[Ppnews] Mumia Faces Supreme Court as New Book and Film Expose Injustice

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 7 10:07:44 EDT 2008

Mumia Abu-Jamal Faces US Supreme Court as New Book and Film Expose Injustice

By Hans Bennett


On Monday, Oct.6, in a ruling unrelated to 
death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal's upcoming 
appeal of the recent Third Circuit decision 
denying a new guilt-phase trial, the US Supreme 
Court rejected his Post Conviction Relief Act 
(PCRA) appeal, which was asking the courts to 
hear newly discovered testimony from Kenneth Pate 
and Yvette Williams 
<http://phillyimc.org/en/node/76760>(read the 
affidavits here). The appeal had been 
in July, after it was rejected by the 
Supreme Court in Feb, 2008, and in 2005 by 
Judge Pamela Dembe.

Upset by Monday's news, Dr. Suzanne Ross, 
Co-Chair of <http://freemumia.com/>The NYC Free 
Mumia Coalition argued: "The courts, from Judge 
Albert Sabo's outrageously biased rulings and 
court decorum; to Pamela Dembe's ridiculous 
rulings, including her disregard of the 
significance of Sabo's infamous 'I'm going to 
help them fry the Nigger' remark; to the PA 
Supreme Court's rubber stamping of Sabo's and 
Dembe's rulings; to Judge William Yohn's refusal 
to examine the question of innocence, to the 
Third Circuit's 'topsy turvy' violations of their 
own precedents in considering the Batson issue so 
that they could deny Abu-Jamal the trial he is 
entitled to, have all shown a callous disregard 
for the life of a man who is obviously innocent, 
and have done everything in their power to assure 
that Mumia Abu-Jamal will never see the light of 
day from other than the twisted prism of a 
prison. This last decision is yet another 
outrageous chapter in a 27 year history of a 
conspiracy to imprison, kill, and silence Mumia Abu-Jamal."

With the court's PCRA rejection, Abu-Jamal's 
upcoming appeal to the US Supreme Court of the 
Third Circuit decision (the filing of this appeal 
is due by Oct. 20 unless a 60 day extension is 
requested) is now more important than ever, 
because this is now his last chance for a new 
guilt-phase trial. Fortunately, this crucial 
moment for Abu-Jamal coincides with two new media 
projects that expose injustice in his case that 
extends well beyond the narrow issues being 
considered by the courts: the British film 
Prison My Whole Life and the book 
Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, by J. Patrick O'Connor.

Both projects merit extensive coverage from the 
mainstream media, and are being utilized as tools 
by Abu-Jamal's supporters for both education and 
fighting what they see as a long history of 
mainstream media bias against Abu-Jamal. 
Supporters are currently organizing for a 
demonstration in Philadelphia on December 6, 
organized in solidarity with other actions around the world.

The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, by J. Patrick O'Connor

Acclaimed historian Howard Zinn has written that 
"J. Patrick O'Connor's new book, The Framing of 
Mumia Abu-Jamal is based on a meticulous review 
of 12,000 pages of court transcripts, legal 
briefs, police records and an exhaustive 
examination of the constitutional violations 
perpetrated by America's criminal 'justice' 
system. His evidence makes a powerful case that 
Mumia Abu-Jamal should be granted a new trial, 
and having been cruelly kept on death row for 26 
years, he should be immediately freed."

In Framing, 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." As explained in 
recent interview, O'Connor argues that the actual 
shooter was a man named Kenneth Freeman, who was 
Billy Cook's business partner and who O'Connor 
argues was a passenger in Cook's car when it was 
pulled over by Officer Daniel Faulkner the 
morning of Dec. 9, 1981. Freeman was mysteriously 
found dead in a Northeast lot (reportedly naked, 
gagged, hand-cuffed, and with a drug needle in 
his arm) the day after the infamous May 13, 1985 
police bombing of MOVE, leading O'Connor to 
conclude that "the timing and modus operandi of 
the abduction and killing alone suggest an extreme act of police vengeance."

