Write us!

December 2001 • Vol 1, No. 7 •

Mumia’s State Appeal Denied by Judge Dembe,
Appeal in the Federal Courts is Still Open

by Steve Argue

On November 21 Philadelphia Judge Pamela Dembe rejected death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal to have new evidence heard in state court. That new evidence includes the confession of Arnold Beverly to killing Officer Faulkner, the crime for which Mumia was framed. This is a major blow to Mumia’s legal battle, but it is not his final appeal. One of Mumia’s attorneys, Eliot Grossman, told Socialist Viewpoint that Dembe’s ruling will be appealed to Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Mumia’s case is still in Federal Court before Judge Yohn. This state appeal was an attempt by Mumia’s legal team to bring the case back into a state court to hear new evidence of Mumia’s innocence. The case has yet to be decided in Federal Court. A decision by Judge Yohn in Federal Court for execution would be Mumia’s final legal appeal.

The government’s attempt to execute Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1995 was halted by mass protests and international support which stopped his execution within days of when it was scheduled to take place. Continued support for Mumia in the streets will be necessary to keep Mumia alive and win his freedom. As a journalist, Mumia exposed the murderous police brutality and political repression carried out by the police against the MOVE organization in Philadelphia. That murderous repression was then directed at Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1981.

Mumia has international support

Sam Jordan, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Program to Abolish the Death Penalty, gave speeches on the innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal on September 4, in Durban, South Africa, in connection with the UN Conference on Racism. Other prominent endorsers of Mumia’s campaign for justice include the European Parliament, The Japanese Diet, Nelson Mandela, the Congressional Black Caucus, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and many unions in the United States and around the world.

The frame-up trial of Mumia twenty years ago included the testimony of three eyewitnesses (Veronica Jones, William Singletary, and Robert Chobert) who later said they were threatened, coerced, or made promises by the police to get them to give false testimony against Mumia.

The “eyewitnesses”

Another “eyewitness,” Cynthia White, a prostitute who testified against Mumia at his first trial in 1982, gave completely opposite testimony in two trials (Mumia’s and his brother’s assault trial). In the brother’s trial she testified that there was a passenger in the brother’s car. In Mumia’s trial she testified that there was no passenger. The same prosecutor elicited this contradictory testimony in both trials, pointing to prosecutorial misconduct in the extreme (eliciting perjured testimony). The importance of this perjury was that it helped make the circumstantial part of the prosecution’s case against Mumia. The prosecution argued that only three people were on the scene of the shooting—Mumia, Faulkner, and Mumia’s brother. But obviously, that wasn’t true! Arnold Beverly says that he was hired and paid to shoot and kill Faulkner “along with another guy.” Mumia’s brother, William Cook’s affidavit says that Kenneth Freeman was a passenger in his car on the night of the murder of Faulkner and that, “Freeman told me that night that there was a plan to kill Officer Faulkner, that Freeman was part of that plan, that he was armed that night and participated in the shooting.”

False evidence against Mumia also included a supposed confession to the police by Mumia the night he was arrested. The original police report by Officer Gary Wakshul, who was with Mumia through his arrest and medical treatment stated: “During this time the Negro male made no comment.” Yet Gary Wakshul testified at Mumia’s trial that he heard Mumia confess that night. Gary Wakshul didn’t “remember” this confession until almost three months after Mumia’s arrest when prosecutor McGill met with police asking for a confession. Officer Wakshul absurdly stated that he didn’t think the confession was important at the time he wrote his original report.

Legal bombshell

This past May Mumia’s attorneys dropped a legal bombshell by submitting into court a sworn affidavit that contains the confession of Arnold Beverly to the murder that Mumia is accused of committing. The new evidence the court is refusing to hear includes the confession of Arnold Beverly who states in his sworn affidavit, “I shot Faulkner at close range.” Beverly also states very clearly, “Faulkner was shot in the back and in the face before Jamal came on the scene. Jamal had nothing to do with the shooting.”

Eyewitness statements corroborate Arnold Beverly’s confession. Beverly says he was wearing a green army jacket the night he shot Faulkner. Eyewitness William Singletary says he saw a man shoot Faulkner and it was not Mumia. He states that the killer was wearing a green army jacket.

Four eyewitnesses, including two policemen, put a man wearing a green army jacket on the scene. Five eyewitnesses described a man fleeing the scene the way Beverly describes it.

Mumia was not running anywhere. He was lying on the ground with a bullet in his chest. According to Arnold Beverly, Mumia arrived on the scene after Beverly had already shot Faulkner. Beverly says that an arriving officer, not Faulkner, then shot Mumia. The prosecution claims that Faulkner shot Mumia in self-defense as Faulkner lay dying on the ground. But Beverly’s affidavit is corroborated by forensic evidence and the report of a policeman at the scene. The cop stated that an arriving officer shot Mumia. The downward trajectory of the bullet into Mumia’s chest also makes it physically impossible for Faulkner to have shot Mumia from the ground. In fact five hours after the shooting, a police medical examiner’s report states that Mumia “was shot subsequently by arriving police reinforcements.”

How prosecutors keep evidence of Mumia’s innocence out of court

Arnold Beverly’s sworn confession to a capital offence is backed up by evidence, while the prosecution’s version of events is not. This, however, has not caused the prosecutors to back off. Instead they are arguing that the new evidence was not brought forward in a timely manner.

