[Ppnews] Abu-Jamal Trial; Sidewalk Murder Scene Should Have Displayed Bullet Impacts

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 20 13:39:20 EDT 2010



Exclusive! New Test Shows Key Witnesses Lied at 
Abu-Jamal Trial; Sidewalk Murder Scene Should Have Displayed Bullet Impacts

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 10:58 ­ Anonymous
http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/214


by:
Dave Lindorff and Linn Washington

During the contentious 1982 murder trial of 
Philadelphia radio-journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, a 
central argument of the prosecution in making its 
case for the conviction and for imposition of a 
death penalty was the trial testimony of two key 
eyewitnesses who claimed to have actually seen 
Abu-Jamal fire his pistol repeatedly, at 
virtually point-blank range, into the prone Officer Daniel Faulkner.
This testimony about Abu-Jamal’s shooting at the 
defenseless policeman execution-style solidified 
the prosecution’s portrayal of Abu-Jamal as a cold-blooded assassin.

There was however, always the lingering question, 
never raised at trial, or even during the 
subsequent nearly three-decades-long appeals 
process, of why, if Abu-Jamal had fired four 
bullets downward at Faulkner, only hitting him 
once with a bullet between the eyes on the 
morning of December 9, 1981, there was no 
evidence in the surface of the sidewalk around 
the officer’s body of the bullets that missed.

     Now two independent journalists have raised 
further questions about that troubling lack of 
any evidence of missed shots by doing something 
that neither defense nor prosecution ever 
bothered to do, namely conducting a gun test 
using a similar gun and similar bullets fired 
from a similar distance into a slab of old 
concrete sidewalk similar to the sidewalk at the 
scene of the original shooting on the south side 
of Locust Street just east of 13th Street in Center City, Philadelphia.

Their test conclusively demonstrated it is 
impossible to fire such a gun from a standing 
position into a sidewalk without the bullets 
leaving prominent, unambiguous and clearly 
visible marks. Yet, the prosecution’s case has 
Abu-Jamal performing that exact miracle, missing 
the officer three times without leaving a trace 
of his bad marksmanship. So where are the missing 
bullet marks? The police crime-scene photos 
presented by the prosecution don’t show any, and 
police investigators in their reports don’t 
mention any bullet marks on the sidewalk around the slain officer’s body.

The results of this test fundamentally challenge 
the prosecution’s entire case against Abu-Jamal 
since they contradict both eyewitness testimony 
and physical evidence presented by the 
prosecution about the 1981 murder of Officer 
Faulkner in a seedy section of downtown Philadelphia.

Further, this test reignites questions about how 
police handled and/or mishandled their 
investigation into the murder of Officer 
Faulkner, quickly targeting Abu-Jamal as the killer.

For example, police failed to administer the 
routine gunpowder residue test on Abu-Jamal’s 
hands to determine if he had recently fired a 
gun. Such a test has long been standard procedure 
for crimes involving gun shots. Oddly, police did 
perform this routine residue test on at least two 
persons initially suspected of being at the crime 
scene, including one man who fit the description 
of a man numerous eyewitnesses told police had 
shot Faulkner and then fled the scene. Police, 
finding a critically-wounded Abu-Jamal at the 
crime scene, arrested him immediately, but never 
bothered to do a test of his hands--or if they did, never reported the results.

While appellate courts – federal and state – have 
consistently upheld Abu-Jamal’s conviction, no 
court has considered the contradiction between 
prosecution claims of Abu-Jamal having fired into 
the sidewalk and the complete lack of any 
evidence of bullet impacts, or even of an 
explanation for the missing marks. Last week, the 
Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office curtly 
dismissed results of this test, which shows such 
marks would have been impossible to miss, as yet 
another instance of the “biases and 
misconceptions” regularly presented by persons 
who have not “taken the time to review the entirety of the record
”

      For their experiment, veteran Philadelphia 
journalist Linn Washington, who has investigated 
the Abu-Jamal case since December 1981, obtained 
a Smith & Wesson revolver with a 2-inch barrel, 
similar to the 2-inch-barrel, .38-caliber Charter 
Arms revolver licensed to Abu-Jamal which was 
marked as evidence at the trial as being the 
weapon which was used to shoot and kill Officer Faulkner.

