issue in his 1989 appeal with the State Supreme Court, the court reversed its decision on the legality of such a statement—ruling against the claim for a mistrial.

One year later, in the very next case involving this issue (Commonwealth v. Beasley), the State Supreme Court flip-flopped and restored the precedent. However, this would not affect the ruling against Mumia, because the court ruled that this precedent would only apply in “future trials.”

#4. The fairness of the 1995-97 Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) hearings when the retired, 74-year-old Judge Sabo was called back specifically for the hearing.

During the 1995 hearings, the mainstream Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that the “behavior of the judge in the case was disturbing the first time around—and in hearings last week he did not give the impression to those in the courtroom of fair mindedness. Instead, he gave the impression, damaging in the extreme, of undue haste and hostility toward the defense's case.”

Concluding the PCRA hearing, Sabo rejected all evidence and every witness presented by the defense as not being credible. Therefore, Sabo upheld all of the facts and procedures of the original 1982 trial as being correct.


Is it a Crime to Honor Mumia Abu-Jamal?

Is it a crime to honor black journalist and death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal? Was the 1982 trial fair enough (as Peter J. Wirs argues) that Abu-Jamal is undeserving of a new trial? I have made an attempt to fairly show both sides of the debate so that readers can make their own decision about this controversial case.

This interview transcript is meant to promote my upcoming article where I also have interviewed Philadelphia journalists Linn Washington and David Lindorff about the criminal lawsuit and the fairness of the 1982 trial. I have attempted to interview Michael Smerconish (local journalist and longtime-advocate of Abu-Jamal's execution) for this upcoming article, but he has not yet returned my telephone call.

I will be submitting the upcoming article to the 4 big local newspapers in Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, Philadelphia Weekly, and City Paper in my effort to present an article to the public that is both fair and balanced: accurately presenting both sides of the debate so that the readers can decide for themselves what to think.

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH PETER J. WIRS, CHAIRMAN OF PHILADELPHIA'S 59TH REPUBLICAN WARD EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
Telephone interview Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hans Bennett: What exactly is the 59th Republican Ward Executive Committee?

Peter J. Wirs: It is part of the Republican Party in Philadelphia.

Hans: Is your suit independent of the city government?

Peter: The Republican Party has nothing to do with the government

Hans: Will you be traveling with a Philadelphia delegation to France at the end of the month?

Peter: No, I've only said before that we were contemplating traveling. No firm plans have been made, and since then some addition elements have materialized that I'm not at liberty to discuss on the record at this moment.

Hans: Are you organizing an event for December 9th.

Peter: No, because of materializing developments I'm not at liberty to state on the record

Hans: I've spoken with a couple of Mumia's supporters who feel that the trial was unfair and I wanted to give you a chance to respond to what they said.

Peter: Alright

Hans: One thing they talked about was Mumia's [alleged] hospital confession. I was wondering what you what you thought about the witnesses reporting the confession two months later. Does that in any way challenge their credibility?

Peter: No

Hans: Why not?

Peter: Let me explain why I'm involved in this. I'm a former twice elected state constable out of the city of Harrisburg. My expertise, my law enforcement career is in civil rights investigation.

The US District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania and subsequently the Third Circuit appointed me under the Criminal Justice Act to conduct what became the largest prosecution investigation in the history of the federal courts in Pennsylvania

I am furthermore a 2 time elected board member of the south central chapter of the ACLU. I have great expertise and experience in conducting civil rights investigations--particularly in regard to prosecution and judicial misconduct. That's one of the reasons a lot of people have asked me to be involved in this.

When you look at the trial, (and i have examined the trial record extensively, and thoroughly, and comprehensively) of course there were instances where the system did not perform at an optimal level of perfection, but as was well noted by the Supreme Court, no one is entitled to a perfect trial, they're simply entitled to a fair trial. And in this instance, Judge Sabo (not withstanding whatever alleged personal bias or prejudice may be attributed to him) conducted as thorough and as fair of a trial as possible—not withstanding Mumia's own obstruction of the trial process in the proceedings.

Let's look specifically at the evidence. Those of us involved in any form of law enforcement (be it in the field or back in the court room) know that it's not so much direct testimony, or eye witness testimony that is substantive evidence of proof. Rather, it is the circumstantial evidence that we wish to rely upon.

When you look at the circumstantial evidence that Officer Faulkner was shot by a charter arms bullet (notwithstanding that the actual bullet itself was so maligned that ballistic tests couldn't identify the bullet as coming from Mumia's particular gun), coupled with the fact that the defendant was found at curbside in immediate vicinity with a charter arms revolver and five spent casings, what other inference can you draw from those 2 sets of facts, other than Mumia Abu-Jamal shot officer Faulkner?

Hans: You were talking about the “8 lands and 8 grooves” that made it consistent with the charter arms revolver?

Peter: Yes.

Hans: Well, one thing that Mumia supporters point out is that the “8 lands and 8 grooves” were only mentioned by police ballistics expert Anthony Paul at the actual 1982 trial. He didn't actually write that in his original report. He actually wrote that...

Peter: There's no trial that is perfect. We're all accustomed to the CSI and Law and Order television shows and all these nice televised scripts as to what has occurred. That's not reality. Particularly when you look at 25 years ago the opportunities and advantages for forensic evidence seen on TV today, were not available to us 25 years ago.

All else aside, there are 2 conclusive, clear, and convincing facts that Mumia supporters have not controverted:

1) Officer Faulkner was shot by a bullet from a Charter Arms revolver.

2) The defendant was found immediately nearby with a Charter Arms revolver and 5 spent casings.

On those two facts alone, the Commonwealth asked the jury to draw an inference,
which they did, and concluded that the defendant was guilty beyond reasonable doubt

Hans: Can I ask you, regarding...

Peter: Hans, I want to explain in some detail, so you have a grasp what is going on here, okay?

Peter: Now you have to understand law a little bit here and you also have to understand evidentiary law, alright? There are (as in this trial) a set of facts
and then the jury is asked to reach a conclusion. In most trials the facts are not 100% picture perfect complete. In most crimes, the police officers are in fact the eyes and ears of the jury. The prosecution packages what evidence they have in a nice coherent package to the jury.

The problem that we have here is that often the jigsaw puzzle is not complete, and you have to ask the jury to look at the jigsaw puzzle with pictures missing and still ask them to imagine what the total picture is. In law we have facts. We ask jurors to make reasonable inferences from those facts in order to arrive at a conclusion - the conclusion whether the defendant was innocent or guilty.

The bone that is in everybody's throat is that Abu-Jamal was convicted by the jury drawing an inference, and people are not totally comfortable with that. They don't like people being convicted and facing the death penalty based on inference drawn by less than 100% fact.

