[Ppnews] Mumia - Civil Rights Investigation campaign

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 17 10:38:05 EDT 2009

From: Hans Bennett <hbjournalist1 at gmail.com>

Hi folks,

this is my new article that just got released by 
the SF Bay View Newspaper, focusing on the 
campaign for a civil rights investigation for 
Mumia. It is a long article, but I thoroughly 
detail 5 key pieces of withheld evidence, and the 
article is broken into five sections accordingly. 
Please help spread the word about this campaign, 
and this article, which the SF Bay View Newspaper 
has granted permission for anyone to reprint, as 
long as the SFBV is cited as the original source.

Actions are being organized throughout the summer 
to support the campaign for a federal civil 
rights investigation, including at the upcoming 
NAACP convention in New York City, July 11-16. 
Organizers are focusing particularly on July 13, 
the day that Attorney General Holder will address 
the convention. Supporters will then be in 
Washington, D.C., on July 22 to lobby their 
elected officials and, in mid-September, they’ll 
return to Washington, D.C., for a major press 
conference. For more information on how you can 
support the campaign for a federal civil rights 
investigation, and to sign the online letter and 
petition to Attorney General Holder, please 

With this campaign, the movement supporting Mumia 
is fighting back after the US Supreme Court dealt 
such a terrible blow in April when it ruled to 
not consider Mumia's case for a new guilt phase 
trial. And, more outrageously, the court has YET 
to rule on the DA's appeal to execute Mumia 
without having a new sentencing hearing!

Let's fight back!

Hans Bennett

June 16, 2009

withheld evidence, supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal 
call for civil rights investigation

by Hans Bennett
On April 6, 2009, the US Supreme Court refused to 
consider an appeal from death-row journalist and 
former Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was 
convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting 
death of white Philadelphia Police Officer, 
Daniel Faulkner, at a 1982 trial deemed unfair by 
International, the European Parliament, the 
Japanese Diet, Nelson Mandela, and numerous 
others. Citing the Supreme Court denial and 
several instances of withheld evidence, 
Abu-Jamal’s international support network is now 
calling for a federal civil rights investigation into Abu-Jamal’s case.

The facts of the Abu-Jamal/Faulkner case are 
highly contested, but all sides agree on certain 
key points: Abu-Jamal was moonlighting as a 
taxi-driver on December 9, 1981, when, shortly 
before 4:00 a.m., he saw his brother, William 
“Billy” Cook, in an altercation with Officer 
Faulkner after Faulkner had pulled over Cook’s 
car at the corner of 13th and Locust Streets, 
downtown Philadelphia. Abu-Jamal approached the 
scene. Minutes later when police arrived, 
Faulkner had been shot dead, and Abu-Jamal had 
been shot in the chest. The bullet removed from 
Faulkner, reportedly a .38, was officially too 
damaged to match it to the legally registered .38 
caliber gun that Abu-Jamal says he carried as a 
taxi driver, after he was robbed several times on 
the job. Further, Amnesty International has 
criticized the official “failure of the police to 
test Abu-Jamal’s gun, hands, and clothing” for 
gunshot residue, as “deeply troubling.” Abu-Jamal 
has always maintained his innocence, and today 
still fights the conviction from his death-row 
cell in Waynesburg, PA, where he also records 
commentaries, and has now 
<http://abu-jamal-news.com/article?name=jlbook>written six books.

Recently, Abu-Jamal had petitioned the US Supreme 
Court to review the US Third Circuit Court ruling 
of March, 27 2008, which rejected his bid, based 
on three issues, for a new guilt-phase trial. One 
issue was that of racially discriminatory jury 
selection, based on the 1986 case Batson v. 
Kentucky, on which the three-judge panel split 
2-1, with Judge Thomas Ambro dissenting. Ambro 
argued that prosecutor Joseph McGill’s use of 10 
out of his 15 peremptory strikes to remove 
otherwise acceptable African-American jurors, was 
itself enough evidence of racial discrimination 
to grant Abu-Jamal a preliminary hearing that 
could have led to a new trial. In denying 
Abu-Jamal this preliminary hearing, Ambro argued 
that the Court was creating new rules that were 
being exclusively applied to Abu-Jamal’s case. 
The denial "goes against the grain of our prior 
I see no reason why we should not afford 
Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents," wrote Ambro.

