[Ppnews] In Prison My Whole Life - a film about Mumia

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 26 12:21:57 EDT 2007


http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=43&ItemID=14134

In Prison My Whole Life: An interview with William Francome
by William Francome and Hans Bennett; October 26, 2007

The <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaTPo8DZ_1k>trailer for the new 
British documentary about US death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, 
titled "In Prison My Whole Life," begins with the film's central 
character, William Francome, explaining that he's "been aware of 
Mumia for as long as I can remember. That's because he was arrested 
on the night I was born, for the murder of a Philadelphia police 
officer. As my mom would often remind me, every birthday I had, has 
been another year that Mumia has spent in prison.... I am going on a 
journey to find out about the man who has been in prison my whole life."

The 90-minute film premieres on October 25 at both The Times BFI 51st 
London Film Festival and Rome's International Film Festival. With the 
acclaimed British actor Colin Firth as an executive producer, "In 
Prison My Whole Life" is directed by Marc Evans and produced by Livia 
Firth and Nick Goodwin Self. The film has interviews with such 
figures as Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, 
Ramona Africa, and musicians Mos Def, Snoop Dogg and Steve Earle. 
Amnesty International, who concluded in 
<http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/engAMR510012000>a previous 
report that Abu-Jamal's original 1982 trial was unfair, is supporting 
"In Prison" as part as part of its international campaign to abolish 
the death penalty. 
<http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=17442>Amnesty 
International UK Director Kate Allen says: "It's shocking that the US 
justice system has repeatedly failed to address the appalling 
violation of Mumia Abu-Jamal's fundamental fair trial rights."



In this exclusive interview on the eve of the film's premiere, 
Francome discloses for the very first time, one of the movies biggest 
surprises: The film will prominently feature the startling Dec. 9, 
1981 <http://www.abu-jamal-news.com>crime scene photos that were 
recently discovered by German author Michael Schiffmann, and are 
<http://www.abu-jamal-news.com/temp/German%20Book%20Reveals%20New%20Evidence.html>published 
in his new book. Never presented to the 1982 jury, these new photos 
(taken by press-photographer Pedro Polakoff) "bolster claims of 
Mumia's innocence and unfair trial," according to 
<http://phillyimc.org/en/2007/10/42889.shtml>Black Commentator 
columnist David A. Love.



Polakoff's photos have been shown on the 
<http://www.abu-jamal-news.com>Journalists for Mumia website since 
Dr. Schiffmann 
<http://www.abu-jamal-news.com/temp/press%20release.html>unveiled the 
photos in May, the same week that The US Third Circuit Court of 
Appeals heard <http://www.freemumia.com/oralarguments.html>oral 
arguments regarding the fairness of Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial 
<http://www.abu-jamal-news.com/temp/May17Audio.html>(listen to 
courtroom audio). While waiting for this important court ruling 
<http://www.freemumia.com/dayafter.html>(expected any week), 
Abu-Jamal's international support network 
<http://www.indymedia.org/en/2007/10/894288.shtml>has initiated a 
media-activist campaign demanding that the major media outlets 
acknowledge the new crime scene photos. One of Polakoff's photos will 
be published for the first time in the US, in this week's issue of 
<http://www.sfbayview.com>The San Francisco Bay View National Black 
Newspaper, which 
<http://www.sfbayview.com/20070522147/News/Front_Page/POCC_report_back_on_Mumia_s_Philly_hearing.html>has 
previously reported on Abu-Jamal's case.



Francome cannot reveal any more of the film's big surprises, but he 
does say that "the film interviews people who have never told their 
story of the events of that night for the first time ever and offers 
new insight and theories as to what happened on Locust Street in 
1981. To learn more about this, people ought to go and watch the film."



Hans Bennett: What can you tell us about the new crime scene photos 
discovered by German author Michael Schiffmann, and how they appear 
in your film?



William Francome: The photos of press photographer Pedro Polakoff 
feature in the film as well as an interview with him and Michael 
Schiffmann, the German author who found them.



