PHILADEPHIA, PA: Political Prisoners

TAKE ACTION! Big Media Must Not Ignore New Mumia Abu-Jamal Crime Scene Photos

As the world waits on a decision from Mumia Abu-Jamal's May 17 hearing before the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, new questions are being raised as to whether the original jurors had access to all available information. On October 6, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ) issued a press-release stating that recently disclosed photos taken by press photographer Pedro Polakoff amount to "more evidence that basic investigative protocol was violated by police from the earliest moments of the killing."

Pictured: Rap artist Immortal Technique holds a poster depicting several of Polakoff's photos. From the SF BayView's report on the May 17 hearing.

Dr. Michael Schiffmann of the University of Heidelberg unveiled these 26 photos in May at a press conference in Philadelphia. (View four of the photos here). The story was picked up by independent media, but no mainstream media outlet has acknowledged it. Readers are encouraged to contact the media directly, and have prepared a list of media contacts and a sample letter.

In anticipation of the Third Circuit Court's ruling, supporters in Philadelphia, the SF Bay Area and around the world are preparing for emergency "day after" actions. They continue to highlight the connections between Mumia's struggle and other political prisoners -- such as Leonard Peltier, the Cuban Five, the SF 8, and the MOVE 9. Meanwhile, Mumia continues his prolific journalism production from death row, with two new stories on the housing crisis in the US, as well as stories on Jena, Blackwater, and many more (see below).

Related Coverage: Listen to May 17 courtroom audio ||| "In Prison My Whole Life" Premieres October 25 (view trailer) ||| Pacifica Radio's Margaret Prescod Interviews Mumia ||| Uprising Radio's Sonali Kolhatkar Interviews Mumia ||| Mumia Abu-Jamal: On the Road to Freedom? ||| The Trial of Billy Cook ||| Attention MOVE: This is America! ||| "Wettlauf gegen den Tod" Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal has also issued audio reports on the following topics: FISA, Ahmadinejad, Pakistan, War Resistance, Congress, 9-11,NYC Racism, Tennis, Los Cinco, MOVE, Troy Davis, Kenneth Foster, Haditha, Katrina, Michael Vick, Ward Churchill, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Elections, Think Tanks, War, Vietnam, Alberto Gonzales, and more.

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SAMPLE LETTER to the Media

Please contact the media 14.Oct.2007 19:30

Cartoon by John Jonik
Cartoon by John Jonik

Dear Editor,

I am writing to share the new press release from Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, titled "Jurors Never Saw Earliest Photos at Abu-Jamal’s 1982 Trial." German linguist, Michael Schiffmann (University of Heidelberg), has disclosed his discovery of 26 photographs of the Dec. 9, 1981 Mumia Abu-Jamal / Daniel Faulkner crime scene, taken by press photographer Pedro P. Polakoff, which suggest even more evidence that basic investigative protocol was violated by police from the earliest moments of the killing, and most importantly, that Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial, as Amnesty International and others have documented. (View 4 of the photos at

These photos were discovered at a critical time for this controversial death-row prisoner and journalist, whose case is currently before the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments were held on May 17, 2007 concerning four different issues regarding the fairness of Abu-Jamal's original trial. The Court's decision is now expected any week.

In May, Dr. Schiffmann unveiled the new photos in Philadelphia, and issued a press-release with quotes from Abu-Jamal’s lead attorney Robert R. Bryan, as well as journalists Dave Lindorff, and Linn Washington, Jr, available at this link:

In response, Polakoff's photos have received coverage from several activist-oriented websites and radio shows. However, not even one of the really big media outlets has reported on these photos yet, which makes it a fresh and timely story.

These new photos were not considered at the May 17 hearing because of the limited "four-issue scope," however, I feel that the media should report on these photos and present the facts to the US public so that they can consider this new evidence for themselves.

I urge you to please consider doing a news story about the new evidence in this controversial death-penalty case.


The press release below is based upon these seven points:

#1--Polakoff’s photos were the earliest taken at the crime scene, preceding even those taken by the police and used at trial.

#2--The DA’s office not once, but twice ignored Polakoff’s attempts to make the photos available to them.

#3-- Polakoff found the crime scene to be surprisingly and unusually unsecured and unprotected by authorities.