In his new essay titled 
Mumia Exception,” author J. Patrick O’Connor 
argues that the Third Circuit Court’s rejection 
of the Batson claim and of the other two issues 
presented is only the latest example of the 
courts’ longstanding practice of altering 
existing precedent to deny Abu-Jamal legal 
relief. O’Connor cites many other problems, 
including the 2001 affidavit by a former court 
stenographer, who says that on the eve of 
Abu-Jamal’s trial, she overheard Judge Albert 
Sabo say to someone at the courthouse that he was 
going to “help” the prosecution “fry the nigger,” 
referring to Abu-Jamal. Common Pleas Judge Pamela 
Dembe rejected this affidavit on grounds that 
even if Sabo had made the comment, it was 
irrelevant as long as his “rulings were legally correct.”

The phrase “Mumia Exception” was first coined by 
<http://www.zmag.org/zvideo/3153>Linn Washington, 
Jr., a Philadelphia Tribune columnist and 
professor of journalism at Temple University, who 
has covered this story since the day of 
Abu-Jamal’s 1981 arrest. Washington criticizes 
the Third Circuit’s ruling against Abu-Jamal’s 
claim that 
Sabo had treated him unfairly at the 1995-97 
Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) hearings, which 
was another issue the Circuit Court had 
considered. Citing “the mound of legal violations 
in this case,” Washington says “the continuing 
refusal of U.S. courts to equally apply the law 
in the Abu-Jamal case constitutes a stain on America’s image internationally.”

Launched Campaign Cites Withheld Evidence

Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that 
supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal are responding to 
the March 2009 US Supreme Court ruling by 
a campaign calling for a federal civil rights 
investigation into Abu-Jamal’s case. The 
campaign’s supporters include the Riverside 
Church’s Prison Ministry, actress Ruby Dee, 
professor Cornel West, and US Congressman Charles 
Rangel, who is Chairman of the House Committee on 
Ways and Means. In 2004, the NAACP passed a 
resolution supporting a new trial for Abu-Jamal, 
and campaign supporters will be gathering to 
publicize the civil rights campaign at the 
upcoming NAACP National Convention in New York 
City, July 11-16, and to pressure the NAACP to 
honor their earlier resolutions by actively 
supporting the current campaign seeking an 
investigation. Supporters will then be in 
Washington, DC on July 22 to lobby their elected 
officials, and in mid-September, they’ll return 
to Washington, DC for a major press conference.

Thousands of signatures have been collected for a 
public letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder, 
which reads: “Inasmuch as there is no other court 
to which Abu-Jamal can appeal for justice, we 
turn to you for remedy of a 27-year history of 
gross violations of US constitutional law and 
international standards of justice.” The letter 
cites Holder’s recent investigation into the case 
of former Senator Ted Stevens, which led to all 
charges against him being dropped: “You were 
specifically outraged by the fact that the 
prosecution withheld information critical to the 
defense’s argument for acquittal, a violation 
clearly committed by the prosecution in 
Abu-Jamal’s case. Mumia Abu-Jamal, though not a 
US Senator of great wealth and power, is a Black 
man revered around the world for his courage, 
clarity, and commitment, and deserves no less than Senator Stevens.”

Several campaigns seeking a civil right 
investigation into the Abu-Jamal case have been 
launched since 1995, at which time, the 
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was one of many 
groups that publicly supported an investigation. 
In a 1995 letter written independently of the 
CBC, Representatives Chaka Fattah, Ron Dellums, 
Cynthia McKinney, Maxine Waters, and John Conyers 
(now Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee) 
stated, “There is ample evidence that Mr. 
Abu-Jamal’s constitutional rights were violated, 
that he did not receive a fair trial, and that he 
is, in fact, innocent.” Assistant Attorney 
General Andrew Fois responded to the CBC’s 
request, and in a September 1995 rejection letter 
written to Congressman Ron Dellums, Fois conceded 
that even though there is a 5-year statute of 
limitations for a civil rights investigation, the 
statute does not apply if “there is significant 
evidence of an ongoing conspiracy.”

One of the 2009 campaign’s organizers is Dr. 
Suzanne Ross, a spokesperson for the 
<http://www.freemumia.com/>Free Mumia Abu-Jamal 
Coalition of New York City. Citing Andrew Fois’ 
letter, Ross argues that the “continued denial of 
justice to Mumia in the federal courts, as 
documented by dissenting Judge Thomas Ambro,” is 
evidence of an “ongoing conspiracy,” and thus 
merits an investigation. “Throughout the history 
of this case, we were always told ‘Wait until we 
get to the federal courts.  They will surely 
overturn the racism and gross misconduct of Judge 
Sabo,’ but we never got even a preliminary 
hearing on the issue considered most winnable: 
racial bias in jury selection, the so called 
Batson issue.” Ross also criticizes the Third 
Circuit’s denial of Abu-Jamal’s claim that Judge 
Sabo was unfair at the 1995-97 PCRA hearings, and 
considers this denial to be further evidence of 
an “ongoing conspiracy.” Ross argues that the 
courts’ continued affirmation of Sabo’s rulings 
during the PCRA hearings, and Sabo’s ultimate 
ruling that nothing presented at the PCRA 
hearings was significant enough to merit a new 
trial, serves to legitimize numerous injustices throughout Abu-Jamal’s case.

