Free Comrade Mumia

An article published on a Socialist website parrots the claim that Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed for the murder of a police officer. The background to this case is considered as are some of the numerous lies peddled about Mumia by the gullible.

Twenty-nine years ago, a jury in Philadelphia was asked two questions. Was Mumia Abu-Jamal guilty of the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner? And should he be sentenced to death? The jurors answered yes in both cases. If they had rejected the death penalty, Jamal would have been left to rot in darkness instead of becoming the focus of a frankly ludicrous decades long campaign of disinformation and outright lies as the international poster boy for the struggle against oppression and injustice.

On May 27, in an article dated June 2011, Lois Danks of the oxy-moronic Freedom Socialist Party harps on: “On April 27, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared his death sentence unconstitutional...Abu-Jamal, an acclaimed radical journalist and former member of the Black Panther Party, has spent 29 years on death row after being framed up for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer...The Supreme Court already refused to follow its own legal precedent to throw out the case entirely because of blatant racism in excluding African Americans from the jury...Federal courts also refuse to even consider Abu-Jamal’s innocence, in spite of several witnesses admitting they lied under police intimidation, the judge’s incriminating racist statement of intent to obtain the death penalty, and his exclusion of crucial witnesses and evidence in Abu-Jamal’s favor.”

For those who have been following the Mumia circus, this is nothing new; Miss Danks has simply quoted from an on-line press release issued by one of Jamal’s support groups without bothering to check any of the facts for herself, or perhaps not caring.

The facts of this case are readily discernable with a few clicks of the mouse, but for some reason, people always seem to choose the wrong links. When “researching” the Kennedy Assassination they seldom go to the excellent John McAdams website, much less the American National Archives where they could read a methodically collected official record, instead they go to a website run by a kook who peddles some bizarre conspiracy “theory” that Kennedy was assassinated by the Military Industrial Complex, the Order of the Illuminati, the Mossad, or even by an extra-terrestrial conspiracy of Illuminati, Freemasons, and seventeen species of chlorophyll-based alien life forms (no, I’m not making this up).

Mumia supporters aren’t quite that whacky, but they always start with the assumption that a man who was arrested within two minutes of shooting a police officer in cold-blood with the murder weapon at his feet and a bullet from the officer’s gun in his chest was the victim of a gargantuan frame up.

The nonsense currently being peddled by Lois Danks is easily refuted; to begin with, the Third Circuit Court did not unanimously declare Jamal’s death sentence unconstitutional. The sentence was overturned in December 2001 by Judge Yohn; this was a purely technical decision, and indeed most if not all of the arguments over Jamal’s sentence – as opposed to his conviction – are of the nature of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Judge Yohn’s decision can be found here. This judgment runs to 118 pages, and contains some interesting background information and findings of fact that Miss Danks would do well to read but probably never will.

For those who want to hear how judges arrive at their decisions and how lawyers attempt to influence them, the appeal court has very kindly made an oral recording of the latest hearing in the Jamal case.

Be warned, it is confusing not to mention soporific.

It is clear though that in spite of his finding for Jamal in this matter, Judge Yohn was not impressed with the task he was given, because he stated:

“Many will find it difficult to understand why this and numerous other capital cases are still under review almost twenty years after the trial and conviction. More important, it is clearly painful to the petitioner, his family and friends, and the family and friends of the victim to have this issue renewed and reinforced in their memories after the passage of so much time.

Unfortunately, a number of factors have caused such delays in this and other cases in Pennsylvania.”

Returning to Miss Danks: “Abu-Jamal, an acclaimed radical journalist and former member of the Black Panther Party”.

Both these claims are technically true, but the acclaim that has been heaped on Jamal since his conviction is largely unjustified, and at the time of his arrest he had as good as left journalism behind. At one time, Jamal had been a radio journalist in his native Philadelphia, and there were signs that he had a promising career ahead of him. All that went out the window when he became an obsessive follower – though not a member - of the MOVE cult. His failure to distinguish between objective reporting and advocacy led to his parting company with his employer, and at the time he murdered Officer Faulkner, he was working as a cab driver. The murder happened when Jamal saw Faulkner arresting William Cook, Jamal’s brother, in a routine traffic stop. For some reason, Cook punched Faulkner in the face; Faulkner subdued him using a flashlight, and at this point, Jamal ran across the street and shot Faulkner in the back.

The officer managed to get off a shot of his own, wounding Jamal before Jamal stood over him and emptied his gun, shooting the victim in the head, killing him instantly. He was arrested sitting on the sidewalk and transported to hospital where initially he refused treatment, and nearly died.

While it is also true that Jamal was a Black Panther, his involvement had been of a purely youthful kind. He was a member for just over a year in his teens.