#4--Many of Polakoff’s photos appear to show both manipulation of evidence (e.g. changed position of Faulkner’s hat) and corruption of the crime scene (e.g. police touching of the guns’ metal parts).

#5—Two Polakoff photos show that the cab of prosecution key witness Robert Chobert was not parked at the point from which he says he witnessed the crime.

#6—A full six of the Polakoff photos challenge prosecutors’ claim that Faulkner was on his back and shot by a killer standing above him.

#7-- Polakoff reports that the police’s own earliest theory of the shooting focused on a person who emerged from the passenger seat of Billy Cook’s VW. Police mistook this passenger/shooter for Mumia, when it was likely Kenneth Freeman, who other evidence suggests, rode with Cook.

FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES, please contact:
--Professor Mark L. Taylor (Princeton University, NJ): Author of the EMAJ press-release. (609) 672-8199

--Dr. Michael Schiffmann (University of Heidelberg, Germany): Discovered the new crime scene photos, which appear in his new German book on Abu-Jamal’s case, Race Against Death, and is the co-founder of Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal (

--Hans Bennett (Philadelphia, PA): Philadelphia journalist and co-founder of Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal (

12 Years Educating and Organizing for Abu-Jamal and Justice

Contact: Professor Mark Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary*, 64 Mercer Street, Princeton, NJ 08542. Phone: 609 672-8199. *Institution for identification purposes only.

Jurors Never Saw Earliest Photos at Abu-Jamal’s 1982 Trial


More Evidence that Mumia Abu-Jamal was Denied a Fair Trial

Princeton, NJ. September 16, 2007. Analysts and leaders in human rights investigations for years have charged that Pennsylvania death row prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, did not receive a fair trial when convicted in 1982 of the shooting death of Officer Daniel Faulkner. Amnesty International, for example, continues to call for a new trial, a “fair retrial” of Abu-Jamal.

Now in 2007, German linguist, Michael Schiffmann (University of Heidelberg), has disclosed his discovery of 26 photographs, taken by press photographer Pedro Polakoff, which suggest more evidence that basic investigative protocol was violated by police from the earliest moments of the killing. (As a guide to this Press Release, use the one-page summary at the end of the release, “7 KEY POINTS ON THE POLAKOFF PHOTOS,” which gives in capsule form the significance of the Polakoff photos.)

The very existence of these photos, and what they show, together with the many other indicators of prosecutorial abuse, manipulation of witnesses and violation of Abu-Jamal’s constitutional rights, give still firmer ground that Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial.

Officer Faulkner was slain near the corner of Locust and 13th Streets in the early morning hours of December 9, 1981. At a trial the following summer of 1982, Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of the crime and continues to be on death row in Pennsylvania.

Now, the photos show a crime scene in 1981 that was almost completely unsecured by police, with officers holding crime weapons in their bare hands though they denied doing so at trial, and, with someone evidently having changed the position of Officer Faulkner’s hat at the scene for later dramatic effect at trial.
Before commenting on these revelations more, recall the basics of the case. Abu-Jamal, previously Wesley Cook, a noted journalist and political activist in Philadelphia, was found on the sidewalk along with his brother, Billy Cook, when police arrived on the scene to find the dying Faulkner. Abu-Jamal had also been shot, was beaten by arriving police, and was arraigned in the hospital during recovery from his own critical injuries.

To get the conviction at the 1982 trial, prosecutors argued that Abu-Jamal emerged from a cab he had been driving in the area, and ran through a parking lot across the street to confront Faulkner who had pulled over a Volkswagen driven by Mumia’s brother, Billy Cook. Prosecutors claim that as he approached, Mumia shot Faulkner in the back, and then straddled Faulkner, in spite of having taken a shot in the chest, discharging his revolver at the fallen officer and killing him with a bullet between the eyes.

Abu-Jamal’s case is one of the most contested in the history of the United States. Prosecutors, and the Fraternal Order of Police in support of them, have always claimed to possess a water-tight case of eye-witnesses and conclusive evidence.

Nevertheless, Abu-Jamal’s conviction and death sentence have prompted jurists and human rights organizations worldwide to denounce the trial and death sentence as a travesty of justice. They cite bias in the original judge, a racially-skewed process of jury selection, numerous other denials of due process, and prosecution and police intimidation of witnesses. Amnesty International advised, for example, that “justice would best be served by granting a new trial.”