Specifically referring to the issue of withheld 
evidence, that was central to the case of former 
Senator Ted Stevens, organizer Suzanne Ross 
identifies five key instances in Abu-Jamal’s 
case, where “evidence was withheld that could 
have led to Mumia’s acquittal.” The DA’s office 
withheld two items from Abu-Jamal’s defense: the 
actual location of the driver’s license 
application found in Officer Faulkner’s pocket; 
and Pedro Polakoff’s crime scene photos. Then, at 
the request of prosecutor McGill, Judge Sabo 
ruled to block three items from the jury: 
prosecution eyewitness Robert Chobert’s probation 
status and criminal history; testimony from 
defense eyewitness Veronica Jones about police 
attempts to solicit false testimony; and 
testimony from Police Officer Gary Waskshul.

DA Suppresses Evidence About Kenneth Freeman

In their recent books, Michael Schiffmann 
Against Death: The Struggle for the Life and 
Freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2006) and J. Patrick 
Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2008) argue that the 
actual shooter of Officer Faulkner was a man 
named Kenneth Freeman. Schiffmann and O’Connor 
argue that Freeman was an occupant of Billy 
Cook’s car, who shot Faulkner in response to 
Faulkner having shot Abu-Jamal first, and then 
fled the scene before police arrived.

Central to Schiffmann and O’Connor’s argument was 
the presence of a driver’s license application 
for one Arnold Howard, which was found in the 
front pocket of Officer Faulkner’s shirt. 
Abu-Jamal’s defense would not learn about this 
until 13 years later, because the Police and DA's 
office had failed to notify them about the 
application’s crucial location. Journalist Linn 
Washington argues that this failure was "a 
critical and deliberate omission," and "a major 
violation of fair trial rights and procedures. If 
the appeals process had any semblance of 
fairness, this misconduct alone should have won a 
new trial for Abu-Jamal.” More importantly, 
Washington says "this evidence provides strong 
proof of a third person at the scene along with 
Faulkner and Billy Cook. The prosecution case 
against Abu-Jamal rests on the assertion that 
Faulkner encountered a lone Cook minutes before 
Abu-Jamal's arrival on the scene, but Faulkner 
got that application from somebody other than Cook, who had his own license."

At the 1995 PCRA hearing, Arnold Howard testified 
that he had loaned his temporary, non-photo 
license to Kenneth Freeman, who was Billy Cook’s 
business partner and close friend. Further, 
Howard stated that police came to his house early 
in the morning on Dec. 9, 1981, and brought him 
to the police station for questioning because he 
was suspected of being “the person who had run 
away” from the scene, but he was released after 
producing a 4:00 a.m. receipt from a drugstore 
across town (which provided an alibi) and telling 
them that he had loaned the application to 
Freeman (who Howard reports was also at the police station that morning).

Also pointing to Freeman’s presence in the car 
with Cook, O’Connor and Schiffmann cite 
prosecution witness Cynthia White’s testimony at 
Cook’s separate trial for charges of assaulting 
Faulkner, where White describes both a “driver” 
and a “passenger” in Cook’s VW. Also notable, 
investigative journalist Dave Lindorff’s book 
Time: An Investigation into the Death Row Case of 
Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2003) features an interview with 
Cook’s lawyer Daniel Alva, in which Alva says 
that Cook had confided to him within days of the 
shooting that Freeman had been with him that morning.

Linn Washington argues that "this third person at 
the crime scene is consistent with eyewitness 
accounts of the shooter fleeing the scene. 
Remember that accounts from both prosecution and 
defense witnesses confirm the existence of a 
fleeing shooter. Abu-Jamal was arrested at the 
scene, critically wounded. He did not run away 
and return in a matter of seconds." Eyewitnesses 
Robert Chobert, Dessie Hightower, Veronica Jones, 
Deborah Kordansky, William Singletary, and Marcus 
Cannon all reported, at various times, that they 
saw one or more men run away from the scene. 
O’Connor writes that “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.” Then there’s eyewitness Robert Harkins, 
whom prosecutor McGill did not call as a witness. 
O’Connor postulates that the prosecutor’s 
decision was because Harkins’ account of a 
struggle between Faulkner and the shooter that 
caused Faulkner to fall on his hands and knees 
before Faulkner was shot “demolished the version 
of the shooting that the state’s other witnesses 
rendered at trial.”  O’Connor writes further that 
“Harkins described the shooter as a little taller 
and heavier than the 6-foot, 200-pound Faulkner,” 
which excludes the 6’1”, 170-lb Abu-Jamal.

