[Ppnews] VIDEO interview with J. Patrick O'Connor: "The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal"

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sun May 4 13:29:17 EDT 2008



VIDEO interview with J. Patrick O'Connor: "The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal"

by Hans Bennett


On May 1, the day of his book's release, author J. Patrick O'Connor was
interviewed at Philadelphia City Hall about "The Framing of Mumia
Abu-Jamal." The following day, The New York Times featured the book in an
article by Jon Hurdle: "Book Asserts Black Reporter Didn't Kill White
Officer in '81."

This is part one of a three part interview. PART ONE focuses on why
O'Connor believes Abu-Jamal is innocent and the actual shooter was Kenneth
Freeman. PART TWO will focus on the March 27 decision by The US Third
Circuit Court of Appeals denying a new guilt-phase trial. PART THREE will
focus on the MOVE 9 parole hearings and the recent denial of parole for
the three women.

J. Patrick O'Connor argues that Kenneth Freeman was the actual shooter of
Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. O'Connor criticizes the
media, who, he says "bought into the prosecution's story line early on and
has never been able to see this case for what it is: a framing of an
innocent and peace loving man."

Included below is an April interview with O'Connor where he explains
further about the frame-up, Kenneth Freeman, the 3rd Circuit ruling, and
the legacy of Frank Rizzo.
For more on "The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal" Abu-Jamal-News.com features
an excerpt, a previous interview, O'Connor's review of "Murdered By
Mumia," and his response to the March 27 ruling.

The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal:
An interview with author J. Patrick O'Connor

By Hans Bennett

On March 27, the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against granting
a new guilt-phase trial to world-famous journalist and death row prisoner
Mumia Abu-Jamal. While ruling against the three issues that could have led
to a new guilt-phase trial, the court affirmed US District Court Judge
Yohn's 2001 decision overturning the death sentence. If the District
Attorney wants to re-instate the death sentence, the DA must call for a
new penalty-phase jury trial that would be limited to the question of life
in prison without a chance of parole or a re-instatement of the death

At this critical juncture in Abu-Jamal's case, an explosive new book was
just released this May, titled "The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal," by J.
Patrick O'Connor, and published by Lawrence Hill Books. O'Connor explains
that he "was an associate editor for TV Guide at its headquarters in
nearby Radnor, Pennsylvania during the time Officer Faulkner was killed
and Abu-Jamal was put on trial and convicted of murdering him....Sometime
in the mid-1990s I began hearing and seeing the 'Free Mumia' slogan. In
1996, when HBO premiered the one-hour documentary 'Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Case
for Reasonable Doubt?', I developed some questions about the verdict and
certainly the fairness of his trial." Soon, O'Connor had "read all the
trial transcripts as well as all of the transcripts from Abu-Jamal's
Post‑Conviction Relief Act hearings that were held in 1995, and
continued in 1996 and 1997. I also read all the contemporaneous newspaper
articles from The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, as
well as all the books published about the case."

In his new book, O'Connor argues that Abu-Jamal was clearly framed by
police, and that the actual shooter was a man named Kenneth Freeman.
O'Connor criticizes the local media, who, he says "bought into the
prosecution's story line early on and has never been able to see this case
for what it is: a framing of an innocent and peace loving man."

In his review of the recent book "Murdered by Mumia," O'Connor writes that
"there's a great deal to admire about Maureen Faulkner, the widow of
Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner," but concludes that her
"obsessive hate for Abu-Jamal has blinded her to the prosecutorial
misconduct and judicial bias that plagued his trial and justifiably fueled
his rise to a world stage. The real villains in her life were the police
and prosecutors who framed Abu-Jamal for Officer Faulkner's killing. They
are the ones, not the long drawn out appellate process that has kept
Abu-Jamal alive, who have denied her the closure she was due more than
twenty-five years ago."

For more background on "The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal" and J. Patrick
O'Connor, Abu-Jamal-News.com is featuring his response to the March 27
court ruling, an excerpt from the new book, a previous interview with the
author, and O'Connor's review of "Murdered By Mumia." This new interview
was conducted on April 11, 2008, and is featured in the newly released
"Journalists for Mumia" newspaper.

Hans Bennett: Advocates of Abu-Jamal's conviction and execution always say
that a police frame-up of Abu-Jamal is a lunatic, far-fetched "conspiracy
theory" that should be dismissed by any sane observer. What do you mean
when you say he was "framed"? How was this done?