Abu-Jamal’s defense team identified 29 claims of constitutional violation of Abu-Jamal’s constitutional rights, three of which have recently (May 17, 2007) been argued before the justices of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals that now is in deliberation on those claims.

Schiffmann’s discovery of the 26 photos is announced in his thorough analysis of the case in his 2006 book, Race Against Death: The Struggle for the Life and Freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal (published already in Germany, and awaiting publication in English). The book is an excellent introduction to the case’s complexities. The most startling feature of his study, though, may be the 26 photos he discovered through internet research, taken by experienced press photo-reporter, Pedro P. Polakoff.

These photos still have not been acknowledged or discussed at length by the U.S. media in spite of the long-running public controversy this case has engendered. Seven points, summarized in chart form at end of this press release, dramatize the importance of the Polakoff photos:

Point 1 - The Earliest Photos of the Crime Scene. Press photo-reporter Polakoff arrived at the crime scene just 12 minutes after Faulkner’s killing was reported to police, and he produced at least 26 photos of the scene over a 30-45 minute period, completing them before the Philadelphia Police Department’s Mobile Crime Unit began taking its own pictures.

Point 2 - Officials Ignore Polakoff’s Evidence. Polakoff offered his photos to the D.A.’s office, not once, but twice (before the original 1982 trial and during Mumia’s 1995 PCRA hearings), but at neither opportunity did the prosecutors show any interest or respond to Polakoff’s attempts to contact them. No jury, judge or other legal group has formally reflected on these photos.

Point 3 - An Unsecured Crime Scene. Reflecting on the crime scene in conversation with Schiffmann, Polakoff described it as the “most messed up crime scene I have ever seen,” and, contrary to almost all police protocol and manual instructions, he recalls being permitted to move freely almost everywhere at the scene.

Point 4 - Police Ploys at the Crime Scene. Polakoff’s photos show what appear to be manipulation of evidence and corruption of the crime scene:

(a) A key example of the manipulation of evidence is the movement of slain Officer Faulkner’s hat. The police photos taken later, and then presented to the jury in 1982, show the hat lying on the sidewalk where Faulkner was shot. But one of the earlier of Polakoff’s photos shows the hat resting on the top of his brother’s, Billy Cook’s, Volkswagen.

(b) Exemplary of the corruption of the crime scene are signs of police officers touching the revolvers of Faulkner and Abu-Jamal. At trial, Officer James Forbes denied touching the guns’ metal parts during the full one-and-one-half hour he held them. But not only one, but several of Polakoff’s photos show Forbes holding the guns and touching their metal parts while he stood at the crime scene.

Point 5 - Prosecution’s Cab-Driver Witness: Where Was He? One of the prosecution’s key witnesses, cab driver Robert Chobert, claimed that as the shooting started he was sitting in his cab right behind Faulkner’s police car. But two of Polakoff’s photos show the space behind Faulkner’s squad car at the crime scene, and Chobert’s cab is not parked there.

Point 6 - Did the Killer Really Shoot Downwards at Faulkner on the Pavement? Prosecutors argued that Abu-Jamal, after first shooting him in the back, killed Faulkner by standing over him, unloading several shots from his .38 revolver while Faulkner lay face-up and wounded on the sidewalk, one bullet hitting the policeman “right between the eyes, literally blowing his brains out.” But six of the Polakoff photos show only a clean blood-stain trickling toward the street gutter, not the sidewalk splatter that a .38 revolver would have produced. Even more importantly, the photos also show no traces in the side-walk of the large pieces of cement that the other shots from the .38 revolver would surely have broken out from the pavement.

Point 7 - Police Officers’ Early “Passenger” Theory. Polakoff reported to Schiffmann that officers at the crime scene expressed the conviction that the shooter had been in the passenger seat of Billy Cook’s Volkswagen and had shot Faulkner from that position.

Point 7 warrants special commentary. This early theory of the police was abandoned by the prosecution at trial in favor or an argument that the shooter – according to them, Abu-Jamal – shot Faulkner not from Billy Cook’s Volkswagen, but after running from his own cab parked across the street and toward the crime scene. (Abu-Jamal’s defense did not dispute that Mumia came through a parking lot across the street and had been shot by Faulkner, though of course defense denied claims that Mumia was the shooter.)