Linn Washington’s 
affidavit states that he knew Freeman to be a 
“close friend of Cook's,” and that “Cook and 
Freeman were constantly together.” Washington 
first met Freeman when Freeman reported his 
experience of police brutality to the 
Philadelphia Tribune, where Washington worked. 
Washington says today that "Kenny did not harbor 
any illusions about police being unquestioned 
heroes due to his experiences with being beaten a 
few times by police and police incessantly 
harassing him for his street vending."

Regarding the police harassment and intimidation 
of Freeman, which continued after the arrest of 
Abu-Jamal, Washington adds: "It is significant to 
note that the night after the Faulkner shooting, 
the newsstand that Freeman built and operated at 
16th and Chestnut Streets in Center City burned 
to the ground. In news media accounts of this 
arson, police sources openly boasted to reporters 
that the arsonist was probably a police officer. 
Witnesses claimed to see officers fleeing the 
scene right before the fire was noticed. Needless 
to say, that arson resulted in no arrests.” Dave 
Lindorff argues that the police clearly “had 
their eye on Freeman,” because “only two months 
after Faulkner’s shooting, Freeman was arrested 
in his home, where he was found hiding in his 
attic armed with a .22 caliber pistol, explosives 
and a supply of ammunition. At that time, he was 
not charged with anything.” O’Connor and 
Schiffmann argue that police intimidation 
ultimately escalated to the point where police themselves murdered Freeman.

The morning of May 14, 1985, Freeman’s body was 
found: naked, bound, and with a drug needle in 
his arm. His cause of death was officially 
declared a “heart attack.” The date of Freeman’s 
death is significant because the night before his 
body was found, the police had orchestrated a 
military-style siege on the MOVE organization’s 
West Philadelphia home. Police had fired over 
10,000 rounds of ammunition in 90 minutes and 
used a State Police helicopter to drop a C-4 bomb 
(illegally supplied by the FBI) on MOVE’s roof, 
which started a fire that destroyed the entire 
city block. The MOVE Commission later documented 
that police had shot at MOVE family members when 
they tried to escape the fire: in all, six adults 
and five children were killed.

As a local journalist, Abu-Jamal had criticized 
the city government’s conflicts with MOVE, and 
after his 1981 arrest, MOVE began to publicly 
support him. Through this mutual advocacy, which 
continues today, Abu-Jamal and MOVE’s contentious 
relationship with the Philadelphia authorities 
have always been closely linked. Seen in this 
context, Schiffmann argues that “if Freeman was 
indeed killed by cops, the killing probably was 
part of a general vendetta of the Philadelphia 
cops against their ‘enemies’ and the cops killed 
him because they knew or suspected he had 
something to do with the killing of Faulkner.” 
O’Connor concurs, arguing that “the timing and 
modus operandi of the abduction and killing alone 
suggest an extreme act of police vengeance.”

DA Suppresses Pedro Polakoff’s Crime Scene Photos

On December 6, 2008, 
hundred protesters gathered outside the 
Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, where 
Pam Africa, coordinator of the International 
Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, 
spoke about the newly discovered crime scene 
photos taken by press photographer Pedro 
Polakoff.  Africa cited Polakoff’s statements 
today that he approached the DA’s office with the 
photos in 1981, 1982, and 1995, but that the DA 
had completely ignored him. Polakoff states that 
because he had believed Abu-Jamal was guilty, he 
had no interest in approaching the defense, and 
never did. Consequently, neither the 1982 jury 
nor the defense ever saw Polakoff’s photos. “The 
DA deliberately kept evidence out,” declared 
Africa: “someone should be arrested for 
withholding evidence in a murder trial.”

Advocacy groups called Educators for Mumia and 
Journalists for Mumia explain in their 
sheet, “21 FAQs,” that Polakoff’s photos were 
first discovered by German author Michael 
Schiffmann in May 2006, and published that Fall 
in his book, 
Against Death. One of Polakoff’s photos was first 
published in the US by 
SF Bay View Newspaper on Oct. 24, 2007. 
followed with a Dec. 4, 2007 article, after which 
the photos made their television debut on 
Dec. 6, 2007 
Show. They have since been spotlighted by 
Public Radio, 
Philadelphia Weekly and the new British 
Prison My Whole Life,” which features an interview with Polakoff.