J. Patrick O'Connor: Mumia's early association with the Philadelphia
branch of the Black Panther Party marked him as a subversive to George
Fencl, the chief inspector of the Philadelphia Police Department's Civil
Defense Bureau. His subsequent sympathetic coverage of MOVE while
reporting for the local public radio station made him an avowed enemy of
Mayor Frank Rizzo. Minutes after Officer Faulkner was shot at 3:55 a.m.,
Inspector Alfonzo Giordano – who reported directly to Fencl – took
command of the crime scene and personally set in motion the framing of
Abu-Jamal. It would be Giordano who claimed that Mumia told him in the
paddy wagon that he dropped his gun after he shot Faulkner; it would be
Giordano who arranged for prostitute Cynthia White and felon Robert
Chobert to identify Abu-Jamal as the shooter. Giordano and White would be
the D.A. Office's only witnesses at the preliminary hearing to hold
Abu-Jamal over for trial where Giordano repeated this "confession."

Giordano is as corrupt a police officer as one can imagine. For years he
had been extorting kickbacks – personally averaging $3,000 per month –
from Center City prostitutes, pimps and bar owners, which explains his
early arrival at the crime scene. He knew Cynthia White and her pimp. He
coerced her at the scene to identify Abu-Jamal as the shooter. She would
be the only witness the D.A. had to claim to see Abu-Jamal holding a gun
over Faulkner. In her original statement to the police – given within an
hour of the shooting – she had Abu-Jamal running from the parking lot
and from as far away as 10-yards firing off "four or five shots" at
Faulkner before the officer fell. In her third interview with police
detectives, given on December 17, she fine-tuned her statement to comport
with the actual evidence in the case that Faulkner was shot at close
range. (In one of the most sinister aspects of Abu-Jamal's case, the
police department waited until the Monday after Abu-Jamal's conviction to
"relieve" Giordano of his duties on what would prove to be well-founded
"suspicions of corruption." Four years after Abu-Jamal's trial, Giordano
pled guilty to tax evasion in connection with those payouts and was sent
to prison.)

Incredibly, the police arriving at the crime scene would later claim not
to have conducted any tests to determine if Abu-Jamal had recently fired a
gun by checking for powder residue on his hands or clothing, nor did they
claim to even feel or smell his gun to determine if it had been recently
fired. Tests such as these are so routine at murder scenes that it is
almost inconceivable the police did not run them. It is more likely that
they did not like the results of the tests.

 >From the outset, the investigation into the shooting death of Officer
Faulkner was conducted with one goal in mind: to hang the crime on Mumia
Abu-Jamal. There was no search for the truth, no attempt at providing the
slain officer with the justice he deserved. Giordano handed Abu-Jamal to
the D.A.'s Office with his own lie about Abu-Jamal confessing to him and
packing off Cynthia White in a squad car to tell her concocted account of
the shooting. When the D.A.'s Office was forced to back away from the
corrupt Giordano, Assistant D.A. Joseph McGill elicited a new
"confession" to replace Giordano's in February when security guard
Priscilla Durham and Officer Garry Bell, Faulkner's best friend on the
police force, responded to his promptings by saying they heard Abu-Jamal
blurt out at the hospital, "I shot the mother-fucker and I hope the
mother-fucker dies." Not one of the dozens of other officers present at
the hospital would make such a claim. In fact, the two officers who
accompanied Abu-Jamal from the time he was placed in the paddy wagon
until he went into surgery, reported that he made no comments in signed
statements given to detectives assigned to the case that morning.

The prosecution knew that its new "confession" could be skewered if
Abu-Jamal's defense attorney, Anthony Jackson, called the two officers who
accompanied Abu-Jamal to the stand, so all the prosecution really had was
Cynthia White. With White saying she saw it all from beginning to end, and
willing to testify that she saw Abu-Jamal blow the helpless Faulkner's
brains out in ruthless cold blood, McGill had his case made, providing
White's credibility could survive Jackson's cross-examination. McGill bet
the entire case that it could, and despite the utter web of lies she told
the jury, was right.

Bennett: Why do you think that Kenneth Freeman was the actual shooter of
Police Officer Daniel Faulkner?

