[Ppnews] Mumia Abu-Jamal Case After 25 Years
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 1 12:08:46 EST 2006
December 1, 2006
A CounterPunch Special Report
The Mumia Abu-Jamal Case After 25 Years
Still More Keystone Kops Antics
By LINN WASHINGTON, Jr.
Whether the fundamental errors riddling recent
actions by opponents of Pennsylvania death row
journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal constitute mere
mistakes or malicious misrepresentations, these
errors resemble sequels to the Keystone Kops silent film-era comedy series.
These error filled antics occur as Abu-Jamal
approaches the 25th Anniversary of his December
9, 1981 arrest for fatally shooting a
Philadelphia policeman and as a pivotal legal
action moves forward in federal appeals court
revolving around whether Abu-Jamal received a fair trial in 1982.
The latest faux pas by Abu-Jamal opponents
regards errors in an October letter sent to
officials in Paris requesting that they rescind
the honorary citizenship granted three years ago
to the death row inmate viewed globally as a victim of injustice in America.
This letter states that a delegation of
Philadelphia City officials, including the Police
Commissioner, planned a late-November trip to
Paris to negotiate rescinding the honorary
citizenship in exchange for these officials
getting Abu-Jamal's death sentence cancelled.
However, the four Philadelphia officials listed
as delegation members all deny knowing anything
about either the trip or the deal.
Further, these officials have no power to cancel Abu-Jamal's death sentence.
Peter J. Wirs, the Philadelphia figure behind the
delegation/deal, says he is surprised by the
errors in that letter prepared on his behalf by a lawyer in Paris.
"I haven't done anything yet to formalize the
delegation or the planned trip. We haven't raised
any money," Wirs said recently, adding that he
"hasn't seen" the letter sent on his behalf.
Wirs also distanced himself from the deal proposed in that letter.
"An offer to pull the death penalty is so
ridiculous. We have no authority to take the
death penalty off the table," said Wirs, a minor
figure in Philadelphia's Republican Party, a
party that represents only sixteen percent of the city's registered voters.
Wirs dismissed errors in that letter as minor
mistakes probably resulting from "translations
from English to Frenchtoo many chefs' hands in this soup"
That October letter also contains the erroneous
claim that Abu-Jamal shot Officer Daniel Faulkner
five times in the face, a claim contradicted by
police, prosecutors and judicial findings
throughout the quarter-century tenure of this case.
That October letter prompted a written response
to Parisian officials from Abu-Jamal attorney, Robert R. Bryan.
Bryan wrote that the letter is "appalling since
it contains material misrepresentations and errors."
Ironically, errors by police, prosecutors,
jurists and other authorities during the arrest,
conviction and state court appeals of Abu-Jamal
fuel the worldwide belief that Abu-Jamal did not
receive a fair trial and is thus unjustly convicted.
These errors include police failing to give
Abu-Jamal the standard hand test after his arrest
to determine if he actually fired a gun,
prosecutors failing to provide Abu-Jamal's trial
attorney with compelling evidence indicating his
innocence and the notoriously pro-prosecution
trial judge making racist remarks.
"Only in America could a trial judge say"I'll
help them fry the Nigger," and be considered
fair," Abu-Jamal stated in a letter to Parisian officials.
"The trial featured lies, just as the threatening
letter to you did," Abu-Jamal's letter stated.
"If the trial was truly fair, why would the
Philadelphia letter propose a deal?"
Prior to that error-filled October letter,
Philadelphia area legislative leaders mounted
equally error-filled actions against the Paris
suburb of St. Denis for naming a street in honor of Abu-Jamal.
The anti-St. Denis Resolution approved by
Philadelphia's City Council at the end of May,
for example, contains the erroneous declaration
that "Mumia Abu-Jamal has exhausted all legal appeals"
Since the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals,
headquartered in Philadelphia, approved
Abu-Jamal's request for an appeal in late 2005,
it is factually incorrect to contend that
Abu-Jamal "has exhausted" all of his appeals.
Not only did the 3rd Circuit agree to hear the
appeal claim of that prosecutors used racial
discrimination while selecting the jury for
Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial, the Circuit Court also
took an unusual step in granting appeal on other
items like allegations of judicial bias during a
1995 appeals hearing for Abu-Jamal.
The intensity of the bias exhibited by Judge
Albert Sabo during that 1995 hearing offended
even Philly's normally anti-Mumia mainstream news
media to the point of their publishing editorials
condemning Sabo for both making a mockery of
justice and providing Abu-Jamal supporters with
additional ammunition to back their claims of gross injustice.
Interestingly, Peter Wirs does not dispute that
Sabo made the racist pre-trial remark and Wirs
readily admits that police did not follow proper
forensic standards while investigating the murder.
Yet, Wirs contends Abu-Jamal is guilty as
charged, despite seeming violations of his constitutional rights.
"When you look at Sabo's statements and his
rulings in the trial, they are not perfect but
they are fair," Wirs claims. "The errors and
problems with the criminal justice system in this
case do not mitigate against the fact that
Abu-Jamal's gun was found at the scene. That is the heart of this case."