We had been in contact with Michael from the beginning of this 
project as he is one of the most knowledgeable people on the case. He 
had been working on his book 'Race Against Death' when he found a 
photo online that he realized was not taken by the police at the 
scene. Somehow (Michael is an amazing investigator) he found Pedro 
who was a press photographer at the time of the shootings in December 
of 1981. Pedro had arrived on the scene within minutes and captured 
much of the initial chaos of the scene.



They are quite amazing photographs as they show the complete lack of 
professionalism by the police who were faced with the task of 
preserving the crime scene and any forensic evidence that might be 
inherent within it. There are pictures of a police officer holding 
both of the weapons at the scene in one hand without gloves, which 
would therefore completely contaminate any fingerprints or gun powder 
residue. They also show the police walking in and out of the scene 
and show that Officer Faulkner's hat was moved from photo to photo. I 
may just be a layman in terms of crime scene maintenance but it seems 
to me that these are grave and almost criminally negligent mistakes 
to make. There is also the issue of bullet holes or the lack thereof 
in the pavement. The photos should show where bullet fragments would 
have been found in the surrounding cement according to the 
prosecution witnesses' account, but this is not the case.



Whether or not these acts were made on purpose remains to be seen, 
but the photos could have helped clear this case up from the very 
beginning. Now we are 25 years down the line and we are still asking 
basic questions of the initial evidence that should not have been 
left for so long unanswered. Meanwhile, a man is on death row who 
claims he's innocent and it's been a quarter of a century since a 
policeman was killed and many feel the killing hasn't been sufficiently solved.



What makes the issue of the photos even more important is that they 
were purposefully ignored by the prosecution and the District 
Attorney's Office. Pedro says that he rang them and told them of his 
photographs and offered them for use in the trial, but that the 
office never got back to him. It is obvious that the prosecution knew 
that the photographs of the crime scene could have done their case 
some damage in court and therefore outright ignored them.



HB: Where does the movie go from here? When can people in the US view it?



WF: The film is about to premiere at the London and Rome film 
festivals and I'm very happy to say that it's sold out all of its 
screenings. We are still at the early stages and we have to wait and 
see if and when it gets taken on by a distributor, what happens next. 
I'm sure at some point in the near future we'll be screening the film 
in the US. The film was shot in America and mostly deals with 
American issues so I look forward to seeing the reaction it gets 
there. I myself am half American, and spent my teenage years in New 
York, so I have enjoyed making a film about the country I grew up in 
as well as having been able to look at it as an outsider.



HB: Why is Mumia's case still so important after 25 years?



WF: I think the fact that Mumia's case is still being debated after 
twenty five years is an issue in itself. It seems unbelievable to me 
that you could keep someone in solitary confinement for a quarter of 
a century as well as having a death sentence hanging over him that 
whole time. The starting point of this film is that it's been my 
whole life, and considering all the things that I have done and all 
the memories I have really helps to put the whole thing in 
perspective. Try thinking back to what you were doing in 1981 and it 
might have the same effect. In that time, there have been hundreds of 
people executed and there are still over 3,000 currently sitting on 
death row in America. However, despite evidence that people innocent 
of the crimes they were convicted for have been executed and over 100 
people who have been exonerated and released from death row because 
of new evidence, the death penalty system in America still grinds forward.



After 25 years, the questions of race, cost and inadequate legal 
representation have yet to be fully and honestly addressed and the 
issues that caused it to be declared unconstitutional in the 70's 
persist. In short, as long as there is a death penalty in the United 
States, Mumia's case and the case of all death row inmates will 
remain vital and important. People should see this movie because they 
too seek for answers and honesty from the criminal justice system, 
and they too, want to gain a greater understanding of the inherent 
flaws in the death penalty system in the U.S.



Even if people can't relate to the story of Mumia Abu-Jamal or are 
not affected by it, they might still be able to relate to my story. I 
think for many people, the journey that I'm going on is enough on its 
own. This is the story of two lives coming together in a sense, and 
hopefully it will allow many who have previously been uninterested in 
the issues surrounding the case to sit up, take notice and find out 
more on their own. In a ninety minute film, it is hard to 
comprehensively look into any subject, but you hope that it gives the 
audience enough to go away and delve further.





Hans Bennett is an independent journalist and co-founder (with German 
author Michael Schiffmann) of Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal 
(Abu-Jamal-News.com).





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