Revolutionary Worker #899, March 23, 1997
On March 10, attorneys for revolutionary political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal presented powerful new evidence that Mumia was framed for the murder of Philadelphia cop Daniel Faulkner.
During Mumia's original trial in 1982, Cynthia White was the key witness for the prosecution. She was the only witness who claimed to have seen Mumia with a gun in his hand at the scene where Faulkner was killed.
Now, a new witness has come forward, making clear that Cynthia White was coerced by cops into making false testimony. The new witness is Pamela Jenkins, who knew Cynthia White well--they were both prostitutes and police informants in downtown Philadelphia at the time of Faulkner's shooting. In a sworn statement submitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Pamela Jenkins states that White talked about being threatened by cops into testifying against Mumia. Jenkins says that cops also tried to get her to testify against Mumia and falsely identify him as the shooter, but she refused.
Adding weight to Jenkins' testimony is the fact that she was the central government informant and witness in the federal investigation which recently led to the conviction of cops from Philadelphia's 39th District for corruption (see accompanying article). And Jenkins' testimony directly links the railroad of Mumia to the web of police corruption in Philadelphia. Thomas Ryan, one of the cops convicted in the 39th District corruption case, was the same cop who tried to pressure Jenkins into giving perjured testimony against Mumia in 1982.
Commenting on the statement by Jenkins, Leonard Weinglass, Mumia's lead attorney, said: "This adds to our generalized complaints that this case was the product of intimidated witnesses, of threatened witnesses and of police misconduct and misbehavior that caused the evidence to go against Mumia."
When Mumia was charged with the December 1981 murder of Philadelphia cop Faulkner, he was already well known to the authorities. When Mumia joined the Black Panther Party at age 15, he became the target of the FBI's notorious COINTELPRO operation. Later, he was known among the people as a radical radio journalist who exposed police brutality and other injustices. He became a supporter of the organization MOVE, which was under constant attack from the police.
The 1982 trial, presided over by Judge Sabo, was a farce. Sabo colluded with the prosecution, who withheld important evidence and eyewitnesses from the defense. Sabo banned Mumia from the courtroom for most of his trial and forced a court-appointed attorney to defend him. He refused to grant the defense adequate money for ballistics tests and investigators. As a result of all this, Mumia was convicted and sentenced to death in July 1982.
Mumia's original appeal was turned down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case. In the summer of 1995, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge signed a death warrant after he learned Mumia was set to file his Post-Conviction Relief Appeal for a new trial. With this death warrant hanging over Mumia's head, the PCRA hearing was held that summer before Judge Sabo, who denied Mumia's PCRA.
In the spring of 1996, Mumia's attorneys finally found Veronica Jones, a prosecution witness in the 1982 trial. Jones had originally told police she saw two men run away from the scene of the shooting. But at Mumia's trial she claimed she didn't see anyone leave the scene. At a supplemental PCRA hearing in October 1996, Jones testified that she changed her story because cops threatened her with a long prison sentence. The district attorney had Jones taken right off the stand and arrested on an outstanding warrant. Judge Sabo, who presided over this hearing as well, threatened Jones with jail time for perjury. And he ruled that her story should not become part of the record.
Mumia's attorneys have appealed all of Sabo's decisions. This appeal is now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
On March 10 Mumia's attorneys filed new legal papers, centered on Pamela Jenkins' statement. Leonard Weinglass, co-counsel Rachel Wolkenstein, Jenkins and Veronica Jones spoke at a press conference in Philadelphia after the filing.
Weinglass told reporters: "Because Pamela Jenkins now has given us this critical information about the motivation of Cynthia White to testify against Mumia--a fact which was kept from the defense in violation of the Supreme Court orders of the United States that all such material be turned over--we are asking now that the case be reopened, remanded to the Court of Common Pleas for Pamela Jenkins' testimony. We think her testimony, as a matter of fact, added to the testimony already given by Veronica Jones about police intimidation and by witness William Singletary, calls now for a new trial without further hearing and in accordance with doctrine of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, even mandates an absolute dismissal of the case against Mumia." (At the 1995 PCRA hearing, Singletary testified that he had been threatened by the police to withdraw his original true statement that he had seen the man who shot Faulkner, and it wasn't Mumia.)
As a teenager, Pamela Jenkins was arrested by a truant officer named Thomas Ryan, who later became a cop. Ryan started a relationship with Jenkins and then got her to become an informant. At the time Faulkner was shot, Jenkins was a prostitute working the center city area along with Cynthia White.
At the press conference, Jenkins recalled how the cops tried to force her to testify against Mumia: "I was 16 and I was brought down and asked about this case.... I've been an informant for Tom Ryan for 16 years, maybe more. And Tom Ryan brought me down to meet Richard Ryan and asked me did I know about the Jamal case. And they was putting a lot of pressure on me to testify that I seen Jamal with a gun. And I didn't get into it, and they kept pressuring me. I was paid $150 to find Cynthia White."