Nevertheless, the police officers’ reference to the shooter being in the passenger seat of Cook’s car (based on reports by three unnamed witnesses on the street) is another indication that there was a passenger riding with the driver, Billy Cook. This also gives further support to the much talked-about “third man,” who may have been the shooter and fled the scene.

Schiffmann and others have discussed the various indicators that such a third man was present. These include:

(a) testimony from defense witnesses Dessie Hightower and Veronica Jones (and reports by others) claiming that they saw one or more other persons running from the crime scene after the shooting;

(b) testimony at a 1995 Post-Conviction Relief hearing that a driver’s “license” document found in Officer Faulkner’s shirt pocket after the crime, had been lent to one, Kenneth Freeman, Billy Cook’s business partner and friend who often rode with him in his car. (Freeman, an African-American with dreadlocks, could easily have been confused by police with Mumia when he was emerging from the passenger seat of the VW.)

(c) testimony by one of the prosecution’s own star witnesses, Cynthia White, that two distinct figures, both a driver and a passenger, emerged from Billy Cook’s Volkswagen when it was stopped by Faulkner. This testimony is in the transcript of the earlier March 1982 trial of Billy Cook.

This passenger, this third man, Kenneth Freeman, according to a deposition by journalist Linn Washington, Jr., frequently reported his experiences of police brutality to the Philadelphia Tribune where Washington worked. Washington knew Freeman as a person who had been victimized by police abuse. The person eyewitnesses saw leaving the scene is consistent with the physical description of Freeman. (For more context on Washington’s observations, see his sworn Declaration.)

Billy Cook and Mumia Abu-Jamal did not testify about Freeman, which could have meant pinning criminal blame on a friend of the family.

Kenneth Freeman died on May13/14, 1985, the night of the fire-bombing of the MOVE house, “handcuffed and shot up with drugs and dumped upon a Grink’s lot on Roosevelt Blvd, buck naked” (from testimony at a 1995 PCRA hearing).

No jury heard testimony about Kenneth Freeman, this third man at the crime scene.

(written by Mark L. Taylor, for EMAJ)

View the PDF version of this press release, featuring the “7 KEY POINTS ON THE POLAKOFF PHOTOS,” which gives in capsule form the significance of the Polakoff photos:

View a Sample of the Photos:

IN PRISON MY WHOLE LIFE: An interview with William Francome

Hans Bennett 26.Oct.2007 03:06

In Prison My Whole Life premieres today
In Prison My Whole Life premieres today

IN PRISON MY WHOLE LIFE: An interview with William Francome

--British documentary about US death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal presents shocking new evidence

By Hans Bennett

The trailer for the new British documentary about US death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, titled "In Prison My Whole Life," begins with the film's central character, William Francome, explaining that he's "been aware of Mumia for as long as I can remember. That’s because he was arrested on the night I was born, for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer. As my mom would often remind me, every birthday I had, has been another year that Mumia has spent in prison.... I am going on a journey to find out about the man who has been in prison my whole life."

The 90-minute film premiered on October 25 at both The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival and Rome's International Film Festival. With the acclaimed British actor Colin Firth as an executive producer, "In Prison My Whole Life" is directed by Marc Evans and produced by Livia Firth and Nick Goodwin Self. The film has interviews with such figures as Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Ramona Africa, and musicians Mos Def, Snoop Dogg and Steve Earle. Amnesty International, who concluded in a previous report that Abu-Jamal's original 1982 trial was unfair, is supporting "In Prison" as part as part of its international campaign to abolish the death penalty. Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen says: "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."

In this exclusive interview on the eve of the film's premiere, Francome discloses for the very first time, one of the film's biggest surprises: The film will prominently feature the startling Dec. 9, 1981 crime scene photos that were recently discovered by German author Michael Schiffmann, and are published in his new book. Never presented to the 1982 jury, these new photos (taken by press-photographer Pedro Polakoff) "bolster claims of Mumia's innocence and unfair trial," according to Black Commentator columnist David A. Love.

Polakoff's photos have been shown on the Journalists for Mumia website since Dr. Schiffmann unveiled the photos in May, the same week that The US Third Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments regarding the fairness of Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial (listen to courtroom audio). While waiting for this important court ruling (expected any week), Abu-Jamal's international support network has initiated a media-activist campaign demanding that the major media outlets acknowledge the new crime scene photos. One of Polakoff's photos will be published for the first time in the US, in this week's issue of The San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, which has previously reported on Abu-Jamal's case.