     Meanwhile, journalist Dave Lindorff, who 
spent two years researching and writing  Killing 
Time (Common Courage Press, 2003), the definitive 
independent book about this case, procured the 
concrete test slab, a 200-lb section of old 
sidewalk, about two feet square, five inches 
thick and containing a mix of gravel and a 
steel-reinforcing screen, that had recently been 
ripped up during construction of a new high 
school in Upper Dublin, PA. He then constructed a 
protective shield using a wooden frame and a 
section of galvanized, corrugated-steel roofing 
material purchased from Home Depot.

     A small one-inch-diameter hole was drilled 
through the steel sheet about 18 inches from 
ground level, to enable Washington to point the 
pistol barrel through and fire at the concrete 
without risk of being injured by flying shrapnel 
or concrete fragments. Washington also wore 
shatter-proof military-surplus goggles for the 
experiment, so he could safely aim through the 
hole. During the test a total of seven bullets, 
including Plus-P high-velocity projectiles 
similar to the spent cartridges police reported 
finding in Abu-Jamal’s gun, were fired downward 
at the sidewalk slab from a standing position, 
replicating the prosecution’s version of the 
murder. (A Penn State history professor 
knowledgeable about firearms and ballistics 
including the construction of bullets, observed 
the experiment from start to finish.)

After each shot was fired into the concrete, the 
resulting impact point was labeled with a 
felt-tipped pen. Still photographs were taken showing all seven bullet impacts.

          The entire experiment was also filmed 
using a broadcast-quality video camera.

     What is clear from this experiment is that 
the bullets fired at close range into the 
sidewalk sample all left clearly visible marks. 
The three bullets that had metal jackets produced 
significant divots in the concrete, one of these 
about 1/8 of an inch deep, and two shallower, but 
easily observed visually and easily felt with the 
fingertip.  The other four bullets, lead 
projectiles only, left smaller indentations, as 
well as clearly visible gray circular imprints, 
each over a half inch in diameter, where the lead 
from the bullets appears to have melted on impact 
and then solidified on the concrete. Police crime 
scene reports list investigators recovering 
fragments of at least two jacketed bullets at the 
scene (Faulkner’s police-issue Smith & Wesson 
revolver was firing non-jacketed ammunition).

     When a photo image of these seven prominent 
impact sites from the bullets is compared to 
detailed police crime-scene photos, the absence 
of similar such marks at the crime scene is 
obvious. Even the higher-quality photos of the 
shooting scene that were taken by Pedro Polokoff, 
a professional news photographer who arrived at 
the shooting scene within 20 minutes of hearing 
about it on his police radio scanner (well ahead 
of the police photographer and crime-scene 
investigation technicians), show no bullet marks.

     The bizarre lack of any sign of other 
bullets having been fired down at Faulkner raises 
a grave question about the truthfulness of the 
two key prosecution witnesses, prostitute Cynthia 
White and taxi driver Robert Chobert. As recorded 
in the trial transcript, Prosecutor Joseph McGill 
made a big point of having Chobert, a young white 
man, describe during the June 1982 trial exactly 
what he allegedly saw Abu-Jamal do in shooting 
Officer Faulkner. He asked, “Now, when the 
Defendant was standing over the officer, could 
you show me exactly what motion he was making or what you saw?”

     Chobert replied, “I saw him point down and fire some more shots into him.”

           McGill asked, “Now you’re indicating, 
for the Record, a movement of his right arm with 
his finger pointed toward the direction of the 
ground and moving his wrist and hand up and down 
approximately three, four times, is that right?”

     Chobert replied, “Yes.”

     Cynthia White, for her part, testified that 
Abu-Jamal “came over and he came on top of the 
police officer and shot some more times.”

     If there are no bullet marks around the spot 
where Faulkner was lying when he was shot in the 
face, neither of these testimonies by the two 
prosecution witnesses are remotely credible.

           And there is another question. When 
the protective steel sheet was checked after this 
gun test, there were deep dents in the metal 
which were produced by either concrete fragments 
blown out of the sidewalk or by bullet fragments. 
Such debris, large and small, would have been 
embedded in Faulkner’s uniform and/or in exposed 
skin, such as the sides of his head, or 
underneath his clothes, and yet the coroner’s 
report and a report on the analysis of his police 
jacket make no mention of concrete, rock or bullet fragments.