Despite the importance of Framing, and a timely 
Times article that spotlighted the book's release 
in May, the mainstream media 
virtually ignored O'Connor's book. Supporters of 
Abu-Jamal are fighting back against this media 
blackout, and on October 3, author J. Patrick 
O'Connor began a 
book tour in the SF Bay Area, which followed his 
tour of New York City and Philadelphia in June. 
here for a compilation of radio shows, interviews 
with, and articles by & about O'Connor--including 
interview at Philadelphia City Hall on the day of 
the book's release (WATCH PARTS 
and <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2nm5T0nMSw>3).

The Sundance Channel Acquires New British Film About Mumia

Scheduled to premiere on The Sundance Channel on 
December 8, 2008, the new film, titled In Prison 
My Whole Life has been officially endorsed by 
Amnesty International, who 
2000 published a major report calling for a new 
UK Director Kate Allen said: "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..We 
hope that the film's viewers will back our call 
for a fair retrial for Mumia Abu-Jamal--and also 
support our work opposing the death penalty in the US and around the world."

In Prison character and filmmaker, William 
Francome was born on the night of Mumia's 1981 
arrest. Responding to the Sundance acquisition, 
he said: "Mumia's case and the issues surrounding 
it are still highly important and need to be 
analyzed..It is so important that a trusted high 
quality broadcaster like Sundance has taken up 
the film, putting it at the fingertips of millions of Americans."

On October 10, there is a 
press conference, reception, and screening of In 
Prison at Theatre Pathe Vaise in Lyon, France, 
featuring the former French First Lady, Madame 
Daniele Mitterrand, producers Colin Firth & Livia 
Giuggioli-Firth, Abu-Jamal's lead attorney Robert 
R. Bryan, representatives of Amnesty 
International, and a message from Mumia to be 
read to the audience. In Prison has already been 
shown at many prestigious film festivals 
including The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival 
and Rome's International Film Festival in 2007, 
The Sundance Film Festival, in January, 2008, and 
this September at NYC's 
Film Festival, and at the 
prison abolitionist conference in Oakland, CA.

An October, 2007 
with Francome, and a September, 2008 
with co-producer Livia Giuggioli Firth, revealed 
that In Prison features 1) the first interview 
ever with Billy Cook, and 2) a presentation of 
the crime scene photos recently 
on NBC's Today Show, featuring an interview with 
the photographer Pedro Polakoff, and the German 
author that recently discovered them, Michael Schiffmann.

Mumia's brother Billy Cook was at the scene on 
Dec. 9, 1981, after Officer Faulkner pulled 
Cook's VW car over. Interviewed in the film, Cook 
denies the accusation that he struck Faulkner in 
the face, from which he allegedly instigated the 
documented beating by Faulkner. Cook shows In 
Prison's interviewers the scars from the beating, 
which are still on his head today. "They arrested 
me for assaulting him, but I never laid a hand on 
him. I was only trying to protect myself," says 
Cook, who also reports that before he was beaten 
bloody with the police flashlight, Faulkner "was 
kind of vulgar and nasty. And if I remember 
correctly he threw a slur in.. 'Nigger' get back in the car."

In Prison features the first interview with press 
photographer Pedro Polakoff, along with German 
author, Dr. Michael Schiffmann (University of 
Heidelberg), who discovered Polakoff's photos 
(never seen by the 1982 jury) and featured them 
in his new German book 
Against Death, published in Fall, 2006. William 
Francome argues that the photos "were 
purposefully ignored by the prosecution and the 
DA's Office", because the DA knew that the 
photographs "could have done their case some 
damage in court." (For more on the photos, go to 
Journalists for Mumia's website: Abu-Jamal-News.com)

Appealing The Third Circuit Ruling to The US Supreme Court

On July 22, the Third Circuit Court ruled against 
Mumia's en banc appeal requesting that the entire 
court hear his appeal, instead of just the 
three-judge panel of Thomas Ambro, Anthony 
Scirica, and Robert Cowen, who previously ruled 
against a new guilt-phase trial on March 27, 
2008. Ruling against three different appeal 
issues, the court refused to grant either a new 
guilt-phase trial or a preliminary hearing that 
could have led to a new guilt-phase trial for 
Mumia. However, on the issue of racist jury 
selection, also known as the Batson claim, the 
three judge panel of split 2-1, with Ambro dissenting.