Since May, 2007, 
has displayed four of Polakoff’s photos, making the following points:

Photo 1: Mishandling the Guns - Officer James 
Forbes holds both Abu-Jamal's and Faulkner's guns 
in his bare hand and touches the metal parts. 
This contradicts his later court testimony that 
he had preserved the ballistics evidence by not touching the metal parts.

Photos 2 & 3: The Moving Hat - Faulkner's hat is 
moved from the top of Billy Cook's VW, and placed 
on the sidewalk for the official police photo.

Photo 4: The Missing Taxi – Prosecution witness 
Robert Chobert testified that he was parked 
directly behind Faulkner's car, but the space is empty in the photo.

The Missing Divots – In all of Polakoff’s photos 
of the sidewalk where Faulkner was found, there 
are no large bullet divots, or destroyed chunks 
of cement, which should be visible in the 
pavement if the prosecution scenario was 
accurate, according to which Abu-Jamal shot down 
at Faulkner - and allegedly missed several times 
- while Faulkner was on his back. Also citing the 
police photo, Michael Schiffmann writes: "It is 
thus no question any more whether the scenario 
presented by the prosecution at Abu-Jamal's trial 
is true, because it is physically impossible."

Pedro P. Polakoff was a Philadelphia freelance 
photographer who reports having arrived at the 
crime scene about 12 minutes after the shooting 
was first reported on police radio, and at least 
10 minutes before the Mobile Crime Detection Unit 
that handles crime scene forensics and 
photographs. In Schiffmann’s interview with him, 
Polakoff recounted that “all the officers present 
expressed the firm conviction that Abu-Jamal had 
been the passenger in Billy Cook’s VW and had 
fired and killed Faulkner by a single shot fired 
from the passenger seat of the car.” Polakoff 
bases this on police statements made to him 
directly, and from his having overheard their 
conversations. Polakoff states that this early 
police opinion was apparently the result of their 
interviews of three other witnesses who were 
still present at the crime scene: a parking lot 
attendant, a drug-addicted woman, and another 
woman. None of those eyewitnesses, however, have 
appeared in any report presented to the courts by 
the police or the prosecution.

It is undisputed that Abu-Jamal approached from 
across the street, and was not the passenger in 
Billy Cook’s car. Schiffmann argues that 
Polakoff’s personal account strengthens the 
argument that the actual shooter was Billy Cook’s 
passenger Kenneth Freeman, who Schiffmann 
postulates, fled the scene before police arrived.

Robert Chobert’s Legal Status Withheld From Jury

At prosecutor Joseph McGill’s request, Judge 
Albert Sabo blocked Abu-Jamal’s defense from 
telling the 1982 jury that key prosecution 
eyewitness, taxi driver Robert Chobert, was on 
probation for throwing a molotov cocktail into a 
school yard, for pay. Sabo justified this by 
ruling that Chobert’s offense was not crimen 
falsi, i.e., a crime of deception. Consequently, 
the jury never heard about this, nor that on the 
night of Abu-Jamal’s arrest, Chobert had been 
illegally driving on a suspended license (revoked 
for a DWI). This probation violation could have 
given him up to 30 years in prison, so he was 
extremely vulnerable to pressure from the police. 
Notably, at the later 1995 PCRA hearing, Chobert 
testified that his probation had never been 
revoked, even though he continued to drive his taxi illegally through 1995.

At the 1982 trial, Chobert testified that he was 
in his taxi, which he had parked directly behind 
Faulkner’s police car, and was writing in his log 
book when he heard the first gunshot and looked 
up. Chobert alleged that while he did not see a 
gun in Abu-Jamal’s hand, nor a muzzle flash, he 
did see Abu-Jamal standing over Faulkner, saw 
Abu-Jamal’s hand “jerk back” several times, and 
heard shots after each “jerk.” After the 
shooting, Chobert stated that he got out and approached the scene.

Damaging Chobert’s credibility, however, is 
evidence suggesting that Chobert may have lied 
about his location at the time of Faulkner’s 
death. As noted earlier, the newly discovered 
Polakoff crime scene photos show that the space 
where Chobert testified to being parked directly 
behind Officer Faulkner’s car, was actually 
empty. Yet, even more evidence suggests he lied 
about his location. While prosecution eyewitness 
Cynthia White is the only witness to testify 
seeing Chobert’s taxi parked behind Faulkner’s 
police car, no official eyewitness reported 
seeing White at the scene. Furthermore, Chobert’s 
taxi is missing both from White’s first sketch of 
the crime scene given to police (Defense Exhibit 
D-12), and from a later one (Prosecution Exhibit 
C-35). In a 2001 affidavit, private investigator 
George Michael Newman says that in a 1995 
interview, Chobert told Newman that Chobert was 
actually parked around the corner, on 13th 
Street, north of Locust Street, and did not even see the shooting.