Here, in this instance we had only 90% facts and the jury was asked to draw an inference based from those facts. That's what people don't understand occurred, and that's what people don't understand has to occur in every trial that goes to court. As with every trial that goes to court, you don't have video cameras
from beginning to end and you don't have eye witnesses anticipating the situation to occur, so as a result the bone that is sticking in everyone's throat is that he was convicted from the inference drawn from circumstantial evidence...

Hans: Okay, can I go back to talking about how the bullet was tied to the Charter Arms...

Peter: Because #1 the bullet was so maligned that it was impossible to conduct a ballistics test on it with the technology we had 25 years ago and #2 The CSI television show is fiction. It's not real. In the real world we have to deal with evidence as we get it.

Notwithstanding that, there is no allegation by any party of interest (such as Pam Africa or any of these other people) which mitigates these two important uncontroverted facts. There is none.

Hans: Okay, let's go back to these “uncontroverted facts”. Police ballistics expert Anthony Paul didn't write about the “eight lands and eight grooves” in his original report...

Peter: So what?

Hans: He actually said...

Peter: So what?

Hans: Could you hold on a second? He actually said that the “general characteristics” were “indeterminable”.

Peter: So what?

Hans: Do you think that's a significant contradiction that first he said it couldn't be determined and then in court he said that it could?

Peter: It still doesn't mitigate the fact that the bullet was a Charter Arms.
No one has controverted or disputed that Faulkner was shot by a Charter Arms bullet.

Hans: That is in dispute, though, because it was the “eight lands and eight grooves” that....

Peter: No one has ever disputed that in a court of law subject to cross examination.

Hans: Actually, in the PCRA hearings in 1995 it was brought up and...

Peter: It was only brought up. It wasn't subject to valid cross examination and it dealt with a process, not with a conclusion.

Hans: Well, the prosecution did actually cross examine George Fassnaacht. He was the ballistics expert called by Mumia's defense team and he was actually cross-examined by the prosecution when he testified to this contradiction in Anthony Paul's report.

Peter: That still doesn't mitigate the fact that he was shot by a Charter Arms bullet.

Hans: But that's the evidence that ties it to a Charter Arms revolver. He didn't write that in the original report...

Peter: So what?

Hans: He actually said it was “indeterminable” and could not be tied to it...

Peter: So what?

Hans: Then he changed his mind when he was on the stand.

Peter: So what?

Hans: Okay, so you're saying that it's not a strong enough contradiction...

Peter: It doesn't mitigate the fact that was already established at the trial, which was that Officer Faulkner was shot by a charter arms bullet.

Hans: Well another thing, Amnesty International has criticized the fact that police didn't conduct the “smell” and “wipe” tests. Do you think that challenges the prosecution's theory at all?

Peter: It certainly makes them look stupid, but it still doesn't mitigate these 2 uncontroverted facts.

Hans: So you don't think the contradiction in Anthony Paul's police report challenges the official connection to the charter arms revolver?

Peter: This is why people get hung up with what people do during investigations. You saw the same thing in the OJ Simpson trial, alright, and you see it in a lot of big highlighted trials. When people get involved in it, they screw it up.

Look at the facts themselves. Forget what the people did because that's just peripheral. The basic fact is that Faulkner was shot by a Charter Arms revolver. Fact 2: the defendant was found with a Charter Arms owned by him and registered to him with 5 spent casings.

If he had just a charter arms, that wouldn't mean anything. But he had a charter arms that had had 5 spent casings. Where did those five bullets go to? The subway system? Did he leave them inside, did he discharge them inside his cab?

Hans: Well, they only recovered one bullet [besides the one in Mumia's chest officially tied to Faulkner's gun], right?

Peter: Yes, inside Officer Faulker. The fact is there were 5 spent casings out of his charter arms and no one has disputed that.

Fact #1: the defendant had a Charter Arms with 5 spent casings.

Fact #2: Officer Faulkner was shot by a Charter Arms.

Critics are trying to attack the bridge between those two facts what we legally call “inference” and people are saying you don't convict people on an inference. Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted on an inference.

The fact of the matter is in our legal system, at least 75% of people are convicted on inferences, otherwise you wouldn't be able to convict anyone.

Hans: Okay, can I ask you more about the hospital confession? Police officer Gary Wakshul originally reported on December 9, 1981 that “the negro male made no comment”. When Mumia's lawyer tried to bring this into court on the last day of trial, Judge Sabo blocked it an would not give the defense time to call Wakshul as a witness. You think that was fair for Sabo to do?

Peter: One could argue whether it was fair or not, however it was not reversible error.

Hans: So you argue that the trial was not as fair as it could have been, but it was fair enough.

Peter: Yes, he got a fair trial. Judge Sabo bent over backwards. I don't think Sabo was given the credit he deserved in accommodating Jamal.

Now, if I was in charge of things, would I want Judge Sabo to preside over this trial?

They should have gotten another Judge to preside over this trial. As was established in Commonwealth v. Jamal as well as the earlier Commonwealth v. Africa, and other such trials of this nature, everybody needs to put their best foot forward and that includes the First Judicial District by appointing a judge whose standing and integrity is unassailable and unimpeachable.

Judge Sabo, with his prior association as an under-Sheriff and as a longtime member of the Fraternal Order of Police, gave ammunition, gave fodder to the opposition.

Nonetheless, Judge Sabo was pushed to the point of exasperation in trying to deal with Mumia Abu-Jamal. Keep in mind that Jamal did everything he could to sabotage his trial and in the civil end of court we call this the “doctrine of unclean hands”. If you're committing something that's wrong, you're doing something that's not right you can't ask for equitable relief if you yourself have committed a wrong in that process.

It's called the doctrine of unclean hands and it's not right for you to screw up your trial (turn your political into a circus) and then turn around and say you didn't get a fair trial. Excuse me, you were the one who were supporting law and order circus antics when you should have been abiding by the system's rules and regulations set forth so the trial could be fair. He sabotaged his trial. So the law says we can't hear you now.

Hans: Mumia's supporters have argued that Mumia didn't start his combative behavior (interrupting Sabo and such) until Sabo actually denied him the right to defend himself

Peter: No, Judge Sabo granted him the right because every defendant in the US is allowed to proceed pro se. What Jamal objected to was the appointment of Anthony Jackson to be his standby counsel. The judge has every right to appoint standby council.

Hans: So the point at which Judge Sabo denied him the right to defend himself, you agree with that? Because he denied him the right [a few days into the trial].

Peter: No, he granted the right to proceed pro se.

Hans: For a couple days.

Peter: When Abu-Jamal refused to abide by the rules, by the proper procedure, and continued to flaunt and abuse the authority granted him, that's when Sabo (as permitted by law) revoked his right to proceed pro se--because he was abusing it. With every right, there is a corresponding responsibility.

If I'm the judge I'm going to give you the right to proceed pro se, but if you want to be like council and represent yourself, then you better act like council. It doesn't mean that you turn the courtroom into a sandbox.