Francome cannot reveal any more of the film's big surprises, but he does say that "for the first time ever, the film interviews people who have never told their story of the events of that night, and offers new insight and theories as to what happened on Locust Street in 1981. To learn more about this, people ought to go and watch the film."

Hans Bennett: What can you tell us about the new crime scene photos discovered by German author Michael Schiffmann, and how they appear in your film?

William Francome: The photos of press photographer Pedro Polakoff feature in the film as well as an interview with him and Michael Schiffmann, the German author who found them.

We had been in contact with Michael from the beginning of this project as he is one of the most knowledgeable people on the case. He had been working on his book 'Race Against Death' when he found a photo online that he realized was not taken by the police at the scene. Somehow (Michael is an amazing investigator) he found Pedro who was a press photographer at the time of the shootings in December of 1981. Pedro had arrived on the scene within minutes and captured much of the initial chaos of the scene.

They are quite amazing photographs as they show the complete lack of professionalism by the police who were faced with the task of preserving the crime scene and any forensic evidence that might be inherent within it. There are pictures of a police officer holding both of the weapons at the scene in one hand without gloves, which would therefore completely contaminate any fingerprints or gun powder residue. They also show the police walking in and out of the scene and show that Officer Faulkner’s hat was moved from photo to photo. I may just be a layman in terms of crime scene maintenance but it seems to me that these are grave and almost criminally negligent mistakes to make. There is also the issue of bullet holes or the lack thereof in the pavement. The photos should show where bullet fragments would have been found in the surrounding cement according to the prosecution witnesses’ account, but this is not the case.

Whether or not these acts were made on purpose remains to be seen, but the photos could have helped clear this case up from the very beginning. Now we are 25 years down the line and we are still asking basic questions of the initial evidence that should not have been left for so long unanswered. Meanwhile, a man is on death row who claims he's innocent and it's been a quarter of a century since a policeman was killed and many feel the killing hasn't been sufficiently solved.

What makes the issue of the photos even more important is that they were purposefully ignored by the prosecution and the District Attorney's Office. Pedro says that he rang them and told them of his photographs and offered them for use in the trial, but that the office never got back to him. It is obvious that the prosecution knew that the photographs of the crime scene could have done their case some damage in court and therefore outright ignored them.

HB: Where does the movie go from here? When can people in the US view it?

WF: The film is about to premiere at the London and Rome film festivals and I'm very happy to say that it's sold out all of its screenings. We are still at the early stages and we have to wait and see if and when it gets taken on by a distributor, what happens next. I'm sure at some point in the near future we'll be screening the film in the US. The film was shot in America and mostly deals with American issues so I look forward to seeing the reaction it gets there. I myself am half American, and spent my teenage years in New York, so I have enjoyed making a film about the country I grew up in as well as having been able to look at it as an outsider.

HB: Why is Mumia's case still so important after 25 years?

WF: I think the fact that Mumia's case is still being debated after twenty five years is an issue in itself. It seems unbelievable to me that you could keep someone in solitary confinement for a quarter of a century as well as having a death sentence hanging over him that whole time. The starting point of this film is that it's been my whole life, and considering all the things that I have done and all the memories I have really helps to put the whole thing in perspective. Try thinking back to what you were doing in 1981 and it might have the same effect. In that time, there have been hundreds of people executed and there are still over 3,000 currently sitting on death row in America. However, despite evidence that people innocent of the crimes they were convicted for have been executed and over 100 people who have been exonerated and released from death row because of new evidence, the death penalty system in America still grinds forward.

After 25 years, the questions of race, cost and inadequate legal representation have yet to be fully and honestly addressed and the issues that caused it to be declared unconstitutional in the 70's persist. In short, as long as there is a death penalty in the United States, Mumia's case and the case of all death row inmates will remain vital and important. People should see this movie because they too seek for answers and honesty from the criminal justice system, and they too, want to gain a greater understanding of the inherent flaws in the death penalty system in the U.S.