Amnesty International documents that both Chobert 
and White "altered their descriptions of what 
they saw, in ways that supported the 
prosecution's version of events." Chobert first 
told police that the shooter simply “ran away,” 
but after he had identified Abu-Jamal at the 
scene, he said the shooter had run away 30 to 35 
“steps” before he was caught. At trial, Chobert 
changed this distance to 10 “feet,” which was 
closer to the official police account that 
Abu-Jamal was found just a few feet away from Officer Faulkner.

Nevertheless, Chobert did stick to a few 
statements in his trial testimony that 
contradicted the prosecution’s scenario. For 
example, Chobert declared that he did not see the 
apparently unrelated Ford car that, according to 
official reports, was parked in front of Billy 
Cook’s VW. Chobert also claimed that the 
altercation happened behind Cook’s VW (it 
officially happened in front of Cook’s VW), that 
Chobert did not see Abu-Jamal get shot or see 
Officer Faulkner fire his gun, and that the 
shooter was “heavyset”­estimating 200-225 lbs (Abu-Jamal weighed 170 lbs).

In his 2003 book 
Time, Dave Lindorff wrote about two other 
problems with Chobert’s account. While being so 
legally vulnerable, why would Chobert have parked 
directly behind a police car? Why would he have 
left his car and approached the scene, if in 
fact, the shooter were still there? Lindorff 
suggests that “at the time of the incident, 
Chobert might not have thought that the man 
slumped on the curb was the shooter,” because “in 
his initial Dec. 9 statement to police 
investigators, Chobert had said that he saw 
‘another man’ who ‘ran away’
He claimed in his 
statement that police stopped that man, but that 
he didn’t see him later.” Therefore, “if Chobert 
did think he saw the shooter run away, it might 
well explain why he would have felt safe walking 
up to the scene of the shooting as he said he 
did, before the arrival of police.”

The Attempts to Silence Veronica Jones

Veronica Jones was working as a prostitute at the 
crime scene on December 9, 1981. She first told 
police on December 15, 1981 that she had seen two 
men "jogging" away from the scene before police 
arrived. As a defense witness at the 1982 trial, 
Jones denied having made that statement; however, 
later in her testimony she 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 had offered 
to let her and White "work the area if we tell 
them" what they wanted to hear regarding Abu-Jamal's guilt.

At this point, Prosecutor McGill interrupted 
Jones and 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.

The DA and Sabo's efforts to silence Jones 
continued through to the later PCRA hearings that 
started in 1995. Having been unable to locate 
Jones earlier, the defense found Jones in 1996, 
and (over the DA's protests) obtained permission 
from the State Supreme Court to extend the PCRA 
hearings for Jones' testimony. Sabo vehemently 
resisted­arguing that there was not sufficient 
proof of her unavailability in 1995. However, in 
1995 Sabo had refused to order disclosure of 
Jones' home address to the defense team.

Over Sabo’s objections, the defense returned to 
the State Supreme Court, which ordered Sabo to 
conduct a full evidentiary hearing. Sabo's 
attempts to silence Jones continued as she took 
the stand. He immediately threatened her with 
5-10 years imprisonment if she testified to 
having perjured herself in 1982. In defiance, 
Jones persisted with her testimony that she had 
in fact lied in 1982, when she had denied her 
original account to police that she had seen two men “leave the scene.”

Jones testified that she had changed her version 
of events after being visited by two detectives 
in prison, where she was being held on charges of 
robbery and assault. Urging her to both finger 
Abu-Jamal as the shooter and to retract her 
statement about seeing two men “run away,” the 
detectives stressed that she faced up to 10 years 
in prison and the loss of her children if 
convicted. Jones testified in 1996 that in 1982, 
afraid of losing her children, she had decided to 
meet the police halfway: she did not actually 
finger Abu-Jamal, but she did lie about not 
seeing two men running from the scene. 
Accordingly, following the 1982 trial, Jones only 
received probation and was never imprisoned for the charges against her.

During the 1996 cross-examination, the DA 
announced that there was an outstanding arrest 
warrant for Jones on charges of writing a bad 
check, and that she would be arrested after 
concluding her testimony. With tears pouring down 
her face, Jones declared: “This is not going to 
change my testimony!” Despite objections from the 
defense, Sabo allowed New Jersey police to 
handcuff and arrest Jones in the courtroom. While 
the DA attempted to use this arrest to discredit 
Jones, her determination in the face of 
intimidation may, arguably, have made her 
testimony more credible. Outraged by Jones' 
treatment, even the Philadelphia Daily News, 
certainly no fan of Abu-Jamal, reported: “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.”