Hans: Okay, going back to Judge Sabo, what do you think about court stenographer Terry Mauer-Carter's 2001 affidavit... [saying she overheard Judge Sabo say in regards to Mumia's trial that he was going to help the prosecution “fry the nigger.”]

Peter: It doesn't surprise me. why should that surprise me?

Hans: You don't think the affidavit should be allowed into his current appeal?

Peter: First of all, it's not for me to second guess the Third Circuit Court
in regard to that one claim that judicial bias tarnished the PCRA proceedings, because under the law of Pennsylvania, there is no right to a PCRA proceeding. So having said that they would have to argue about due process and some state created right which may or may not be.

Is the PCRA (written by state representative Lois Haggerty of Montgomery County) a model of constitutional clarity and compliance?

Absolutely not.

Hans: The statement was from the original 1982 trial, not the later PCRA hearings.

Peter: Fine.

Hans: So you think Sabo probably did say it, but it doesn't affect his trial enough that...

Peter: No, it would surprise me if he didn't say it. You know, you have to understand something, okay? We call this conviction psychology. This rule that you're presumed innocent until proven guilty is a joke, it's a standing joke. We all know it because people suffer from conviction psychology.

Do you have siblings?

Hans: I was the oldest, I had a younger sister

Peter: Okay, when your younger sister complained to mom and dad that you struck her, what did your parents do? They came back and yelled at you, right?

Hans: Usually

Peter: We call that conviction psychology. Usually when people make an accusation, when people hear about an accusation, the fact that the allegation was made taints their objectivity and they give credence to the accusation whether or not it is valid. Your sister could have made up the thing that you struck her
but she nonetheless knew that if she ran in and told mom and dad that you struck her you were gonna get your ass kicked.

It's the same thing in the court of law. Every defendant who walks into the court of law has to bear the problem that people say: “well look, he wouldn't have been here unless he did something wrong”. As a result, the judges and jurors and even courtroom observers think “the punk did something wrong”, he's gonna get convicted.

This is a major problem that we have in our court system. Our jurors are not specifically trained to 1)identify conviction psychology, and 2)learn that they have an inherent prejudice which they have to package and leave outside that courtroom door.

Hans: So your saying “innocent until proven guilty” is not a reality?

Peter: Let me finish here. A judge, alright, he's just as human as anyone else is. He, however (being trained in the law), knows that he has personal bias and prejudice. Not only that, he knows that he has personal biases and prejudices but he knows that it is incumbent upon the judge to control them. That's why he wears the black robe: to conceal his personal persona and remind himself and anyone else that whatever personal biases he carries, he left outside the courtroom. When he stepped inside the courtroom his disciplined thinking is that he could care less which side wins. He has to make sure that it is fair, and to that extent, Judge Sabo earnestly attempted to conduct a fair trail .

Was the trial (in the view of the judge, the Commonwealth, and maybe even Anthony Jackson) a slam dunk? I'm sure they all thought it was a slam dunk.

They all thought they were going through the motions perhaps. Nonetheless they went through the motions. They heard all the evidence and Judge Sabo conducted the trial as fairly he could.

Did he conduct a perfect trial, no? But did he conduct a fair trial, yes?

Hans: Even though his comment that he was going to help “fry the nigger”...

Peter: So what?

Hans: He said he was going to help them do it and that means he's going to use his judicial power to help the prosecution, right?

Peter: I'm sure that was bravado more than anything else. Judge Sabo bent over backwards to accommodate Abu-Jamal and moreover if you look at the records, to those of us with a trained eye in looking at these things we see no indicia of prosecution misconduct. We don't see any indicia of appeal violations or what we now call today “404 ambushes”. We don't see any of that.

Joseph McGill did everything he could do to walk the straight and narrow. There were times when he would bait Abu-Jamal, but it was all hard blows that were clearly above the belt

Hans: So you don't...

Peter: The United States says the prosecution can strike hard blows, but they have to be fair blows. McGill did nothing below the belt.

Hans: So you don't think that the jury should have heard about officer Gary Wakshul's “negro male made no comment” statement the day at the hospital?


Peter: For what? To impeach another witness?

Hans: Well, the confession was a big part of the conviction, and it seems that if he said the “negro male made no comment,” that it does challenge the credibilty...

Peter: First of all, jurors back then (just as today) would more likely than not have discounted the testimony of the police officers as being self-serving.

The fact is that the Jefferson University Hospital security guard (who had no axe to grind, and who was not traumatized by the event) was the most levelheaded and objective of all people because she worked in the ER and was used to seeing trauma on a daily basis. Her testimony would be the most credible of any of the testimonies.

Hans: So what do you think about...

Peter: I'm sure that 25 years after the fact, Officer Wakshul is still kicking himself for not reporting the confession at the time. Nonetheless, the testimony of the security guard is all the more credible and remains so today in that regard.

But even if you took out the confession and the errors of the police officers, you still come back to these 2 simple basic facts:

fact 1) Jamal was found with a Charter Arms with 5 spent casings
fact 2) Faulker was shot by a Charter Arms

They would have easily convicted him on those 2 facts alone.

Hans: But if the confession was fabricated, do you think it challenges other evidence?

Peter: No evidence was fabricated. No one has ever alleged in a court of law that it was fabricated

Hans: Why do you think the security guard waited two months to report it also?

Peter: Only because of the mishmash of events. Again, this is not a television show we're talking about.

Hans: Okay, I have next just one more question for you. Going back to the ballistics, the prosecution scenario has Faulkner shooting Mumia at an upward trajectory while Faulkner was falling onto his back. However, the bullet that went through Mumia's chest was at a downward trajectory. What do you think about that?

Peter: I think that we weren't there, we didn't have a video camera or a cellphone camera. We go back to the two fundamental facts that I have articulated.
First, Jamal had a Charter Arms revolver with 5 spent casings and fact #2: Faulkner was shot by a charter arms bullet. Now, until you attack those 2 facts, until you attempt to mitigate those 2 facts, you don't have a leg to stand on with anything.

Hans: Regarding the Charter Arms revolver, did you want to make any more points about the contradiction in the police report. Like I've been saying, they never tied the bullet to the Charter Arms revolver until court. And it was a direct contradiction to the previous report that said those characteristics were “indeterminable”.

Peter: Again, human mistakes certainly screw up things. As I explained to you before, this was not a CSI television show

Hans: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Peter: Again, with my expertise in civil rights, I have not seen any indication of prosecution or judicial misconduct. It will be 25 years this December 9th. I think it's time justice be served and that the widow be granted closure on this issue.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

LINKS AND UPDATE ON ABU-JAMAL'S COURT CASE

Link to extensive 2005 Kiilu Nyasha interview with Robert Bryan detailing his case for a new trial.

On October 23, attorney Robert R. Bryan (attorney for death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal) filed the 4th Step Reply Brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. Bryan estimates that the public hearing of arguments should begin in early 2007. After the hearing, the panel of judges will then decide whether to grant Abu-Jamal a new trial.
Link to the Oct.23 brief.