O'Connor: Kenneth Freeman was Billy Cook's street vendor partner and was
riding with him in the VW when Faulkner pulled the VW over. Freeman got
out of the VW and subsequently handed Faulkner a phony driver's license
application bearing the name of Arnold Howard, which Howard had recently
loaned to him. Howard's papers were found in Faulkner's shirt pocket.
Police rounded up both Howard and Freeman in the early morning hours of
December 9 and brought them in for questioning. At the Post-Conviction
Relief Act hearing in 1995, Howard testified that on several occasions,
Cynthia White picked Freeman out of a lineup.

At Billy Cook's March 29 trial for assaulting Officer Faulkner, with
McGill as the prosecutor, White told McGill in direct testimony that the
passenger in the VW "had got out." McGill said, "He got of the car"? White
responded, "Yes." (At Abu-Jamal's trial, McGill got White to testify that
only Abu-Jamal, Cook, and Faulkner were at the scene.)

Various witnesses said they saw a black man running from the scene right
after the shooting. Some of the eyewitnesses said this man had an Afro and
wore a green army jacket. Freeman did have an Afro and he perpetually wore
a green army jacket. Freeman was tall and burly, weighing about 225 pounds
at the time.

Cab driver Robert Harkins was driving right by the parked police car and
the VW when he saw a police officer grab a man. The man "then spun around
and the officer went to the ground," falling face down backwards, landing
on his hands and knees. The assailant shot the officer in the back,
causing him to roll over on his back, and then executed him with a shot to
his forehead.

Harkins described the shooter as a little taller and heavier than the
6-foot, 200-pound Faulkner. Robert Chobert told police in his first
statement that the shooter had an Afro and weighed about 225 pounds.
(Abu-Jamal, also about 6-foot, wore in his hair in dreadlocks and weighed
170 pounds at the time.)

In Billy Cook's April 29, 2001, affidavit he declared that Freeman was
with him the night of the shooting, was armed, and fled the scene after
Faulkner was shot. Cook said he did not see who shot Faulkner.

Freeman would meet an ignominious death hours after Philadelphia police
firebombed the MOVE house on Osage Avenue in 1985, killing 11 MOVE
members, including John Africa, whose corpse had been beheaded. Freeman's
dead body was found bound, gagged and naked in a vacant lot. There would
be no police investigation into this obvious murder. The coroner listed
his cause of death as a heart attack. The timing and modus operandi of the
abduction and killing alone suggest an extreme act of police vengeance.

Bennett: In your book, you were very optimistic about the Third Circuit
granting Abu-Jamal a new guilt-phase trial. Were you surprised by the
March 27 ruling? If so, how do you account for such a surprising ruling?

O'Connor: I was incredulous. I thought the oral arguments on May 17 had
gone extremely well for Abu-Jamal and that he would get a new trial. The
2-1 majority ruling demonstrated anew just how politicized this case
always has been from the beginning and continues to be still. The two
Republican-appointed judges on the panel formed the majority and the lone
Democrat-appointed judge dissented. I hate to make it sound that simple,
but the U.S. Supreme Court itself is not above making decisions based on
party or ideological lines, and all too frequently does.

In its ruling, the majority stated it believed Abu-Jamal had "forfeited
his Batson claim by failing to make a timely objection. But even assuming
Abu-Jamal's failure to object is not fatal to his claim, Abu-Jamal has
failed to meet his burden in providing a prima facie case." The majority
stated that he failed because his attorneys at his PCRA evidentiary
hearing neglected to elicit the prosecutor's reasons for removing 10
otherwise qualified blacks by means of peremptory strikes during jury

"Abu-Jamal had the opportunity to develop this evidence at the PCRA
evidentiary hearing, but failed to do so. There may be instances where a
prima facie case can be made without evidence of the strike rate and
exclusion rate. But in this case, we cannot find the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court's ruling [denying Abu-Jamal's Batson claim] unreasonable based on
this incomplete record," the majority wrote. In a nutshell, the majority
denied Abu-Jamal's Batson claim on a technicality of its own invention,
not on its merits.