Jones’ account was given further credibility a 
year later. At the 1997 PCRA hearing, former 
prostitute Pamela Jenkins testified that police 
had tried pressuring her to falsely testify that 
she saw Abu-Jamal shoot Faulkner. In addition, 
Jenkins testified that in late 1981, Cynthia 
White (whom Jenkins knew as a fellow police 
informant) told Jenkins that she was also being 
pressured to testify against Abu-Jamal, 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. Jenkins' 1995 
testimony in this probe, helped to convict Ryan, 
Baird, and other officers, and also to dismiss 
several dozen drug convictions. At the 1997 PCRA 
hearing, Jenkins testified that this same Thomas 
F. Ryan was one of the officers who attempted to have her lie about Abu-Jamal.

More recently, a 
affidavit by former prostitute Yvette Williams 
described police coercion of Cynthia White. The 
affidavit reads: "I was in jail with Cynthia 
White in December of 1981 after Police Officer 
Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed. Cynthia 
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." 
Williams’ affidavit was rejected by 
Judge Pamela Dembe in 2005, the 
in February 2008, and in October 2008, by 
<http://abu-jamal-news.com/article?name=hbpcra>US Supreme Court.

Further supporting the contention that police had 
made a deal with White, author J. Patrick 
O’Connor writes, “Prior to her becoming a 
prosecution witness in Abu-Jamal’s case, White 
had been arrested 38 times for prostitution
she gave her third statement to the police, on 
December 17, 1981, she would not be arrested for 
prostitution in Philadelphia ever again even 
though she admitted at Billy Cook’s trial that 
she continued to be ‘actively working.’” Amnesty 
International reports that later, in 1987, White 
was facing charges of armed robbery, aggravated 
assault, and possession of illegal weapons. A 
judge granted White the right to sign her own 
bail and she was released after a special request 
was made by Philadelphia Police Officer Douglas 
Culbreth (where Culbreth cited her involvement in 
Abu-Jamal’s trial). After White’s release, she 
skipped bail and has never, officially, been seen again.

At the 1997 PCRA hearing, the DA announced that 
Cynthia White was dead, and presented a death 
certificate for a “Cynthia Williams” who died in 
New Jersey in 1992. However, Amnesty 
International reports, “an examination of the 
fingerprint records of White and Williams showed 
no match and the evidence that White is dead is 
far from conclusive.” 
C. Clark Kissinger writes, a Philadelphia police 
detective “testified that the FBI had 
‘authenticated’ that Williams had the same 
fingerprints as White.” However, Kissinger 
continues, “the DA's office refused to produce 
the actual fingerprints,” and “the body of 
Williams was cremated so that no one could ever 
check the facts! Finally, the Ruth Ray listed on 
the death certificate as the mother of the 
deceased Cynthia Williams has given a sworn 
statement to the defense that she is not the 
mother of either Cynthia White or Cynthia 
Williams.” Dave Lindorff reports further that the 
listing of deaths by social security number for 
1992 and later years does not include White’s number.

Gary Wakshul’s Testimony Blocked

On the final day of testimony, Abu-Jamal's lawyer 
discovered Police Officer Gary Wakshul's official 
statement in the police report from the morning 
of Dec. 9, 1981. After riding with Abu-Jamal to 
the hospital and guarding him until treatment for 
his gunshot wound, Wakshul reported: "the negro 
male made no comment." This statement 
contradicted the trial testimony of prosecution 
witnesses Gary Bell (a police officer) and 
Priscilla Durham (a hospital security guard), who 
testified that they had heard Abu-Jamal confess 
to the shooting, while Abu-Jamal was awaiting treatment at the hospital.

When the defense immediately sought to call 
Wakshul as a witness, the DA reported that he was 
on vacation. Judge Sabo denied the defense 
request to locate him for testimony, on grounds 
that it was too late in the trial to even take a 
short recess so that the defense could attempt to 
locate Wakshul. Consequently, the jury never 
heard from Wakshul, nor about his contradictory 
written report. When an outraged Abu-Jamal 
protested, Judge Sabo replied: "You and your attorney goofed."

Wakshul’s report from December 9, 1981 is just 
one of the many reasons cited by Amnesty 
International for their conclusion that Bell’s 
and Durham’s trial testimonies were not credible. 
There are many other problems that merit a closer 
look if we are to determine how important 
Wakshul’s 1982 trial testimony could have been.