Robert Bryan and Abu-Jamal recently sent a letter to France as a response to the criminal lawsuit and the possible delegation consisting of Wirs and others to France, but the possible visit to France is not happening after all, according to Wirs in the interview above.
Link to the letters written by Bryan and Abu-Jamal.


LETTER FROM ATTORNEY ROBERT R. BRYAN
RELEASED THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 30


Link to this new brief in pdf format.

Dear Friends:

Two weeks ago the District Attorney of Philadelphia filed a brief in reply to our most recent brief filed on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Even though this was to be the last of the briefs before oral argument, we felt obligated to respond due to the complexity of the issues and the government's factual misrepresentations. Attached is the Response of Appellee and Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, to Sur-Reply Brief, submitted this week to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia.

This case is of enormous consequence. It concerns the political repression of an outspoken journalist known globally as the "Voice of the Voiceless," the right to a fair trial, and the struggle against the death penalty. The authorities want to kill my client in order to silence his voice and pen. We must not let that occur. Racism and politics are threads that have run through this case since his arrest on December 9, 1981, and continue today.

Each of the issues under consideration by the federal court are of great constitutional significance. They include:

* The prosecutor's exclusion of African Americans from sitting on the jury.
* The bias and racism of the trial judge, Albert F. Sabo, who stated that he was going to "help'em fry the nigger."
* The prosecutor's "appeal after appeal" argument that essentially called upon the jurors to disregard the right to the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt, and err on the side of guilt.
* The judge's unfair and skewed jury instructions and verdict form that resulted in the death penalty, since jurors were precluded from considering any mitigating evidence unless they all agreed on the existence of a particular special circumstance.

We will be presenting oral argument before a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Even though no date has been set, this will likely occur within the next few months.

My purpose remains to win this life-and-death struggle, gain a new and fair trial, and see my client walk out of jail a free person. However, as I have warned, Mr. Abu-Jamal remains in great danger.

Thank you for your concern in this campaign for justice.

With best wishes,

Robert
=========
Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123

Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


Link to Bennett's new "Voice of the Voiceless" series on Abu-Jamal, published in the weeks leading up to December 9--the 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's arrest.




All work by photojournalist Hans Bennett
hbjournalist@gmail.com
www.insubordination.blogspot.com

Friday, November 24, 2006

Freiheit für Mumia Abu-Jamal!


DIAGRAM CAPTION:
4: Mumia’s car; 5: Scanlan’s car; short arrow at 1234 Locust = trajectory of bullet inside vestibule; arrow from 4: Mu­mia approaching the scene. Note that Mumia’s direction is in contradiction to the bullet tra­jectory and the fragments found in the wall. Schiffmann says Faulkner was more likely shot in the back by someone standing on the curb next to Billy Cook’s car (2), with the bullet traveling in North­western direction toward the intersection 13th and Locust after exiting Faulkner’s body.


View the new crime scene photos at:

Abu-Jamal-News.com


Freiheit für Mumia Abu-Jamal!


German book reveals explosive new evidence in death-row case

by Hans Bennett


LINK TO FULL LENGTH INTERVIEW



“The history of the criminal case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, which is by now almost 25 years old, has been characterized by bias right from the start: against a black man whom the court denied a jury of his peers, against a member of the economic underclass who did not have a real claim to a qualified defense, and against a radical, whose allegedly dangerous militancy obliged the state to eliminate him from the ranks of society.”

So writes German author Michael Schiffmann in his new book Race Against Death. Mumia Abu-Jamal: a Black Revolutionary in White America (an expansion of Schiffmann’s PhD dissertation at the University of Heidelberg), just released in Germany this past month.

In 1982, Abu-Jamal he was convicted of killing white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death in a trial that Amnesty International has declared a “violation of minimum international standards that govern fair trial procedures and the use of the death penalty.”

Schiffmann writes that a third person (not Abu-Jamal or his brother Billy Cook) most likely shot and killed police officer Daniel Faulkner on the morning of December 9, 1981. This third person was Kenneth Freeman (Billy Cook’s friend and business partner), who – according to the available evidence – was a passenger in Cook’s car. Freeman likely shot him in response to Faulkner shooting Abu-Jamal in the chest, and was therefore the black male that six eyewitnesses reported to see fleeing the scene moments before other police arrived.

Race Against Death asserts that ballistics almost certainly rule out Abu-Jamal firing the first shot (into Faulkner’s back), and that much evidence shows that he also didn’t fire the lethal bullet to Faulkner's head. However, in the very unlikely scenario that Abu-Jamal did shoot Faulkner, it would have been a response to being shot himself and would therefore be justified self-defense.

MIT professor Noam Chomsky (a long-time supporter of Abu-Jamal) writes that Schiffmann’s “careful and scrupulous inquiry into the events and the available evidence brings to light much that is new or was obscured,” and “raises understanding of this painful and critically important case to a new level. Not only his comprehensive research, but also his penetrating evaluation of the background and import, should be the basis for further engagement in the case itself and the intricate array of issues in which it is embedded.”

Building upon evidence presented in the other two books written about Abu-Jamal’s case (Dan Williams’ 2001 Executing Justice and Dave Lindorff’s 2003 Killing Time), Schiffmann boldly presents both new evidence and an entirely original analysis of previous ballistics evidence.


A New Witness: Photographer Pedro Polakoff


In May, 2006, Schiffmann discovered two photographs on the Internet that were taken by the only press photographer immediately present at the 1981 crime scene – Pedro Polakoff. The photographer arrived within 12 minutes of hearing about the shooting on the police radio and about ten minutes before the Mobile Crime Unit (responsible for forensics and photographs) arrived. This unit had still not taken any photos when Polakoff left after 30-45 minutes at the scene.

Upon contacting Polakoff, Schiffmann learned that three of his 31 original shots were published in Philly newspapers at the time, and five others were lost. Schiffmann told me that he “ published five of the 26 remaining photos to show the following three points:

1) “The cops manipulated evidence and supplied the trial court with stuff that was simply stage-managed. On Polakoff’s photos, P.O. Faulkner’s police hat at first is clearly on the roof of Billy Cook’s VW, and only later on the sidewalk in front of 1234 Locust where it was photographed by the police photographer who arrived 10 minutes after Polakoff!

2) “In court Police Officer James Forbes claimed that he had ‘secured’ the weapons of both Faulkner and Mumia without touching them on their metal parts in order to not destroy potential fingerprints. However, in the single photo reprinted in the book you can see that Forbes is touching the weapons on their metal parts, and quite a few of Polakoff’s other photos make it clear that Forbes touched and smudged these weapons all over, destroying any potential fingerprint evidence that may have been on them.

3) “The second-most important prosecution witness, cab driver Robert Chobert, simply was not parked in the spot, allegedly right behind Officer Faulkner’s police squad car, where he claimed to have been and from where he claimed to have observed Mumia fire the shot that killed the officer.”