     One can additionally speculate about why, if 
there were in fact bullet marks in the sidewalk, 
police investigators at the scene never 
identified and marked them off with chalk, and 
never photographed them, as would be standard 
procedure in any shooting, not to mention a 
shooting death of a policeman. Even more curious, 
investigators did note, and even removed as 
possible evidence, a bullet fragment found in a 
door jamb well behind Faulkner’s fallen body, as 
well as gathering up three other minute bullet 
fragments. These actions show that on the morning 
of the 1981 shooting investigators were combing 
the crime scene looking for evidence of bullets. 
Had there been impact marks in the vicinity of 
where Faulkner’s body was lying, they would 
surely have noticed them and marked them for evidence.

     We provided our gun test result photo, as 
well as a crime-scene photo showing the spot on 
the sidewalk where Faulkner’s body was found, and 
where there should have been bullet marks in the 
pavement, to Robert Nelson, a veteran photo 
analyst at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 
Pasadena, California who is on the team that 
enhances and analyzes the photos sent in from the 
Cassini Saturn probe. Employing the same 
technology and skill that he uses in working with 
those photos from deep space, Nelson subjected 
the Polokoff photo to analysis and compared it to 
the gun test photo. Nelson offered the following comment:

     “When one shoots a bullet into solid 
concrete, the concrete shatters at the impact 
point and creates a lot of scattering surfaces. 
It contains many micro-cracks that scatter the 
light more and make the impact area appear to be 
more reflective. This is apparent in the white 
circular areas in the test image.

     “When the police photograph image is 
brightness adjusted for comparison with the test 
image, no obvious reflective zones 
(shatter-zones) are detected in the concrete 
surrounding the bloodspot. This result is 
inconsistent with the argument that several gun 
shots were fired into the concrete at close 
range, missing the body of the police officer and 
impacting the concrete. There are no 
lighter-colored circular areas suggesting shattering in the crime scene image.”

Dr. Michael Schiffmann, a University of 
Heidelberg professor and author of Wettlauf gegen 
den Tod. Mumia Abu-Jamal: ein schwarzer 
Revolutionär im weißen Amerika (Promedia, Vienna, 
2006)), a detailed book about Abu-Jamal released 
in Europe, questioned a number of experts about 
the missing bullet marks including the longtime 
head of ballistics in the medical examiner’s 
office in Tübingen, Germany. This medical 
examiner told Schiffmann that the notion that 
police investigators might have somehow 
overlooked the bullet impact sites around 
Faulkner’s body, or might have failed to 
recognize them as bullet marks, is “absolute 
nonsense.” That medical examiner says the marks 
would have been evident and identifiable as being 
caused by bullet impacts even if Faulkner’s blood had flowed over them.

     There are, moreover, other good reasons to 
doubt that White and Chobert were telling the 
truth, or even that either one of them was actually a witness to the shooting.

     Chobert claimed at trial to have pulled his 
taxi up directly behind Officer Faulkner’s squad 
car, which itself was parked directly behind the 
Volkswagen Beetle owned by Abu-Jamal’s younger 
brother William Cook, whom Faulkner had 
supposedly stopped for a traffic violation. 
Though the trial judge, Albert Sabo, withheld 
this information from the jury, Chobert at the 
time of the shooting admitted to the court that 
he was driving his cab illegally on a license 
that had been suspended following a DUI 
conviction. He was also serving five year’s 
probation for the crime of felony arson of an 
elementary school. Under such circumstances, one 
has to ask if such a driver would have 
deliberately parked his cab behind a police 
vehicle, where there was a risk he could have 
been questioned, arrested by the officer, and 
possibly even jailed for violating conditions of his probation.

     In any event, there also are no crime-scene 
photos that depict a taxi parked behind 
Faulkner’s squad car. Indeed, the official police 
crime photos, as well as those taken even earlier 
by Polokoff, show no taxi behind Faulkner’s car. 
Chobert’s cab’s absence from crime scene photos 
raises an inescapable issue: either Chobert did 
not park behind Faulkner’s patrol car as he 
claimed in sworn trial testimony, or police 
removed his car less than 20 minutes after 
arriving on the scene and before investigators 
and a department photographer had gotten 
there...an action constituting illegal tampering with the crime scene.