The 1986 Batson v. Kentucky ruling established 
the right to a new trial if jurors were excluded 
on the basis of race. At the 1982 trial 
Prosecutor McGill used 10 of his 15 peremptory 
strikes to remove otherwise acceptable black 
jurors, yet the court ruled that there was not 
even the appearance of discrimination. In his 
dissenting opinion, Ambro wrote that the denial 
of a preliminary Batson hearing "goes against the 
grain of our prior actions
I see no reason why we 
should not afford Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents."

Mumia will be filing an appeal of this ruling 
with the US Supreme Court by the deadline of Oct. 
20, unless he applies for a 60 day extension. The 
District Attorney has the same Oct. 20 deadline 
to appeal the Third Circuit ruling regarding the 
'overturning' of the death sentence, if they choose to do so.

On March 27, the three-judge panel unanimously 
affirmed Federal District Court Judge William 
Yohn's 2001 decision overturning the death 
sentence. Citing the 1988 Mills v. Maryland 
precedent, Yohn had ruled that sentencing forms 
used by jurors and Judge Sabo's instructions to 
the jury were potentially confusing, and jurors 
could have mistakenly believed that they had to 
unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances 
in order to consider them as weighing against a death sentence.

Now, if the DA wants to re-instate the death 
sentence, the DA must call for a new 
penalty-phase jury trial where new evidence of 
Mumia's innocence can be presented. However, the 
jury can only choose between a sentence of life 
in prison without parole or a death sentence.

Or, the DA can appeal this ruling to the US 
Supreme Court by the deadline of Oct. 20. The DA 
has not stated whether or not it will: (1) appeal 
this to the US Supreme Court, or (2) accept the 
Third Circuit ruling and either request a new 
sentencing trial or accept life in prison without the chance of parole.

US Supreme Court Rejects Mumia Abu-Jamal's PCRA Appeal

On Monday, October 6 (in a ruling unrelated to 
the above-mentioned appeal of the 3rd Circuit 
ruling), the US Supreme Court rejected Mumia's 
Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) appeal, which 
was asking the courts to hear newly discovered 
testimony from Kenneth Pate and Yvette Williams 
<http://phillyimc.org/en/node/76760>(read the 
affidavits here). The appeal had been 
in July, after it was rejected by the 
Supreme Court in Feb, 2008, and in 2005 by 
Judge Pamela Dembe.

Philadelphia journalist 
Lindorff is the author of 
Time, an independent investigation into the 
Abu-Jamal case. Responding on Monday to the US 
Supreme Court ruling he said: "One of the 
travesties that is part of American death penalty 
jurisprudence, and that contributes to the 
inescapable conclusion that it can never be fair 
or foolproof, is that the bar for getting a new 
hearing based upon new evidence is set almost 
impossibly high. So for example, even though we 
have in these two affidavits evidence that a key 
witness at trial to an alleged confession had 
been pressured or lured into lying on the stand, 
and that a second alleged eye-witness had been 
pressured and induced into claiming she was a 
witness when she actually wasn't one, the US 
Supreme Court rules that it will not even review 
the matter or order a lower court to do so. And 
so it is possible that Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man who 
could in fact be innocent of murder, will either 
die or be left to rot in jail for the rest of his 
life while he could be the victim of police 
witness tampering and prosecutorial misconduct."

Another Philadelphia journalist was dismayed by 
Monday's ruling, and hopes it is not an 
indication of how the court will respond to the 
upcoming, separate appeal of the 3rd Circuit 
ruling. Having covered this story since 1981, 
Temple University professor and Philadelphia 
Tribune columnist 
Washington, Jr. argues that "the Williams 
revelation by itself at least deserves a formal 
hearing..as does the jury selection 
discrimination issue. However, state and federal 
courts continue with the pattern in the Abu-Jamal 
case of circling the wagons to shut-out any 
evidence exposing the major flaws of the 1982 
trial and that jury's guilty verdict."

Let's take a closer look at these two rejected 
affidavits that shed light on the broader issue 
of fabricated evidence used to convict Mumia Abu-Jamal.


Kenneth Pate is the step-brother of hospital 
security guard Priscilla Durham, who testified at 
the 1982 trial to hearing Abu-Jamal confess at 
the hospital, to shooting Officer Daniel 
Faulkner. Pate now states in an April 18, 2003 
affidavit that Durham confided to him during a 
telephone conversation "around the end of 1983 or 
the beginning of 1984" that she had actually lied 
about hearing the alleged hospital confession.