The alleged "hospital confession," in which 
Abu-Jamal reportedly shouted, "I shot the 
motherf***er and I hope he dies," was first 
officially reported to police over two months 
after the shooting, by hospital guards Priscilla 
Durham and James LeGrand (February 9, 1982), 
police officer Gary Wakshul (February 11), 
officer Gary Bell (February 25), and officer 
Thomas M. Bray (March1). Of these five, only Bell 
and Durham were called as prosecution witnesses.

When Durham testified at the trial, she added 
something new to her story which she had not 
reported to the police on February 9. She now 
claimed that she had reported the confession to 
her supervisor the next day, on December 10, 
making a hand-written report. Neither her 
supervisor, nor the alleged handwritten statement 
were ever presented in court. Instead, the DA 
sent an officer to the hospital, returning with a 
suspicious typed version of the alleged December 
10 report. Sabo accepted the unsigned and 
unauthenticated paper despite both Durham's 
disavowal (because it was typed and not 
hand-written), and the defense's protest that its 
authorship and authenticity were unproven.

Gary Bell (Faulkner's partner and self-described 
"best friend") testified that his two month 
memory lapse had resulted from his having been so 
upset over Faulkner’s death that he had forgotten to report it to police.

Later, at the 1995 PCRA hearings, Wakshul 
testified that both his contradictory report made 
on December 9, 1981 ("the negro male made no 
comment") and the two month delay were simply bad 
mistakes. He repeated his earlier statement given 
to police on February 11, 1982 that he "didn't 
realize it [Abu-Jamal’s alleged confession] had 
any importance until that day." Contradicting the 
DA’s assertion of Wakshul’s unavailability in 
1982, Wakshul also testified in 1995 that he had 
in fact been home for his 1982 vacation, and 
available for trial testimony, in accordance with 
explicit instructions to stay in town for the 
trial so that he could testify if called.

Just days before his PCRA testimony, undercover 
police officers savagely beat Wakshul in front of 
a sitting Judge, in the Common Pleas Courtroom 
where Wakshul worked as a court crier. The two 
attackers, Kenneth Fleming and Jean Langen, were 
later suspended without pay, as punishment. With 
the motive still unexplained, Dave Lindorff and 
J. Patrick O’Connor speculate that the beating 
may have been used to intimidate Wakshul into 
maintaining his "confession" story at the PCRA hearings.

Regarding Abu-Jamal’s 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."

Conclusion: the DA Still Wants to Execute

“The urgent need for a civil rights investigation 
is heightened because the DA is still trying to 
execute Mumia,” emphasizes Dr. Suzanne Ross, an 
organizer of the campaign seeking an 
investigation. This past March, the US Supreme 
Court declined to hear Abu-Jamal’s appeal for a 
new guilt-phase trial, but the Court has yet to 
rule on whether to hear the appeal made 
simultaneously by the Philadelphia District 
Attorney’s office, which seeks to execute 
Abu-Jamal without granting him a new penalty-phase trial.

In March, 2008, the Third Circuit Court 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 Albert Sabo's instructions to the jury were 
potentially confusing, and that therefore 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. According to the 2001 ruling, 
affirmed in 2008, if the DA wants to re-instate 
the death sentence, the DA must call for a new 
penalty-phase jury trial. In such a penalty 
hearing, new evidence of Abu-Jamal's innocence 
could be presented, but the jury could only 
choose between execution and a life sentence without parole.

The DA is appealing to the US Supreme Court 
against this 2008 affirmation of Yohn’s ruling. 
If the court rules in the DA’s favor, Abu-Jamal 
can be executed without benefit of a new 
sentencing hearing. If the US Supreme Court rules 
against the DA’s appeal, the DA must either 
accept the life sentence for Abu-Jamal, or call 
for the new sentencing hearing. Meanwhile, Mumia 
Abu-Jamal has never left his death row cell.

How You Can Help

Actions are being organized throughout the summer 
to support the campaign for a federal civil 
rights investigation, including at the upcoming 
NAACP convention in New York City, July 11-16. 
Organizers are focusing particularly on July 13, 
the day that Attorney General Holder will address 
the convention. Supporters will then be in 
Washington, D.C., on July 22 to lobby their 
elected officials and, in mid-September, they’ll 
return to Washington, D.C., for a major press conference.

For more information on how you can support the 
campaign for a federal civil rights 
investigation, and to sign the online letter and 
petition to Attorney General Holder, please 

--Hans Bennett is an independent multi-media 
and co-founder of Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal 
Born and raised in the SF Bay Area, Bennett has 
been researching Abu-Jamal’s case for over 10 
years, and lived in Philadelphia for 7 years, 
documenting the movement to free Mumia and all 
political prisoners from the frontlines of the struggle.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/ppnews_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20090617/f3fad9a6/attachment.html>

More information about the PPnews mailing list