Judge Ambro's dissent was sharp: "...I do not agree with them [the
majority] that Mumia Abu-Jamal fails to meet the low bar for making a
prima facie case under Batson. In holding otherwise, they raise the
standard necessary to make out a prima facie case beyond what Batson calls

In other words, the majority, in this case alone, has upped the ante
required for making a Batson claim beyond what the United States Supreme
Court stipulated. When ruling in Batson in 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court
imposed no timeliness restrictions as to when a Batson claim may be
raised, nor has the court done so in the intervening 22 years. Neither did
it require that the racial composition of the entire jury pool be known
before a Batson claim could be raised. (In fact, the Supreme Court
recently added heft to its Batson ruling, ruling in Synder that the
purging of only one black juror on the basis of racial discrimination was
grounds for a new trial.) In addition, the Supreme Court ruled in 1986
that to establish a prima facie case for a Batson claim, the defendant
must show only "an inference" of prosecutorial discrimination in purging
even one black from a jury. Even the Third Circuit has never previously
allowed the timing of a Batson claim to be material, nor had it ever ruled
previously that not knowing the racial composition of the entire jury pool
was a fatal flaw in lodging a Batson claim.

The fact that the prosecutor in Abu-Jamal's case used 10 of the 15
peremptory challenges to exclude blacks from the jury – a strike rate of
66 percent against potential black jurors – is in itself an inference of
discrimination. The result was that only three of the 12 jurors impaneled
were black.

The Third Circuit should have remanded the case back to Federal District
Court Judge Yohn – the judge who ruled on Abu-Jamal's habeas corpus
petition in 2001 – to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the
prosecutors' reasons for excluding the 10 potential black jurors he
struck. If that hearing revealed racial discrimination on the part of the
prosecutor during jury selection, Judge Yohn would be compelled to order a
new trial for Abu-Jamal.

Abu-Jamal is left with only two remedies to correct the flawed Third
Circuit ruling. His first option is to request the Third Circuit to review
its decision en banc where the entire panel of judges sitting on the Third
Circuit would conduct oral arguments anew. There is some likelihood that
the Third Circuit might agree to meet en banc because the panel's decision
to deny Abu-Jamal's Batson claim went against that court's own
well-established precedents in granting similar Batson claims in the past.
However, the barrier to en banc deliberations is a high one: a majority of
the sitting judges must vote to reexamine the case. On the Third Circuit
Court, there are 12 judges eligible to vote, but four have already recused
themselves from this particular case, meaning five of the remaining eight
judges would be needed to go forward en banc. Abu-Jamal has most probably
had his one day before the Third Circuit.

Barring a reversal by the Third Circuit, Abu-Jamal's final option is to
appeal the Third Circuit's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has on
three previous occasions denied to take up his case. This time, though,
there is a remote possibility that the high court may take the case up
because the Third Circuit's ruling created new law by placing new
restrictions on a defendant's ability to file a Batson claim.

Bennett: With the media spotlight on the PA Primary Elections, and the
major demonstrations supporting Abu-Jamal on April 19, what would you like
the world to know about this famous death-row case? How far has the city
of Philadelphia come since the days of Police Commissioner and Mayor Frank
Rizzo, a notorious racist and public advocate of police brutality?

O'Connor: In a real sense, D.A. Lynn Abraham, just as Frank Rizzo before
her, embodies the worst of Philadelphia. Known as "the Queen of Death" for
her zeal in seeking the death penalty, she was depicted as the nation's
"deadliest D.A." in a New York Times Magazine article in 1995. Her
personal vendetta against Abu-Jamal equals that of Officer Faulkner's
widow. The day Federal District Court Judge Yohn overturned Abu-Jamal's
death sentence in 2001, Abraham put her antipathy for Abu-Jamal this way:
"Today, Mumia Abu-Jamal is what he has always been: a convicted,
remorseless, cold-blooded killer."

The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal represents an enormous miscarriage of justice,
representing an extreme example of prosecutorial abuse and judicial bias.
What makes getting to the truth about this case so difficult for people,
particularly people in Philadelphia, is that the prosecution built its
case on perjured testimony with a calculated disregard for what the actual
evidence established. The local media bought into the prosecution's story
line early on and has never been able to see this case for what it is: a
framing of an innocent and peace loving man.

Two things account for the unprecedented national and international
interest in this case. First and foremost is the man himself. Despite more
than 25 years of the bleakest existence possible in isolation on death
row, Mumia Abu-Jamal remains what he has always been: an articulate,
compassionate righter of wrongs. The second thing that makes this case so
compelling to such a wide audience is that his trial represents such a
monumental abuse of government power to railroad one man that it really
says no citizen is truly free until this wrong has been undone.

--Hans Bennett is a Philadelphia journalist and co-founder of Journalists
for Mumia, whose website is Abu-Jamal-News.com.

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