Polakoff’s observations don’t stop there. Schiffmann writes in Race: “According to Polakoff, at that time all the officers present expressed the firm conviction that Abu-Jamal had been the passenger in Billy Cook's VW and had fired and killed Faulkner by a single shot fired from the passenger seat of the car.”

“Polakoff further reports that this opinion on the part of the police about what had happened was apparently based on the testimony of three witnesses who were still present at the crime scene, namely, by the parking lot attendant in charge of the parking lot on the Northern side of Locust Street, by a drug addicted woman apparently acquainted with the parking lot attendant, and another woman. As Polakoff later heard from colleagues in the media, the parking lot attendant had disappeared the day after, while the drug-addicted witness died a couple of days later from an overdose. Whatever it was that these witnesses saw or did not see, we will probably never know – the interesting fact in any case is that neither of them ever appeared in any report presented by the police or the prosecution.”

Polakoff told Schiffmann that he was simply ignored when he repeatedly contacted the DA’s office to give them his account--and his photos--of the crime scene.

Schiffmann has informed Mumia’s lawyers about Polakoff’s evidence--who are looking into it further.

No Bullet Traces in Sidewalk

The prosecution claims that Mumia stood over and shot at Faulkner 3-4 times (with only one shot hitting him) while Faulkner was lying on his back. Schiffmann asserts that if this was true, there would have had to have been 2-3 large divots in the pavement (next to Faulkner’s body) resulting from the bullets’ impact. Since photos and police reports do not reveal any damage or bullet fragments in that location, Schiffmann concludes that the prosecution scenario must be false.

While this “missing divots” observation was publicly revealed in 2001 by Mumia’s former lawyers, Schiffmann is literally the first writer to investigate this further.

To support the assertion Schiffmann interviewed a German ballistics expert and was told that “such divots couldn’t possibly have been overlooked.” He concludes: “They were simply not there.”

Furthermore, photographer Pedro Polakoff, “emphatically denied that there could be any such divots beneath the blood or anywhere else in the area of the sidewalk to be seen on his photos.”

After asserting the fraudulence of the prosecution’s scenario, Schiffmann goes further and declares that the three prosecution witnesses supporting this scenario must have been lying. Even ignoring previous evidence that witnesses Robert Chobert and Cynthia White falsely testified, “the absence of any bullet traces or bullets in the sidewalk in front of 1234 Locust is irrefutable physical evidence that these two, plus witness Michael Scanlan did not tell the truth at Mumia’s trial. By that simple observation a central part of the prosecution’s theory is simply blown out of the water – and new evidence is on the table thereby for the coaching, coercion and manipulation of witnesses.”

Bullet and Fragments at Crime Scene

Schiffmann’s entirely original ballistics analysis is the most explosive section of Race Against Death. Researched for more than three years, this chapter analyzes both the unexplained bullet & fragments found in the doorway of 1234 Locust Street and the copper bullet jacket found on the sidewalk (all a full car-length from Officer Faulkner’s body).

Most likely the bullet shot into Faulkner’s Back (traveling at an upward angle and exiting slightly beneath his throat) came from the sidewalk behind Faulkner as he was facing northwest towards Mumia and towards the parking lot situated at the northeastern corner of the intersection 13th and Locust where Mumia came from. The most logical way for Mumia to approach the scene was diagonally from Northwest to Southeast – but the only bullet fragment found in or around 1234 Locust that could have had anything to do with the shot in Faulkner’s back traveled from Northeast to Southwest, at a sharp angle from where Mumia was approaching the scene! Schiffmann shows that even if Mumia had approached the scene in an indirect and awkward way by almost circumventing it first, the bullet fragment in question cannot have come from a shot fired by him at that time.

There was no evidence of any bullet further east down Locust – where it would have been had Mumia shot Faulkner from his more logical approach to the scene from a northwestern direction.

Schiffmann writes in Race that “this evidence shows that the first shot that hit Faulkner did not come from the direction from which Abu-Jamal approached the scene, could therefore not have been fired by Abu-Jamal, and was thus necessarily fired by some third person, a possibility that the prosecution has always adamantly denied.”

Schiffmann told me: “The first key point is that Mumia is no murderer. If he shot at all, he shot to defend his own life, after he intervened at the scene in the first place to protect his brother who had already been beaten bloody.”

“Second, it is very unlikely that Mumia even took his gun out of its holster during that fateful night. What if the destruction of fingerprint evidence on Mumia’s gun (shown in Polakoff’s photos) was not just negligent, but deliberate? It would mean that the police themselves were the ones who drew Mumia’s weapon (which had been empty apart from five spent cartridges to begin with) out of his shoulder holster.”

The Third Person: Ken Freeman?


Schiffmann cites six witnesses (including several that were intimidated by police) that saw someone run away before police arrived, and then argues that this third person was most likely Billy Cook’s business partner and friend, Kenneth Freeman.

In the 1995 PCRA hearings it was revealed that Faulkner had a license application in his front pocket (concealed from the defense for 13 years) for one Arnold Howard – who testified that he had loaned his temporary (non-photo) license to Kenneth Freeman.

Schiffmann explained to me that “Billy Cook’s attorney Daniel Alva told Dave Lindorff (in his book Killing Time) that Cook had told him within days after the shooting that Freeman had been with him that night. There wasn’t the slightest reason for Alva do have done so if it was not indeed true. Lying to journalists doesn’t belong to the duties of a defense attorney, and the assumption that a well-respected member of the Philadelphia legal community such as Alva would do so for no apparent reason makes little sense to me.”

Returning to his ballistics analysis, Schiffmann argues: “A person coming out of the passenger seat of Billy Cook’s VW would have been ideally placed to fire the shot that hit Faulkner in the back and exited through the region below his throat. Faulkner had on a clip-on police tie that was apparently hit right at that clip (since there was blood and lead on it). The tie was found nowhere near 1234 Locust where it should have been found had Mumia fired that shot in Faulkner’s back. Instead, it was on the Northern side of Locust shortly before the intersection 13th and Locust. And this, in turn, means that the shooter must have been on the sidewalk in front of 1234 Locust – not in the street coming from the parking lot, as Mumia was.”

Further supporting Schiffmann's argument are the mysterious circumstance of Freeman's death. On May 13, 1985 (the same day police firebombed the MOVE organization's headquarters) Freeman was found dead in a parking lot. Likely murdered by police that day, he was found naked, handcuffed and had a drug needle in his arm. Given the impossibility of injecting himself with the needle while handcuffed, the official explanation for the 31year-old’s death (heart attack) seems incredible.

“If Freeman was indeed killed by cops, the killing probably was part of a general vendetta of the Philadelphia cops against their ‘enemies’ and the cops killed him because they knew or suspected he had something to do with the killing of Faulkner,” said Schiffmann.