Even if people can't relate to the story of Mumia Abu-Jamal or are not affected by it, they might still be able to relate to my story. I think for many people, the journey that I'm going on is enough on its own. This is the story of two lives coming together in a sense, and hopefully it will allow many who have previously been uninterested in the issues surrounding the case to sit up, take notice and find out more on their own. In a ninety minute film, it is hard to comprehensively look into any subject, but you hope that it gives the audience enough to go away and delve further.

--Hans Bennett is an independent journalist and co-founder (with German author Michael Schiffmann) of Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal (

i support policemen

shiva 28.Oct.2007 19:31

hi i can't understand why you are so revolutionary

i love police

i support policemen

shiva 28.Oct.2007 19:31

hi i can't understand why you are so revolutionary

i love police

Guilty as sin

F-Dog 02.Nov.2007 00:12

Frankly, If Mumia were to confess to shooting the officer, you probably wouldn't believe it. Believers in his innocence simply refuse to see the truth in this matter and are now clutching at the very fragile straws being held out in the form of these photos. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. Mumia wasn't convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence; this was, in fact, a slam dunk case. A prosecutor losing a case as easy to win as this one would have been fired for incompetence. The man is guilty as SIN! My guess is that the supporters of Mumia would have also vindicated Adolph Hitler.

Open and Shut Case? Only if you trust the corporate media!

Mumia Was Framed 02.Nov.2007 20:21

This is a section from an article at which analyzes the fabricated confession, the story of Veronica Jones, and the Ballistics.... After reading, can anyone deny the frame-up? All of the new evidence presented in German author Michael Schiffmann's book, gives so many more reasons. The true question is whether Mumia should just be released outright and not put through a whole new trial. How can such an internationally documented injustice continue for over 25 years? "American Justice" is, and always has been a total fraud!

Gary Wakshul and the False Confession

Perhaps the clearest example of fabricated evidence used against Mumia, his alleged “confession,” was suspiciously introduced two months after his arrest. When interviewed in February 1982 by the police Internal Affairs Bureau investigating Mumia's police brutality complaint, Officers Wakshul, Bell, and hospital security guard Priscilla Durham then reported Mumia's supposed “hospital confession” for the first time.

Mumia allegedly declared (in the presence of 15-20 other cops that have never confirmed it): “I shot the motherfucker and I hope the motherfucker dies!”

Testifying in 1982, Bell (Faulkner's partner and “best friend”) claimed the over two month mental lapse (Bell first reported the “confession on February 25, 1982) resulted from being so upset about Faulkner’s death.

At trial, Durham amended her statement to police by suddenly testifying that she had reported the confession to her supervisor the next day. While neither her supervisor or the alleged hand-written statement were presented in court, the DA sent an officer to the hospital--returning with a suspicious typed version of the alleged report. Sabo accepted the paper (not signed or dated) despite both Durham’s disavowal of it (because it was typed and not hand-written) and the defense’s protest that there was no establishment of authorship or authenticity.

Unfortunately, the jury never heard the most explosive evidence discrediting the confession. While the DA called Bell and Durham to testify, Wakshul was suspiciously absent. On the final day of testimony in 1982, Mumia's lawyer discovered Wakshul's statement from Dec.9—the morning of the shooting. After riding with Mumia 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 written report. When an outraged Mumia protested, Sabo cruelly declared: “You and your attorney goofed.”

Wakshul's “Negro male” report was key evidence at the PCRA hearings, and it was well-known that he would have to testify to defend his “confession” story. Unknown to Mumia's lawyers, on July 13 (days before his PCRA testimony) Wakshul was savagely beaten by undercover police officers in front of a Judge in the Common Pleas Courtroom where he worked as a court crier. Almost two years later, the two attackers (members of Philly's Vice Squad) were suspended without pay as punishment. With the motive still unexplained, the beating was likely used to intimidate Wakshul into maintaining his “confession” story at the PCRA hearings.

On the stand, Wakshul defended both his Dec.9 report and the two month delay as just being a bad mistake. Further discrediting the “confession” story, he repeated his incredible statement given to the IAB investigator in 1982: “I didn’t realize it had any importance until that day.”

The original trial's injustice was further exposed when Wakshul 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.

The “confession” story has been thoroughly discredited. As 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.”

The Ballistics

At the PCRA hearings, defense ballistics expert George Fassnacht testified that he declined a request to assist Mumia’s defense in 1982 because the court-allocated $150 was insufficient. Subsequently the defense never presented their own specialist. While testifying that the fatal bullet was probably the same caliber as Mumia's gun (legally purchased after his Taxi was repeatedly robbed), Fassnacht challenged the prosecution's 1982 evidence in two key ways.