In her affidavit, Jenkins states: "I knew that Cynthia White worked as a prostitute in the center city area, specifically at Locust and 13th Street, during 1980 and 1981 and that she was a prostitute, police informant and turned tricks for police officers in the district... During the same period of time, Cynthia White told me that she was afraid of the police and that the police were trying to get her to say something about the shooting. Lucky [Cynthia White] also told me that she had been threatened with her life by a police officer because of the Jamal case."
The new brief filed by Mumia's legal team notes: "Jenkins' description of police intimidation of prostitutes fits the pattern of police/prostitute activities in Philadelphia's center city area at that time.... In 1981, the FBI had begun an undercover investigation of Philadelphia police control of prostitution rings in the center city, where the shooting in this case took place. That investigation exposed a well-entrenched symbiotic relationship in which center city police took `protection' money while manipulating prostitutes and pimps to provide perjured pro-prosecution testimony. Ultimately, the investigation led to the convictions of over 20 Philadelphia police officers on charges including extortion from pimps and prostitutes. Similar patterns of misconduct were uncovered in the wide-ranging 39th District scandal."
At the press conference, Leonard Weinglass outlined the importance of Jenkins' revelations about the prosecution's key witness against Mumia: "As I mentioned, [Cynthia White] was the only witness to say that Mumia had a gun drawn on the night in question. None of the other witnesses who observed these events had Mumia with a gun in his hand. Also, peculiarly enough, all of the prosecution witnesses said that they didn't see Cynthia White at the scene of the shooting. And as a matter of fact, two defense witnesses place her some distance from the scene of the shooting at the time of the shooting, at a point at which she could not have observed the events she testified to.
"You only have to follow her testimony at the trial to realize that it was coerced and false. First, she said Mumia drew a gun with his left hand, under oath. Three days later, under the same oath, she said no, it was in his right hand. Five months later when she testified, she said she didn't know which hand it was in. And all the rest of her testimony indicates truly a false witness, a coerced witness and an intimidated witness. And today, in the person of Pamela Jenkins, we have a witness who will confirm the truth to why Cynthia White came forward and testified falsely against Mumia."
Jenkins' statement reveals further information about the police conspiracy against Mumia. Jenkins states Thomas Ryan told her that the cops on the scene the night Faulkner was shot included Richard Ryan, one named "Boston," and another known as "Sarge." According to Attorney Wolkenstein, "Sarge" may be Louis Maier, one of the cops convicted of corruption along with Thomas Ryan in the 39th District scandal. This is the first time Mumia's attorneys have ever heard of these cops. There is no mention of their presence in papers turned over to the defense by the prosecution, no police reports, nothing.
Weinglass said that investigators for Mumia have been searching around the clock for Cynthia White. Mumia's lawyers suspect that White is in the Philadelphia area and that the police are hiding her. There is clear evidence for this suspicion. After giving false testimony at Mumia's trial, White continued to work the streets under police protection. She was arrested many times, but every time the charges were dropped or plea bargains were worked out.
In 1987, White was arrested on more serious robbery charges. A judge was about to order White held without bail when a homicide detective came forward and asked the judge to release her because she was a state witness in a "very high profile case." The judge and the D.A. agreed to let her sign herself out. She did not appear for the court date on the robbery charges, and she has not been seen since. She has not been put on an "NCIC list," a national list of people who are supposed to be returned to the Philadelphia police if she is arrested somewhere else.
Weinglass pointed out: "We are not dealing with just another criminal case. We are dealing with a case in which the police are invested in seeing to it that this conviction and death penalty stays. So we're up against very high odds. And I must tell you that we have used, in the last four weeks, a number of investigators working round the clock trying to beat the police here in the city at their own game, and it's not easy. It's not easy. And it is just a matter of grace that we have Pamela Jenkins here, who is willing to take the risk, and it's a serious risk, of coming forward and telling the truth. Not many people will do this. Veronica's done it. Pamela's now done it. Cynthia remains elusive and we've come very close to Cynthia, but we are up against a determined force to see to it that we don't get her."
Veronica Jones has been courageously speaking out for Mumia, in the face of open threats by the police and authorities. She appeared at a March 9 Refuse & Resist! program about Mumia in New York City. The next day at the press conference in Philadelphia, Jones made a plea to Cynthia White. In a voice choked by emotion, she said: "Lucky, we know you're out there.... We can bring this down to a nutshell if you just come forth. We've all lost a lot by coming forth. I've lost somebody I love dearly, but the most important people are still in my life.... Just do this one time, one favor. That's not asking a lot, you know? Then maybe you can clear up your past, like the rest of us are doing."
As more and more facts come out in Mumia's case, the evidence mounts that he has been railroaded--that a profound injustice has taken place. And the new revelations about the connections between the frame-up of Mumia and police corruption in Philadelphia show that this is much more than just the story of one man. The railroad of Mumia concentrates the way Black people are routinely mistreated by the police, the courts, the prisons, the media...by the whole system in this country.
The railroad of Mumia reveals how the U.S. government deals with political opponents--especially revolutionaries whose voices connect with those at the bottom of society. A climate is being manufactured that demands more prisons, more punishment and speedier executions. For all who want to defeat this police-state tide--the struggle to free Mumia and other political prisoners is a key battlefront.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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