Pate states that Durham told him on the telephone 
that "Mumia was all bloody and the police were 
interfering with his treatment, saying 'let him 
die.' Priscilla said that the police told her 
that she was part of the 'brotherhood' of police 
since she was a security guard and that she had 
to stick with them and say that she heard Mumia 
say that he killed the police officer, when they 
brought Mumia in on a stretcher.''

Even before Pate's affidavit, Durham's account was very suspicious.

The alleged "hospital confession," where Mumia 
reportedly declared, "I shot the motherf***er and 
I hope the motherf***er dies," was first 
officially reported to police over two months 
later, by hospital guards Priscilla Durham and 
James LeGrand (Feb. 9, 1982), PO Gary Wakshul 
(Feb.11), PO Gary Bell (Feb.25), and PO Thomas M. Bray (March1).

Only two of these five witnesses were called by 
the DA: Priscilla Durham and Gary Bell (Faulkner's partner and "best friend").

Priscilla Durham and Gary Bell

Durham testified in 1982, and added for the very 
first time (not reported to the police on Feb.9), 
that she had reported the confession to her 
supervisor the next day, making a hand-written 
report. Neither her supervisor, nor the alleged 
handwritten statement were presented in court.

Instead, the DA sent an officer to the hospital, 
returning with a suspicious typed version. Sabo 
accepted the unsigned and unauthenticated paper 
despite both Durham's disavowal (because it was 
not hand-written), and the defense's protest that 
authorship and authenticity were unproven.

Gary Bell testified that his two month memory 
lapse resulted from him being so upset over the 
death of Faulkner, that he forgot to report it to police.

Gary Wakshul: 'the negro male made no comment.'

Police Officer Gary Wakshul was not a prosecution 
witness, and on the final day of testimony in 
1982, Mumia's lawyer discovered Wakshul's 
statement from Dec. 9, 1981 (Mumia's supporters 
cite this late discovery as another example of 
incompetent representation--to which defense 
attorney Anthony Jackson testified about at the 1995 PCRA hearings).

After riding with Abu-Jamal 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 contradictory written report. When 
an outraged Abu-Jamal protested, Judge Sabo 
cruelly declared to him: "You and your attorney goofed."

At the 1995 PCRA Hearings, Wakshul testified that 
both his contradictory Dec. 9 "the negro male 
made no comment" report and the two month delay 
were simply bad mistakes. He repeated his earlier 
February 11, 1982 statement given to the police 
IAB investigator that he "didn't realize it had 
any importance until that day." Wakshul also 
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.

Mysteriously, just days before his PCRA 
testimony, Wakshul was savagely beaten by 
undercover police officers in front of a Judge in 
the Common Pleas Courtroom, where Wakshul worked 
as a court crier.The two attackers were later 
suspended without pay, as punishment. With the 
motive still unexplained, the beating was 
possibly used to intimidate Wakshul into 
maintaining his "confession" story at the PCRA hearings.

Regarding the alleged confession, 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."


Yvette Williams' July 8, 2002 affidavit, is the 
just latest evidence discrediting the 
prosecution's star witness at the 1982 trial: Cynthia White.

Suspiciously, no official eyewitness even 
reported seeing White at the scene, and White is 
the only "witness" to report seeing alleged 
eyewitness Robert Chobert's taxi cab parked behind PO Faulkner's car.

Amnesty International documents that key DA 
witnesses Chobert (an arsonist on probation, 
driving his cab without a license) and White (a 
prostitute facing multiple charges) "altered 
their descriptions of what they saw, in ways that 
supported the prosecution's version of events."

Importantly, Williams' account of 1) White being 
coerced by police to give false testimony, and 2) 
Police seeking out even more false testimony, is 
strongly supported by the testimony of Veronica 
Jones (at the 1982 trial and the 1996 PCRA) and 
Pamela Jenkins (at the 1997 PCRA).

The New Affidavit

Yvette Williams declares: "I was in jail with 
Cynthia White in December of 1981 after Police 
Officer Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed. 
Cynthia ['Lucky'] White told me the police were 
making her lie and say she saw Mr. Jamal shoot 
Officer Faulkner when she really did not see who 
did it..Whenever she talked about testifying 
against Mumia Abu-Jamal, and how the police were 
making her lie, she was nervous and very excited 
and I could tell how scared she was from the way she was talking and crying."