Fassnacht defined “particular” and “general” rifling characteristics. “Particular” traits are “the small stria or scratches which identify a particular bullet” as coming from one specific gun. In contrast, “general” traits can only link a bullet to a particular type of gun.

Police experts have always said that the fatal bullet was too damaged to link the “particular” traits to Mumia's 38 caliber Charter Arms revolver.

Fassnacht noted an unexplainable contradiction in police ballistic expert Anthony Paul's original report. Paul first describes the bullet's “general” traits as “indeterminable.” Contradicting himself in the same report, Paul later identified a general trait: a “right-hand direction of twist.” Paul's 1982 testimony went further by identifying another general trait never mentioned in his written report “8 lands and 8 grooves.”

After deeming the general traits “indeterminable,” Paul then alleged two general traits that conveniently implicated Mumia's gun type. However, even if these “general” traits existed on the bullet, it was not a reliable link to Mumia’s gun. Paul was asked by the defense in 1982, “approximately, how many millions of guns have eight lands and grooves and how many would provide this bullet?” He acknowledged that it could have come from “multiples of millions,” including many millions of guns not manufactured by Charter Arms.

Police did not officially perform two basic forensics tests—the “smell” and “wipe” tests. It is standard to “smell” the gun's barrel for gunpowder (which can be smelled up to 4 or 5 hours after discharge). The “wipe test” checks for gunshot residue on suspects' hands and clothing.

When challenged by the DA, Fassnacht insisted that these tests were reliable and routinely used.

Quoting Amnesty International, “the failure of the police to test Abu-Jamal’s gun, hands, and clothing is deeply troubling.” Most likely, police did perform the tests, but hid this when the results did not implicate Mumia. This obvious ballistics manipulation seriously challenges the credibility of other evidence, such as the police allegation that Mumia’s gun was at his side with five spent cartridges when police arrived.

A third challenge of the prosecution’s ballistics was raised by medical examiner John Hayes. In 1982, prosecutor McGill argued that Mumia had been shot in the chest from below by a falling Faulkner. Recognizing the bullet's downward trajectory McGill claimed that the bullet ricocheted off bone within Mumia’s torso and then tumbled in a downward direction.

Challenging this far-fetched theory, Hayes testified in 1995 that X rays proved the bullet traveled without any deflection. Easily disproving the official scenario, Mumia was probably shot while running across the street towards Faulkner and his brother.

Veronica Jones Exposes Coerced Testimony

Veronica Jones' 1996 PCRA testimony exposed police coercion of witnesses and further discredited the 1982 testimony of the DA's star witness: prostitute Cynthia White (the only one to actually testify to seeing Abu-Jamal pull the trigger).

The story begins on Dec.15, 1981 when Jones (a prostitute who was working nearby on Dec.9) first told police that she had seen two men “jogging” away from the crime scene before police arrived. Testifying in 1982, Jones recanted and denied ever making the statement. However, when asked if she had talked to the police since her first statement, Jones testified that police had visited her in jail the next month:

“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 reported that police offered to let her and White “work the area if we tell them.”

Calling her testimony “absolutely irrelevant,” the DA moved to block the line of questioning and strike the previous statements. Because Sabo happily complied, the jury was ordered to disregard Jones' statement regarding White and a police offer of freedom to “work the area” in return for testimony that Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner.

The DA and Sabo's efforts to silence Jones continued through to the PCRA hearings.

Unable to locate her 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 resisted—arguing 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 then 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 testified to perjury in 1982 when she recanted seeing two men “run away” and “leave the scene.”

She testified to changing 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 finger Mumia, the detectives stressed that she faced up to 10 years in prison and the loss of her children if convicted. Afraid of losing her children, Jones testified to having met the police halfway: she didn't actually finger Mumia, but she did lie about not seeing two men running from the scene. Accordingly, Jones only received probation and was never imprisoned for these 1982 charges.

During 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.

While the DA attempted to use this arrest to discredit Jones, her determination in the face of intimidation only made her more credible. Outraged by Jones' treatment, even the mainstream Philadelphia Daily News 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.”