The Arnold Beverly Confession

After years of careful analysis, Schiffmann concludes that the scenario presented by career criminal Arnold Beverly in his 2001 affidavit (stating that he killed Faulkner and that Mumia was not involved) is “too contradictory to be tenable.” However, Schiffmann is highly critical of the courts’ flippant rejection of the Beverly affidavit. Considering the seriousness of a death-row homicide case, he argues that they should have at least determined its credibility in a public court hearing

The controversial Beverly scenario is no longer an issue in the courts, but Schiffmann argues that this may not be the worst thing. “The Beverly affidavit has often been a distraction from what should be the really central issues: frame-up, unfair trial, legal innocence, actual innocence. No Arnold Beverly is needed to show that Mumia should be a free man and shouldn’t have spent even one day in jail.”

Freiheit für Mumia Abu-Jamal!

Noam Chomsky argues that “Mumia’s case is symbolic of something much broader... The US prison system is simply class and race war... Mumia and other prisoners are the kind of people that get assassinated by what’s called ‘social cleansing’ in US client states like Colombia.”

Schiffmann also feels that Mumia's case is part of a much larger picture and devotes most of his book to providing a proper historical context. “Determined not to write the typical boring academic tract,” Schiffmann told me: “My book’s not just about Mumia. His case is important because of the larger legal, political, and social issues that his case exposes. I investigate the U.S.’s constitutional tradition, the history of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, the horrendous history of city development in the U.S. tragically exemplified in Philadelphia, Mumia’s extraordinary yet typical history of a Black youth alienated by the false promises the U.S. ‘offered’ for him as a young man of the wrong color, and finally the development of the U.S. into a virtual police state for many segments of the population.”

Schiffmann emphasizes the extreme importance of Mumia's current battle in the courtroom, but feels that solid legal strategy will only go so far in gaining a new trial. The key will be to exert maximum political pressure from the grassroots in Philadelphia and around the world. A “broad, multi-faceted and democratic mass-movement,” emphasizing that “Mumia is all of us,” must be used to ensure real justice.

Schiffmann urges those in the U.S. to attend (or support locally) the massive Philadelphia demonstration being organized to support Abu-Jamal on December 9 – the 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's arrest. “We have kept Mumia alive. Against the odds, we have won the first stage of an uphill battle. Now we must go on all the way – and that is to free Mumia Abu-Jamal!”


This review is based on both an exclusive reading of the (unpublished) English language version of Race Against Death and the author’s recent full-length interview with Schiffmann about his book and the German movement supporting Mumia Abu-Jamal.

LINK TO FULL LENGTH INTERVIEW

Michael Schiffmann’s book Race Against Death: Mumia Abu-Jamal. a Black Revolutionary in White America has just been released in Germany. Schiffmann is still looking for a US publisher. He can be contacted via email: mikschiff@t-online.de.
His website is www.againstthecrimeofsilence.de.


Hans Bennett is a Philadelphia-based photo-journalist who has been documenting the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners for over 5 years.

Link to Bennett's new "Voice of the Voiceless" series on Abu-Jamal, published in the weeks leading up to December 9--the 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's arrest.


All work by photojournalist Hans Bennett
hbjournalist@gmail.com www.insubordination.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Mumia's Best (and Last) Chance for a New Trail: A Legal Update

PHOTO: May 12, 2001--San Francisco
In 2000 Martin Luther King III explained “The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s commitment to justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal dates back over a decade.” Seeing Abu-Jamal as a “political prisoner,” King III stated that his father “was murdered because he spoke out against social injustices. Today, we must unite together in the name of justice to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a young man who was respected in the community for reporting stories about economic and social injustices.”

“We must come together as a family in the spirit of my father, who said ‘the arc of the universe is long but it is bent towards justice,’ and never give up until we save the life of our brother Mumia Abu-Jamal…We demand that all those with power to intervene…do so now in the name of all those who have already died to force America to live up to its motto of liberty and justice for all.”


Link to Bennett's new "Voice of the Voiceless" series on Abu-Jamal, published in the weeks leading up to December 9--the 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's arrest.




Mumia Abu-Jamal's battle in court heats up as case is now on fast track with public hearings set to begin
Includes in-depth analysis of the 1995-97 PCRA hearings

by Hans Bennett



“Our objective is to win a new and fair trial in this case. At the conclusion of the retrial I want my client to walk out of the courtroom a free person.”

On October 23, attorney Robert R. Bryan (attorney for death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal) filed the 4th Step Reply Brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. Because this should be the last round of reply briefs, Bryan estimated that the public hearing of arguments would begin within three months. After the hearing, the panel of judges will then decide whether to grant Abu-Jamal a new trial.

This current stage in Abu-Jamal's appeal process began in December, 2005, when the 3rd Circuit announced the beginning of deliberations and suprised many by agreeing to consider two claims not “certified for appeal” by Federal District Court Judge William Yohn in 2001.

Mumia's attorney Robert R. Bryan declared it to be “the most important decision affecting my client since his 1981 arrest, for it was the first time there was a ruling that could lead to a new trial and his freedom.”

In 1982, Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in a trial that Amnesty International has declared a "violation of minimum international standards that govern fair trial procedures and the use of the death penalty,"

Calling for a new trial, supporters around the world feel that the original one was tainted by racism, prosecutorial & judicial misconduct, coerced witnesses, suppressed evidence, and a denial of Mumia's constitutional right to represent himself.

Best (and Last) Chance For a New Trial

The 3rd Circuit is now ruling on the 2001 decision by Judge Yohn which affirmed Abu-Jamal's guilt but overturned the death sentence. Citing the 1988 Mills v. Maryland precedent, Yohn ruled that sentencing forms used by jurors and Judge Sabo's instructions to the jury were confusing. Subsequently, jurors mistakenly believed that they had to unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances in order to be considered as weighing against a death sentence.

Mumia's case is now in the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals. DA Lynne Abraham is appealing the death penalty ruling while Mumia is appealing the guilty verdict.

If the penalty ruling is overturned, a new execution date will be set for Mumia. If his ruling is upheld, the DA can still impanel a new jury to rehear the penalty phase, which could then sentence Mumia to death—regardless of the 3rd Circuit ruling.

Because the DA appealed Yohn's death penalty decision, Mumia has never left death row, and is still unable to have such “privileges” as full-contact visits with his family.

Four Reasons For a New Trial
The courts are now considering the following four issues:

#1. Whether the penalty phase of Mumia's trial violated the legal precedent set by the US Supreme Court's 1988 Mills v. Maryland ruling. This issue was Yohn's grounds for overturning the death sentence and is now being appealed by the DA. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of this claim.

#2. “Certified for appeal” by Yohn in 2001, the Batson claim, addresses the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to exclude Blacks from Mumia's jury. In 1986, the US Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that a defendant deserves a new trial if it can be proved that jurors were excluded on the grounds of race. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of this claim.

