[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


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
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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