Ramona Africa spoke on this point at demonstration of 3,000 for Mumia on August 17th stating, “Judge Dembe has said she wants, in three weeks, some briefs to determine whether or not it’s too late to prove his innocence, whether or not this information comes too late. We’re saying it’s never too late! What is she talking about, too late? We ain’t interested in legalities. We’re interested in what’s right. Slavery was legal, but that wasn’t right! Apartheid was legal but that wasn’t right! The murder of Shaka Sankofa down in Texas, despite his innocence, was legal but that wasn’t right! We don’t care about legality. We care about justice and what is right.”

Mumia’s attorney, Eliot Grossman put forward important legal arguments as to why the 60-day limit should not apply to Beverly’s confession which was first made in 1999. He pointed out that Mumia’s former legal team of Leonard Weinglass and Dan Williams misinformed Mumia that they were investigating Arnold Beverly’s confession when in fact they never had any intention of presenting it for evidence. Williams makes this point clear in his book “Executing Justice,” where he states that he doesn’t believe the Beverly confession and that he doesn’t believe the police would ever frame up an innocent man. These attorneys allowed the 60-day time limit to expire without Mumia’s permission or knowledge.

Mumia fired Weinglass and Williams after Williams betrayed attorney client confidentiality by publishing the book, “Executing Justice,” purported to be an insider’s account of Mumia’s case. The publication of the book at a critical time in Mumia’s appeal process shows that Williams was not looking out for Mumia’s legal interests. This, like the treatment of the Arnold Beverly confession, shows that Mumia was not adequately represented.

In July, Mumia’s new legal team filed a petition to suspend legal proceedings in federal court in order to pursue these new legal challenges in the state court. Now that those petitions are denied the case continues to be reviewed in Federal Court. Mumia had not gotten any favorable rulings in federal court either. There, Judge Yohn has already ruled that Beverly’s confession is inadmissible, citing the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996. The act, among other things, sets a time limit of one year for death row inmates to present new evidence. Yohn echoed the prosecution by falsely stating the “petitioner chose not to present his claim to the state court or even to this court until May 2001.”

Yohn’s chilling decision also cited the infamous 1993 Herrera decision that proof of innocence will not necessarily stop a death sentence from being carried out! In addition, according to Clinton’s 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, a decision for execution in Yohn’s court will be Mumia’s final legal appeal. Faced with this situation, Mumia’s legal team attempted to get a hearing with the new evidence in state court. Yet the rulings and statements of both Judge Dembe and Judge Yohn, like those of Judge Sabo before them, are, in effect, ruling out proof of Mumia’s innocence as his defense!

Judge Sabo presided over Mumia’s original frame-up trial. He also came out of retirement to rule against Mumia at subsequent appeal hearings on whether Mumia got a fair trial. At these hearings Sabo ruled that he himself had not violated Mumia’s legal rights by denying him legal representation of his choice and denying him the right to attend his own trial. Judge Sabo also ruled for the prosecution against the admissibility of the testimony of a key eyewitness in the original trial, Veronica Jones, who stated that she was coerced through threats from the police into giving false testimony against Mumia. Jones was a prostitute who says that the police threatened her with prison on warrants and of taking her children away if she didn’t say what the police wanted. She was later arrested right off the witness stand on a petty warrant while she told the truth testifying at the hearing for a new trial.

This testimony was important evidence of the fact that a frame-up had taken place. Yet Sabo did not allow a new trial based on this information or any of the other evidence brought forward.

A key ingredient missing in the prosecution’s case against Mumia is a motive. Beverly’s confession, however, does contain a clear motive. Beverly states, “I was hired, along with another guy, and paid to shoot and kill Faulkner. I had heard that Faulkner was a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area.”

The entire chain of police command that “investigated” Mumia have in fact since been removed from the Philadelphia police force for corruption. At the time Faulkner was killed in December 1981, the FBI was involved in at least three investigations of the police in the center city area for corruption including extortion and bribery connected to the mob, prostitution, after-hours clubs, and gambling in the center city area. Targeted in the FBI investigation were Inspector Alphonzo Giordono, the senior cop at the scene of Faulkner’s shooting, James Carlinini, head of homicide, and John DeBenedetto, head of the division where Faulkner worked.

Witnesses and informants in the FBI investigation were murdered. This included a witness who testified against DeBenedetto in 1983. Police concern that Faulkner may have been an FBI informant could easily have led to his murder. Donald Hersing who was a source for the FBI at the time testifies in an affidavit for the defense that the Philadelphia cops were very concerned about possible FBI informants at the time.

Attorney Eliot Grossman stated at a press conference, “Mumia Abu-Jamal was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a hit was in progress on a police officer causing problems interfering with police corruption.” But for the Philadelphia police he was at the right place at the right time. He had exposed the murderous police violence used against the MOVE organization. Corrupt police officers used the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Today that conspiracy to murder Mumia Abu-Jamal includes judges, DAs, Democrat and Republican politicians, and the corporate media who prevent the presentation of the truth.

Mumia has been on death row for the past 20 years. Yet he continues to write as a voice for the oppressed and exploited. Mumia stands up for unions, against war, against racism, for equal rights for gays and lesbians, for the poor, against the many injustices of the criminal “justice” system. Yet all of the evidence shows that Mumia won’t get justice in America’s capitalist courts unless we turn up the heat.

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s supporters are calling on people of conscience worldwide to rally for Mumia on the weekend of Dec. 7-9, the 20th anniversary of the incident that led to his frame-up. Student walkouts are planned for Friday, Dec. 7. A mass protest is planned in Philadelphia on Saturday, Dec.8. Both Dec. 8 and 9 are set for marches, protests, and teach-ins in cities around the world.

For more information: www.mumia.org





Write us!