At Mumia's trial, Prosecutor McGill used 11 of his 15 peremptory challenges to remove black jurors that were otherwise acceptable. While Philadelphia is 44% black, Abu-Jamal's jury was composed of ten whites and only two blacks. From 1977-1986 when current Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell was Philadelphia's District Attorney, the evidence of racism is striking: from 1977-86, the Philadelphia DA struck 58% of black jurors, but only 22% of white jurors.

#3. The legality of McGill's statement to the jury minimizing the seriousness of a verdict of guilt: “if you find the Defendant guilty of course there would be appeal after appeal and perhaps there could be a reversal of the case, or whatever, so that may not be final.”

In 1986 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against McGill in another case (Commonwealth v. Baker) on the same grounds. When Abu-Jamal addressed this same issue in his 1989 appeal with the State Supreme Court, the court reversed its decision on the legality of such a statement—ruling against the claim for a mistrial.

Incredibly, just one year later, in the very next case involving this issue (Commonwealth v. Beasley), the State Supreme Court flip-flopped and restored the precedent. However, this would not affect the ruling against Mumia, because the court ruled that this precedent would only apply in “future trials.” This suggests that the rulings were designed to specifically exclude Mumia's case from its precedent.

#4. The fairness of Mumia's 1995-97 PCRA hearings when the retired, 74-year-old Judge Sabo was called back specifically for the hearing. Besides the obvious unfairness of recalling the exact same judge to rule on his fairness in the original 1982 trial, his actual PCRA bias has been extensively documented.

During the 1995 hearings, even the mainstream Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that the “behavior of the judge in the case was disturbing the first time around—and in hearings last week he did not give the impression to those in the courtroom of fair mindedness. Instead, he gave the impression, damaging in the extreme, of undue haste and hostility toward the defense's case.”

Concluding the PCRA hearing, Sabo rejected all evidence and every witness presented by the defense as not being credible. Therefore, Sabo upheld all of the facts and procedures of the original trial as being correct.

This fourth claim is potentially the most explosive because the PCRA evidence that was judged “not credible” exposed much more than an unfair trial. Despite Judge Sabo and the DA's best efforts to minimize and discredit, proof of an extensive police frame-up emerged.

Gary Wakshul and the False Confession
Arguably the strongest evidence against Mumia was suspiciously introduced two months after his arrest. When interviewed (in February, 1982) by the police Internal Affairs Bureau investigating Mumia's police brutality complaint, Officers Wakshul, Bell, and hospital security guard Priscilla Durham then reported Mumia's supposed “hospital confession” for the first time.

Mumia allegedly declared (in the presence of 15-20 other cops that have never confirmed it): “I shot the motherfucker and I hope the motherfucker dies!”

Testifying in 1982, Bell (Faulkner's partner and “best friend”) claimed the two month mental lapse resulted from being so upset about Faulkner’s death.

At trial, Durham contradicted her statement to police and testified that she reported the confession to her supervisor the next day. While neither her supervisor or the alleged hand-written statement were presented in court, the DA sent an officer to the hospital--returning with a suspicious typed version of the alleged report. Sabo accepted the paper (not signed or dated) despite both Durham’s disavowal of it (because it was typed and not hand-written) and the defense’s protest that there was no establishment of authorship or authenticity.

Unfortunately, the jury never heard the most explosive evidence discrediting the confession. While the DA called Bell and Durham to testify, Wakshul was suspiciously absent. On the final day of testimony in 1982, Mumia's lawyer discovered Wakshul's statement from Dec.9—the morning of the shooting. After riding with Mumia to the hospital and guarding him until his treatment, Wakshul reported: “the negro male made no comment.”

When the defense immediately sought to call Wakshul as a witness—the DA reported that he was on vacation. On grounds that it was too late in the trial, Sabo denied the defense request to locate him for testimony. Subsequently, the jury never heard from Wakshul or about his written report. When an outraged Mumia protested, Sabo cruelly declared: “You and your attorney goofed.”

Wakshul's “negro male” report was key evidence at the PCRA hearings, and it was well-known that he would have to testify to defend his “confession” story. Unknown to Mumia's lawyers, on July 13 (days before his PCRA testimony) Wakshul was savagely beaten by undercover police officers in front of a Judge in the Common Pleas Courtroom where he worked as a court crier. Almost two years later, the two attackers (members of Philly's Vice Squad) were suspended without pay as punishment. With the motive still unexplained, the beating was likely used to intimidate Wakshul into maintaining his “confession” story at the PCRA hearings.

On the stand, Wakshul defended both his Dec.9 report and the two month delay as just being a bad mistake. Further discrediting the “confession” story, he repeated his incredible statement given to the IAB investigator in 1982: “I didn’t realize it had any importance until that day.”

The original trial's injustice was further exposed when Wakshul testified to being home for his 1982 vacation—in accordance with explicit instructions to stay in town for the trial so that he could testify if called.

The “confession” story has been thoroughly discredited. As Amnesty International concluded: “The likelihood of two police officers and a security guard forgetting or neglecting to report the confession of a suspect in the killing of another police officer for more than two months strains credulity.”

The Ballistics

At the PCRA hearings, defense ballistics expert George Fassnacht testified that he declined a request to assist Mumia’s defense in 1982 because the court-allocated $150 was insufficient. Subsequently the defense never presented their own specialist. While testifying that the fatal bullet was probably the same caliber as Mumia's gun (legally purchased after his Taxi was repeatedly robbed), Fassnacht challenged the prosecution's 1982 evidence in two key ways.

#1. Fassnacht defined “particular” and “general” rifling characteristics. “Particular” traits are “the small stria or scratches which identify a particular bullet” as coming from one specific gun. In contrast, “general” traits can only link a bullet to a particular type of gun.

Police experts have always said that the fatal bullet was too damaged to link the “particular” traits to Mumia's 38 caliber Charter Arms revolver.

Fassnacht noted an unexplainable contradiction in police ballistic expert Anthony Paul's original report. Paul first describes the bullet's “general” traits as “indeterminable.” Contradicting himself in the same report, Paul later identified a general trait: a “right-hand direction of twist.” Paul's 1982 testimony went further by identifying another general trait never mentioned in his written report: “8 lands and 8 grooves.”

After deeming the general traits “indeterminable,” Paul then alleged two general traits that conveniently implicated Mumia's gun type.

#2. Police did not officially perform two basic forensics tests—the “smell” and “wipe” tests. It is standard to “smell” the gun's barrel for gunpowder (which can be smelled up to 4 or 5 hours after discharge). The “wipe test” checks for gunshot residue on suspects' hands and clothing.

When challenged by the DA, Fassnacht insisted that these tests are reliable and routinely used.