The same coercion of witnesses by police, DA, and judge exposed by Jones' story was rampant in Mumia's case. Documented by Amnesty International, witnesses Cynthia White (a prostitute facing multiple charges) and Robert Chobert (an arsonist on probation, driving his cab without a license, which he had lost twice due to DWI) also “altered their descriptions of what they saw, in ways that supported the prosecution's version of events.”

While the defense did attempt to challenge these discrepancies, Sabo blocked efforts to inform the 1982 jury fully about the vulnerability of these witnesses to police pressure.

Speaking about White, both Veronica Jones (in 1996) and another ex-prostitute, Pamela Jenkins (in 1997) testified that she was blackmailed into her testimony by the police, who had the power to pursue or drop prostitution charges against her, and in January 2002, yet another witness, Yvette Williams, testified that White’s trial testimony against Mumia was the result of her fearing for her life because of threats by the police.

As for the second most important prosecution witness, cab driver Robert Chobert, he was not only vulnerable because he had been driving without a license, but also because he was on probation because he had firebombed a school, and with his probation revoked for illegally driving a cab, he faced a potentially very long time in jail. And yet his probation was never revoked while he continued to illegally drive his cab at least until the 1995 PCRA hearing, with an occasional fine being his heaviest punishment.

Sabo, of course, never found any trouble with any of this, neither in the original 1982 trial nor during the PCRA hearings – a stance that is probably best explained by his general stance with regard to Mumia right from the start, which is encapsulated in the statement of a new witness who came forward years after the trial.

“I'm Going To Help Them Fry The Nigger”

In 2001 another witness—Terri Mauer-Carter—challenged Sabo's integrity, but the State Supreme Court ruled against the defense's right to have her affidavit considered. Mauer-Carter was working as a stenographer in the Philadelphia Court system on the eve of Mumia's 1982 trial. She states that she overheard judge Sabo say in reference to Mumia's case that he was going to help the prosecution “fry the nigger.”

In 2002, Journalist Dave Lindorff interviewed Mauer-Carter's former boss, Richard Klein, who was with Mauer-Carter when she states she overheard Sabo. A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge at the time who now sits on PA's Superior Court, Klein told Lindorff: "I won't say it did happen, and I won't say it didn't. That was a long time ago." Lindorff considers Klein's refusal to firmly reject Mauer-Carter's claim to be an affirmation of her statement.

The 2003 State Supreme Court ruling was an affirmation of lower-level Judge Patricia Dembe's argument that even if Maurer-Carter is correct about Sabo's stated intent to use his position as Judge to throw the trial and help the prosecution "fry the nigger," it doesn't matter. According to Dembe, since it "was a jury trial, as long as the presiding Judge's rulings were legally correct, claims as to what might have motivated or animated those rulings are not relevant."

As attorney Robert R. Bryan explains during his interview in this issue of Abu-Jamal News (see cover story), Mauer-Carter’s affidavit is part of the current appeal at the Third Circuit, in regards to the fairness of Judge Sabo.

Grounds For a New Trial

Also supporting a new trial is respected Philadelphia journalist Linn Washington, who has been covering the Abu-Jamal case since the morning of Dec. 9, 1981 when he arrived at the suspiciously unguarded 13th and Locust crime scene while working for The Philadelphia Daily News. In a 2001 affidavit (not part of the current Third Circuit appeal), Washington states that when he arrived “around 8:30 AM,” there were no police officers in sight guarding the scene. “As a veteran of much police beat reporting,” he “found it highly unusual” and “feared that the lack of police presence…would have an adverse effect on the sufficiency of the police investigation.”

In a recent interview, Washington argues that “Abu-Jamal deserves a new trial because he never received a fair trial or a fair hearing from any Pennsylvania state appellate court. It is obvious to non-partisan observers that the trial judge was less than impartial, the prosecutor engaged in improper conduct, police made errors in their investigation and the trial attorney was ineffective.” These are “text book definitions for an unfair trial.”

“When the Abu-Jamal case is placed in context with other cases where the state courts have overturned death and/or life sentences, it is amazing that over a long list of inmates have received relief on claims of injustice far less onerous than those in the Abu-Jamal case. Amnesty International is accurate in its conclusion that state courts have deliberately mishandled this case and those inappropriate actions by courts are part of what fuels international claims that Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial.”