Explaining why she is just now coming out with 
her affidavit, Williams says "I feel like I've 
almost had a nervous breakdown over keeping quiet 
about this all these years. I didn't say anything 
because I was afraid. I was afraid of the police. They're dangerous."

Pamela Jenkins' 1997 PCRA Testimony

At the 1997 PCRA hearing, former prostitute 
Pamela Jenkins testified that 1) Police tried 
pressuring her to falsely testify that she saw 
Abu-Jamal shoot Faulkner, and 2) In late 1981, 
Cynthia White (who Jenkins knew as a fellow 
police informant) told Jenkins that she was also 
being pressured to testify against Mumia, and 
that she was afraid for her life.

As part of a 1995 federal probe of Philadelphia 
police corruption, Officers Thomas F. Ryan and 
John D. Baird were convicted of paying Jenkins to 
falsely testify that she had bought drugs from a 
Temple University student named Arthur Colbert. 
Jenkins' 1995 testimony about Colbert and others 
she falsely testified against, helped to convict 
Ryan, Baird, and other officers and to dismiss several dozen drug convictions.

At the 1997 PCRA, Jenkins testified that this 
same Thomas F. Ryan was one of the officers who 
attempted to have her lie about Mumia!

The Attempts to Silence Veronica Jones

Veronica Jones (a former prostitute who was 
working at the scene) first told police that she 
had seen two men "jogging" away from the scene 
before police arrived. Then, as a defense witness 
at the 1982 trial, Jones denied making the 
statement, but started to describe a pre-trial 
visit from police, where "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 then explicitly 
testified that police offered to let her and 
White "work the area if we tell them" what they 
wanted to hear regarding Mumia's guilt.

The DA moved to block her account, calling her 
testimony "absolutely irrelevant." Judge Sabo 
agreed to block the line of questioning, strike 
the testimony, and then ordered the jury to disregard Jones' statement.

Later, at the 1996 PCRA, Jones testified that in 
1982 she had been coerced by police to recant 
seeing the two men jogging away, but resisted 
police pressure to falsely testify that she saw Abu-Jamal shoot Faulkner.

Intimidation of Jones continued at the PCRA. 
Before she testified, Judge Sabo threatened her 
with 5-10 yrs imprisonment for admitting perjury. 
After testifying, he allowed NJ police to 
handcuff and arrest her for an outstanding arrest 
warrant on charges of writing a bad check.

Outraged by Jones' treatment, even the normally 
'anti-Mumia' Philadelphia Daily News reported 
that: "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." 
(<http://phillyimc.org/en/node/65313>Read more 
about Jones, and 
a new video-interview with her)

Organizing for Dec. 9 and Beyond

German author and co-founder of Journalists for 
Mumia, Michael Schiffmann responded to Monday's 
ruling from his home in Heidelberg. Emphasizing 
that these two affidavits are important enough to 
merit a PCRA hearing, Schiffmann says "there's 
just one point I want to stress. Right-wing and 
FOP commentators will claim that the Williams and 
Pate affidavits were hearsay anyway. But this 
isn't true. If someone reports a crime commited 
by him/herself to me, that's called a statement 
'against one's own interest,' and if I report it 
to the police or testify to it in court, my 
report or testimony is admissible. Of course, 
both statements are highly relevant: White and 
Durham were main pillars of the prosecution. If 
they admitted to other people that they lied in 
court, the testimony of these other people should be heard."

"Now we will have to redouble our efforts to 
ensure that the US Supreme Court grants the 
petition for writ of certiorari Mumia's lawyer 
will be filing later this month or in December, 
if given a 60 day extension," says Schiffmann.

Please visit FreeMumia.com for the latest updates 
on organizing for December 6, and be sure to 
download (and print out in your community) our 
two new info flyers just completed:

1) A 
legal update based on this article, and 2) A 
summarizing the key points from The Framing of 
Mumia Abu-Jamal, and promoting the West Coast Book Tour.

--Hans Bennett is an independent multi-media 
and co-founder of Journalists for Mumia 
(Abu-Jamal-News.com), whose new video series 
documenting the movement in Philadelphia to free 
Mumia and all political prisoners is viewable 

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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