The Case For Mumia Abu-Jamal
In 1981, Mumia worked as a cab driver at night to supplement his income. On December 9th he was driving his taxi through the red light district of downtown Philadelphia at around 4 a.m. Mumia testifies that he let off a fare and parked near the corner of 13th and Locust Streets. Upon hearing gunshots, he turned and saw his brother, William Cook, staggering in the street. Mumia exited the cab and ran to the scene, where he was shot by a uniformed police officer and fell to the ground, fading in and out of consciousness. Within minutes, police arrived on the scene to find Officer Faulkner and Mumia shot; Faulkner died. Mumia was arrested, savagely beaten, thrown into a paddy wagon and driven to a hospital a few blocks away (suspiciously, it took over 30 minutes to arrive at the hospital). Mumia somehow survived.
The trial began in 1982 with Judge Sabo (who sent more people to death row than any other judge) presiding. Mumia wished to represent himself and have John Africa as his legal advisor, but before jury selection had finished, this right was revoked and an attorney was forcibly appointed for him. Throughout the trial, Mumia was accused of disrupting court proceedings and was not allowed to attend most of his own trial. Sabo lived up to his nickname of “Prosecutor in Robes.”
The prosecution claimed that the shot which killed Faulkner came from Mumia Abu-Jamal’s legally registered .38-caliber weapon, contradicting the medical examiner’s report that the bullet removed from Faulkner’s brain was a .44-caliber. This fact was kept from the jury. Moreover, a ballistics expert found it incredible that police at the scene failed to test Mumia’s gun to see if has been recently fired, or to test his hands for powder residue. One of the most damning prosecution claims was that Mumia confessed at the hospital. However, this confession was not reported until nearly two months after December 9th, immediately after Mumia had filed a brutality suit against the police. One of the officers who claims to have heard the confession is Gary Wakshul. However, in his police report on that day he stated, “the Negro male made no comments.” Dr. Coletta, the attending physician who was with Mumia the entire time, says that he never heard Mumia speak.
The star prosecution witness, a prostitute named Cynthia White, was someone no other witness reported seeing at the scene. During the trial of Billy Cook (Mumia’s brother) just weeks before Mumia’s trial, White gave testimony completely contradictory to what she stated at Mumia’s trial. Her testimony at Billy Cook’s trial placed someone at the scene who was not there when police arrived. This corroborates the other five witness accounts that someone fled the scene. In a 1997 hearing, another former prostitute, Pamela Jenkins, testified that White was acting as a police informant. Other sworn testimony revealed that witness coercion was routinely practiced by the police. In 1995, eyewitness William Singletary testified that police repeatedly tore up his initial statement–that the shooter fled the scene–until he finally signed something acceptable to them. The following year, witness Veronica Jones came forward to testify that she had been coerced into changing her initial statement that two men fled the scene.
Due to the obvious use of police manipulation of witnesses, fabrication and withholding of evidence, and the denial of the defendants constitutionally guaranteed rights, the defense severely hampered in its ability to present a meaningful case, Mumia was found guilty. He was sentenced to death during the penalty phase based almost entirely on his political beliefs, which were radical in nature and supported the Black Panthers and MOVE.
In 2001, court stenographer Terri Maurer-Carter came forward and stated that in 1982, before Mumia’s trial began, she heard Judge Sabo say, “Yeah, and I’m going to help them fry the n****r.” He was referring to Mumia. This backs up evidence of judicial bias and racism in Mumia’s case. In the same year, esteemed Philadelphia journalist Linn Washington stated that on the morning of December 9th, 1981, he went to the scene to report on it–and no police were present. This backs up prior claims that police didn’t handle the crime scene properly.
In 1999, Arnold Beverly confessed to killing Officer Faulkner. This confession is validated by a lie detector test administered by eminent polygraph expert Charles Honts. Despite concrete evidence supporting this confession, the Philadelphia District Attorney has refused to investigate, and the courts have not even allowed it to be heard.
On December 18th, 2001, Judge Yohn issued a decision on the Habeas Corpus petition in Federal District Court. He upheld Mumia’s unjust conviction, but challenged the sentencing phase (the death sentence). This means there could be a new sentencing hearing after all appeals are resolved, but the only options are life in prison with no possibility of parole or another death sentence. This is not justice. There is massive evidence of Mumia’s innocence and he should be absolutely free. Mumia’s legal team filed an appeal of this decision in January of 2002. Mumia remains on death row until all appeals by both sides are heard.
Judge Pamela Dembe’s November 21, 2001, rejection of Mumia’s request to reopen the PCRA hearings was appealed by Mumia’s legal team. Judge Dembe based her decision almost entirely on the Peterkin case, which has just been overturned! On October 8, 2003, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the appeal, stating that the Beverly confession cannot be heard due to time limitations. The court also stated that Terri Maurer-Carter’s testimony is irrelevant.
If you want to learn about this case and others, please check out these sites and read the Amnesty International Report A Life in the Balance – The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal
- Anarchist Black Cross Network
- Mobilization To Free Mumia
- Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Freedom Journal
- National Jericho Movement
- Prison Activist Resource Center
Brick by brick – wall by wall
We wont sit back – let our brothers and sisters fall
The unjust justice system
Our voice will overthrow
No justice, No peace, No racist police!