Quoting Amnesty International: “the failure of the police to test Abu-Jamal’s gun, hands, and clothing is deeply troubling.” Most likely, police did perform the tests, but hid this when the results did not implicate Mumia. This obvious ballistics manipulation seriously challenges the credibility of other evidence, such as the police allegation that Mumia’s gun was at his side with five spent cartridges when police arrived.

#3. In 1982, prosecutor McGill argued that Mumia had been shot in the chest from below by a falling Faulkner. Recognizing the bullet's downward trajectory McGill claimed that the bullet ricocheted off bone within Mumia’s torso and then tumbled in a downward direction.

Challenging this far-fetched theory, medical examiner John Hayes testified in 1995 that X rays proved the bullet traveled without any deflection. Easily disproving the official scenario, Mumia was probably shot while running across the street towards Faulkner and his brother.

Veronica Jones Exposes Coerced Testimony
Veronica Jones' 1996 PCRA testimony exposed police coercion of witnesses and further discredited the the 1982 testimony of the DA's star witness: prostitute Cynthia White (the only one to actually testify to seeing Abu-Jamal pull the trigger).

The story begins on Dec.15, 1981 when Jones (a prostitute who was working nearby on Dec.9) first told police that she had seen two men “jogging” away from the crime scene before police arrived. Testifying in 1982, Jones recanted and denied ever making the statement. However, when asked if she had talked to the police since her first statement, Jones testified that police had visited her in jail the next month:

They were getting on me telling me I was in the area and I seen Mumia, you know, do it...They were trying to get me to say something that the other girl [Cynthia White] said. I couldn't do that.” Jones reported that police offered to let her and White “work the area if we tell them.”

Calling her testimony “ absolutely irrelevant,” the DA moved to block the line of questioning and strike the previous statements. Because Sabo happily complied, the jury was ordered to disregard Jones' statement regarding White and a police offer of freedom to “work the area” in return for testimony that Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner.

The DA and Sabo's efforts to silence Jones continued through to the PCRA hearings.

Unable to locate her earlier, the Defense found Jones in 1996, and (over the DA's protests) obtained permission from the State Supreme Court to extend the PCRA hearings for Jones' testimony. Sabo vehemently resisted—arguing that there was not sufficient proof of her unavailability in 1995. However, in 1995 Sabo had refused to order the DA's disclosure of Jones' home address to the defense team.

The defense returned to the State Supreme Court—which then ordered Sabo to conduct a full evidentiary hearing. Sabo's attempts to silence Jones continued as she took the stand. He immediately threatened her with 5-10 years imprisonment if she testified to having perjured herself in 1982. In defiance, Jones testified to perjury in 1982 when she recanted seeing two men “run away” and “leave the scene.”

She testified to changing her version of events after being visited by two detectives in prison, where she was being held on charges of robbery and assault. Urging her to finger Mumia, the detectives stressed that she faced up to 10 years in prison and the loss of her children if convicted. Afraid of losing her children, Jones testified to meeting the police halfway: she didn't actually finger Mumia, but she did lie about not seeing two men running from the scene. Accordingly, Jones only received probation and was never imprisoned for these 1982 charges.

During cross-examination, the DA announced that there was an outstanding arrest warrant for Jones on charges of writing a bad check, and that she would be arrested after concluding her testimony. Tears pouring down her face, Jones declared: “This is not going to change my testimony!”

Despite objections from the defense, Sabo allowed New Jersey police to handcuff and arrest Jones.

While the DA attempted to use this arrest to discredit Jones, her determination in the face of intimidation only made her more credible. Outraged by Jones' treatment, even the mainstream Philadelphia Daily News reported: “Such heavy-handed tactics can only confirm suspicions that the court is incapable of giving Abu-Jamal a fair hearing. Sabo has long since abandoned any pretense of fairness.”

The same coercion of witnesses by police, DA, and judge exposed by Jones' story was rampant in Mumia's case. Documented by Amnesty International, witnesses Cynthia White (a prostitute facing multiple charges) and Robert Chobert (an arsonist on probation, driving his cab intoxicated and without a license) also “altered their descriptions of what they saw, in ways that supported the prosecution's version of events.”


“I'm Going To Help Them Fry The Nigger”

In 2001 another witness—Terri Mauer-Carter—challenged Sabo's integrity, but the State Supreme Court ruled against the defense's right to include her affidavit in their current federal appeal. Mauer-Carter was working as a stenographer in the Philadelphia Court system on the eve of Mumia's 1982 trail when she states that she overheard judge Sabo say in reference to Mumia's case that he was going to help the prosecution “fry the nigger.”

Journalist Dave Lindorff recently interviewed Mauer-Carter's former boss, Richard Klein, who was with Mauer-Carter when she states she overheard Sabo. A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge at the time, who now sits on PA's Superior Court, Klein told Lindorff: "I won't say it did happen, and I won't say it didn't. That was a long time ago." Lindorff considers Klein's refusal to firmly reject Mauer-Carter's claim to be an affirmation of her statement.

The State Supreme Court ruling was an affirmation of lower-level Judge Patricia Dembe's argument that even if Maurer-Carter is correct about Sabo's stated intent to use his position as Judge to throw the trial and help the prosecution "fry the nigger," it doesn't matter. According to Dembe, since it "was a jury trial, as long as the presiding Judge's rulings were legally correct, claims as to what might have motivated or animated those rulings are not relevant."

Organizing for December 9

Interviewed by INSUBORDINATION, Pam Africa (coordinator of Mumia's support network) stressed the urgency of the legal battle and the need to apply political pressure from the grassroots. “We must call attention to Mumia's current battle in the courts. We know the Supreme Court won't hear his case, so this current phase truly is the last chance for a new trial.”

“I believe Mumia is innocent and am personally calling for his immediate release. However, I'll work with anyone supporting a fair trial. By demanding a new trial, we can work with those who know the trial was rotten but are unsure of Mumia's innocence. As more people learn about the injustice, our movement will only become stronger. The evidence is on Mumia's side.”

Activist around the country are organizing for Dec. 9—the 25th anniversary of Mumia's incarceration. Africa is urging supporters to come to Philly for a massive demonstration or to otherwise organize an event in their hometown.

Concluding her fiery speech, Africa challenged the crowd to “rise up” and force the courts to actually serve the people. “We understand that they're getting ready to kill another black revolutionary who has refused to bow down and suck up to his oppressor. Mumia's case represents all that is wrong with this system. We must take action now before it is too late!


Hans Bennett is a Philadelphia-based photojournalist who has been documenting the movement to free Mumia and all political prisoners for more than 5 years. He can be contacted via email: hbjournalist@gmail.com

Link to the October 23 legal brief




For more information about Mumia Abu-Jamal's case:

www.mumia.org or www.freemumia.com

Link to Bennett's new "Voice of the Voiceless" series on Abu-Jamal, published in the weeks leading up to December 9--the 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's arrest.



All work by photojournalist Hans Bennett
hbjournalist@gmail.com
www.insubordination.blogspot.com