“...framed up for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer”. This is the big one; for people who are interested in the truth, as stated, the aforementioned decision by Judge Yohn contains a summary of the findings of fact delivered by previous tribunals of appeal. This can be found at pages 3-7. A far more detailed account including rebuttals of the countless lies peddled by Jamal’s uncritical supporters can be found on the website Justice4DanielFaulkner. *

Again, back to Miss Danks: “The Supreme Court already refused to follow its own legal precedent to throw out the case entirely because of blatant racism in excluding African Americans from the jury”.

This is a charge that is made over and over and over again. Joanna Fernández, who has made a documentary about Jamal, goes even further. In her own words:

“Thirty percent of African-American males in the United States between the age of about sixteen to twenty-nine are in prison, parole or probation, and all of the violations in Mumia’s case: prosecutorial misconduct, the tampering with evidence on the part of the police to obtain a conviction, judicial bias...discrimination in jury selection, those are the issues that are responsible single-handedly for the incarceration of so many young African-American males in this country”.

Did you get that? It’s all down to the Great White Bigot, so Terry Blair is not in prison because he murdered six innocent black women, he was fitted up by the racist police.

Lee Boyd Malvo who together with his proxy father John Allen Muhammad murdered ten innocent people in the Washington Sniper killings is not in prison for the rest of his life because of his crimes, but because of judicial bias.

Andre Crawford, who raped and murdered eleven black women in Chicago, was the victim of jury tampering. Get real.

The claim that the jury in Jamal’s trial was rigged is a piece of nonsense that is repeated over and over and over again; the basis for this is that in a city that is 40% black, only two of the jurors were. And one of these was removed, not for any sinister reason but because she went home in defiance of the judge to tend her sick cat!

The appellant courts have reviewed this supposed racial bias and found it to be without merit. In Britain, there is none of this nonsense; although jurors aren’t assigned to cases with no objection or discussion, the process is much more limited. If a trial is likely to last two or three months, then clearly there may be some potential jurors who have bona fide reasons for opting out. At this moment, Levi Bellfield is on trial for the murder of one schoolgirl and the attempted kidnap of another. Three years ago, Bellfield was convicted of murdering two young women, following which there was much media coverage concerning his alleged hatred of blondes. The jury in his ongoing trial is made up of seven men and five women. All the women are young; one of them is white, one black, and three apparently of Asian extraction. Suppose though the random jury pool had contained four blonde women, would that be prejudicial? Does he in any case have to suffer a jury which includes five young women, each of whom could be thinking: “He might have murdered me?”

In Jamal’s case, the jury selected had to be willing to consider imposing a death sentence. Also, due to his earlier career as a radio journalist, on a station popular with blacks, any potential jurors who had heard his programme were ineligible.

Other objections have even less validity, including those that the courts have excluded supposedly new evidence that could exculpate Jamal. The reality is somewhat different; it is not simply a case of someone unearthing and presenting new evidence, and the courts rejecting it. There are two basic criteria which must be met before any court will consider new evidence; it must be evidence that was unavailable at the time of the original trial or if it was available there must be a good reason it was not presented. And new evidence must also be worthy of belief. None of the supposedly new evidence adduced in this case comes close to fulfilling either of those criteria, much less both, and in view of some of the ludicrous antics Jamal’s supporters have got up to over the years, it is really rather surprising that none of them has been indicted for perjury or for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Thankfully, not every media savvy person has been taken in by the Mumidiots – as Jamal’s supporters are sometimes called. Like Jamal, the black film maker Tigre Hill is a denizen of Philadelphia; Hill won critical acclaim for his 2006 documentary The Shame Of A City, which exposed the machinations of local politicians, and when he decided to make a documentary about Mumia, it was widely believed he would follow the Mumidiots’ line. Hill though did his homework, and said that although he always thought Jamal was probably guilty, it was not until he began researching the case that he realised just how compelling the evidence against this so-called Voice of the Voiceless really was. For this, Hill has incurred the wrath of black “radicals” like Joanna Fernández, as has Philadelphia’s Attorney General, Seth Williams, who is also black.

Though it would be difficult to find a more open and shut case than the Commonwealth v Mumia Abu-Jamal, the lies and nonsense about his innocence will continue to be peddled by the gullible, the true believers, and the downright evil. The great irony of this case though is that if instead of pleading not guilty, disrupting his trial, and refusing to testify, Jamal had come clean and admitted he’d shot Faulkner in a “moment of madness” he would almost certainly have been convicted only of second degree murder, and possibly freed on parole by now, certainly many people who have been convicted of far more heinous crimes are walking the streets, on both sides of the Atlantic.

[The above op-ed was published originally on May 27, 2011. The linked Lois Danks article is dated June 2011 for some reason, but it is the same one originally linked to. * The Daniel Faulkner website is long gone, but the archived version can be found here.]

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