Further raising questions about whether Chobert 
was actually where he claimed to have been during 
the shooting, a diagram of the crime scene drawn 
by Cynthia White, plus a second one drawn by a 
police artist following her instructions, show no 
taxi, though they do show, in front of Cook’s VW, 
the extraneous detail of a Ford sedan that played 
no role at all in the case. No other witness at 
the trial except for White ever testified to 
having seen Chobert’s taxi. Furthermore, if 
Chobert had witnessed the shooting while sitting 
at the wheel of his cab behind Faulkner’s squad 
car, as he testified, his view of the shooting, 
which took place on the sidewalk on the driver’s 
side of the parked cars, would have been blocked 
by both Faulkner’s and Cook’s parked vehicles. 
Making his alleged view even more problematic, it 
was dark at the time, Faulkner’s tail lights were 
on, and his glare-producing dome lights were flashing brightly.

     As for Cynthia White, though she claimed to 
have been standing on the sidewalk by the 
intersection of 13th and Locust, just feet from 
the shooting, no witness at the trial, including 
Chobert, claimed to have seen her there. 
Furthermore, White’s story about the shooting 
changed dramatically over time, as she was 
repeatedly picked up for prostitution, and each 
time, was brought down to the Philadelphia Police 
Homicide Unit, where she was questioned again and 
again about what she had seen. In her first 
interview with detectives, she said she saw 
Abu-Jamal shoot the officer several times before 
Faulkner fell to the ground. A week later, she 
said it had been one or two shots that were fired 
before the officer fell to the ground. A month 
later, in January, 1982, she was talking about 
only one shot being fired before Faulkner was on 
the ground--the version of her account that she eventually presented at trial.

     Given the already problematic nature of both 
Chobert’s and White’s sworn testimony, this new 
gun test evidence demonstrating that there 
certainly should have been obvious bullet marks 
located around Faulkner’s body if, as both these 
“eye-witnesses” testified under oath, he had been 
fired at repeatedly at point blank range by a 
shooter straddling Faulkner’s prone body, the 
whole prosecution story of an execution-style 
slaying of the officer by Abu-Jamal would appear 
to be a prosecution fabrication, complete with 
coached, perjured witnesses, undermining the 
integrity and fairness of the entire trial, as 
well as the subsequent death sentence.

     Told about the results of the their gun 
test, and asked four questions to explain the 
lack of photographic evidence or testimony about 
bullet impact marks in the sidewalk around 
Faulkner’s body, the Philadelphia DA’s office 
offered only a non-response, saying, “The 
murderer has been represented over the past 
twenty plus years by a multitude of lawyers, many 
of whom have closely reviewed the evidence for 
the sole purpose of finding some basis to 
overturn the conviction. As you know, none has 
succeeded, and Mr. Abu-Jamal remains what the evidence proved - a murderer.”

Robert R. Bryan, lead attorney for Abu-Jamal, 
informed of the results of the gun test, and 
shown a copy of the resulting marks on the 
concrete, said, "Wow. This is extraordinarily 
important new evidence that establishes clearly 
that the prosecutor and the Philadelphia Police 
Department were engaged in presenting knowingly 
false testimony to a jury in a case involving the 
life of my client.  The evidence not only 
demonstrates the falsity of the prosecution's 
story about how the shooting occurred, and of the 
effort to portray the shooting to the jury as an 
execution-style slaying. It raises serious 
questions as to whether either of the two key 
witnesses actually were witnesses to the shooting."

Courts – federal and state – have over the years 
rejected all evidentiary challenges and all but 
one procedural error in the Abu-Jamal case, 
despite granting legal relief on the same issues 
as those raised by Abu-Jamal in dozens of other 
Pennsylvania murder cases--including a few cases 
involving the murder of police officers.

In contrast to these consistent court rulings 
declaring Abu-Jamal’s trial to have been fair, 
the respected organization Amnesty International 
and other entities and legal experts contend 
Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial in part 
due to improprieties by police and prosecutors. 
AI’s seminal February 2000 investigative report 
on this case stated, “The politicization of Mumia 
Abu-Jamal’s case may not only have prejudiced his 
right to a fair trial, but may now be undermining 
his right to fair and impartial treatment in the appeal courts.”

The Abu-Jamal case, which has garnered 
international attention, is currently back before 
the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals after 
a remand order by the US Supreme Court to 
re-examine an earlier ruling eliminating 
Abu-Jamal’s death penalty. It is also back in the 
news with two new documentary films being 
premiered this Tuesday (9/21) in 
Philadelphia--one, “The Barrel of a Gun,” which 
concludes Abu-Jamal is guilty, and another 
“Justice on Trial: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal”, which argues his innocence.
* * *

Stay tuned to this site. A short video showing 
the test and explaining it will be posted here later today!




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