The fact that police could not conclusively match
bullet fragments removed from the slain officer
to Abu-Jamal's gun is immaterial according to Wirs.
"This is a circumstantial evidence case," said
Wirs, acknowledging that he is working with
Philadelphia's police union, the Fraternal Order
of Police (FOP), the prime group pushing for Abu-Jamal's execution.
That Philadelphia City Council Resolution
supported a congressional Resolution introduced
in mid-May by two Philly area Congresspersons,
Republican Michael Fitzpatrick and Democrat Allyson Schwartz.
This congressional Resolution contains fundamental errors.
The Fitzpatrick/Schwartz Resolution, in
recounting facts of the case, makes the erroneous
claim that "Mumia Abu-Jamal struck Officer
Faulkner four times in the back with his gun"
This claim contradicts the scenario presented at
trial by the prosecutor and this claim
contradicts the version of events on the official
Justice for Daniel Faulkner Web site. This site,
according to its founders, exists to provide "an
accurate source of information"
Pa Republican U.S. Senator Rich Santorum also
introduced an anti-St. Denis resolution in the
Senate mimicking the congressional resolution.
"No one ever claimed Mumia struck Faulkner's back
four times. While this may evoke the image of a
heroic officer striking back against all odds, it
is sheer fantasy," noted Dr. Michael Schiffmann,
the German author of a new book on the Abu-Jamal
case, "Race Against Death. Mumia Abu-Jamal: a
Black Revolutionary in White America."
According to Schiffmann, "One might say such
"details" are unimportant, but if they are so unimportant, why bring them up?"
Answering his rhetorical question, Schiffmann
says this erroneous information makes "something
these law and order representatives know nothing about seem more real."
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, states
Keystone Kops is a term used to criticize any
group for its mistakes, particularly if the
mistakes happen after a great deal of energy and
activity, or if there is a lack of coordination among members of the group.
Dr. Schiffmann's book presents new, startling
information on this controversial case.
Schiffmann provides information blowing big holes
in the ballistics evidence presented by prosecutors and police.
Further, Schiffmann's book presents previously
unpublished pictures taken by a press
photographer who arrived at the 1981 crime scene
before police photographers that show police
personnel tampering with evidence and manipulating the crime scene.
Peter Wirs recently filed a lawsuit in France,
asserting that officials' in Paris and its St.
Denis suburb violated French criminal law by
respectively issuing the citizenship to a
convicted murderer and placing his name on a street.
St. Denis officials did not complain in 2001 when
local and state officials renamed most of
Philadelphia's Roosevelt Blvd. "Daniel Faulkner Memorial Highway."
The intense reaction in Philadelphia to the
street naming in far off St. Denis stuns former
St. Denis Mayor, Patrick Braouezec, who sees the reaction as surreal.
"By doing this, we are just contributing to the
possibility of Mumia having a new and fair trial
and put the issue of the death penalty on the
table," Braouezec said during an interview while
visiting Philadelphia in September where the
city's mayor refused to meet with Braouezec about the street naming.
"There was no intention on our part to provoke or
offend the memory of the slain officer or his
family," said Braouezec, currently a member of
the French National Assembly, the Congress of France.
Patrick Braouezec finds it difficult "to conceive
that with the problems in the American criminal
justice system and issues in the Abu-Jamal case
that the level of resistance to this man receiving a fair trial is so intense."
The intense resistance, Braouezec said, "is
political. There have been lesser cases with
lesser doubts that received new trials."
Few either opposed to or supportive of
Abu-Jamal remember the case of Neil Ferber; a
Philadelphia man arrested six months before Abu-Jamal's December 1981 arrest.
Philadelphia police and prosecutors framed Ferber
for a mob related murder, sending him to death
row for 1,375-days before his release.
A court ruling in lawsuit Ferber filed over his
false imprisonment declared that "this case
presents a Kafkaesque nightmare of the sort which
we normally would characterize as being
representative of the so-called justice system of
a totalitarian stateunfortunatelyit happened here in Philadelphia."
This ruling noted that a "variety of Philadelphia
police" engaged in a litany of misconduct "for
the singular purpose of obtaining Ferber's arrest
and subsequent conviction on first degree murder charges.
Evidence also showed that the jail-house snitch
whose testimony sealed Ferber's conviction had
flunked a lie-detector test ordered by
prosecutors but prosecutors withheld this
information from Ferber's trial attorney.
Philadelphia officials bitterly opposed Ferber's lawsuit for compensation.
Ferber eventually received a million dollar-plus
settlement for his false incarceration, however,
authorities penalized no police officer or
prosecutor involved in the framing of Ferber.
Didier Paillard, St. Denis' current mayor,
declared during the street naming ceremony this
spring that the Abu-Jamal case is not just a
"symbol" in the struggle for justice.
Paillard said Abu-Jamal's struggle symbolizes
"resistance against a system which has the
arrogance to reign over the world in the name of
those same human rights that it tramples with
complete impunity on its own soil."
Linn Washington Jr. is a Philadelphia journalist
who has reported on the Abu-Jamal case since
December 1981. Washington is a columnist for The
Philadelphia Tribune newspaper.
The Freedom Archives
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