[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
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
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
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.
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
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'S AFFIDAVIT AND THE FAKE 'HOSPITAL CONFESSION'
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 vacationin
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' AFFIDAVIT AND CYNTHIA WHITE'S FALSE TESTIMONY
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."
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:
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
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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