Revolutionary Worker #912, June 22, 1997
On June 6 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued two important rulings on revolutionary political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal for a new trial. The court ordered a June 26 hearing of the testimony of Pamela Jenkins, who recently came forward and said that police tried to coerce her to lie and say Mumia shot a Philadelphia cop--even though she was not on the scene at the time of the shooting. At the same time, the court denied Mumia's request for a hearing to show that Black people were excluded from his jury and that this has been a systematic racist policy in the Philadelphia district attorney's office. Mumia's attorneys requested this hearing after a racist videotape was released by Philadelphia DA Lynne Abraham that showed former Assistant DA Jack McMahon "teaching" prosecutors how to keep Black people off juries.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was arrested on December 9, 1981 for the murder of Philly cop Daniel Faulkner. He was tried in June of 1982 in a blatant frameup and railroaded for a murder he did not commit. On July 3, 1982, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied his appeal in 1989 and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Mumia's appeal for a new trial is now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The heart of the case the government presented against Mumia consisted of three things: (1) Philadelphia cops who claimed Mumia confessed that he shot Faulkner; (2) the claim that Faulkner was shot with a night of the shooting; and (3) the eyewitness testimony of a prostitute named Cynthia White, the only witness who testified that she saw Mumia shoot Faulkner.
At Mumia's 1995 PCRA hearing, his lawyers proved Mumia did not confess. Gary Wakshul, the cop who arrested Mumia, admitted he didn't "remember" the "confession" until two months later "after a round table meeting with the prosecutor and other cops." Mumia's lawyers showed the bullet that killed Faulkner was a .44, not a .38. Witnesses testified they saw men running from the scene after Faulkner was shot. But at the time of the PCRA hearings, Mumia's attorneys couldn't locate Cynthia White as well as another key witness, Veronica Jones. (For more background on Mumia's case see, RW #890)
In 1996 Mumia's legal team finally found Veronica Jones. In October she testified in a supplemental PCRA hearing before Judge Sabo. She confirmed that she originally told police she'd seen two men run from the scene. She said she changed her story at Mumia's trial after police threatened her with a lot of jail time. Judge Sabo threatened Jones with jail time for perjury before she even began to testify. And then after she told the truth, the DA had Jones arrested while she was still on the witness stand!
This spring, Mumia's attorneys found that Pamela Jenkins also had crucial evidence showing Mumia was framed. A sworn affidavit made by Pamela Jenkins was submitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on March 10, 1997. Pamela Jenkins' story shows that Cynthia White, the only witness who claimed Mumia shot Faulkner, had a powerful motive to lie when she took the witness stand.
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 a press conference on March 10, 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."
Jenkins' statement also ties Mumia's case to a big corruption scandal in the Philadelphia Police Department which revealed how the cops framed hundreds of innocent people for murder and drug charges and stole thousands of dollars as they rampaged throughout Black neighborhoods in North Philadelphia. Jenkins was the key witness for the government against the police in this case. And Thomas Ryan--the cop who got Jenkins to be an informant--was one of six Philadelphia cops indicted in the scandal.
Jenkins' statement also 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." 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.
Meanwhile investigators for Mumia have been searching for Cynthia White. Mumia's lawyers suspect White is in the Philadelphia area and that the police are hiding her and there is 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 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 DA agreed to let her sign herself out. She didn't appear for the court date on the robbery charges, has not been seen since and her name has not been put on the national list of people wanted on felony charges.
At the March 10 press conference Mumia's attorney, Leonard 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 the death penalty stays.... 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 very determined force to see that we don't get her."
Mumia's lawyers wanted another hearing to enter into evidence, the racist video made by then-Assistant DA Jack McMahon. This video shows a systematic racist policy to exclude Black people from juries, including in Mumia's case. McMahon made the video in 1986 or 1987 to train new lawyers in the DA's office on how to select a jury. In it, McMahon openly argues that most Black people, especially those from low income areas, should be excluded from juries. He instructs rookie prosecutors that the point of jury selection is not to get a "competent, fair and impartial jury" but to get one that will convict. He targets people to keep off juries, such as teachers, doctors, liberals, social workers or anyone who is "smart." And he repeatedly affirms that he is articulating the policy of fellow prosecutors. (For more, see RW #909.)
The DA's office removed 11 qualified Black jurors from the pool during Mumia's trial. That left just two African-American jurors and 10 white jurors. Mumia has claimed from the beginning of his trial that the DA's office intentionally removed Black people from the jury. The McMahon video shows that excluding Black people from juries was the policy of the DA's office. As Mumia's attorneys have pointed out, for this reason alone Mumia should be granted a new trial. And it is outrageous that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied this hearing--and didn't even bother to give any reason!
The actions of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court indicate they will deny Mumia's appeal unless there is widespread, intense protest of many kinds across the country and around the world. At every point, they have sent Mumia's case back to Judge Sabo--who has presided over every step of this blatant railroad. They have refused defense appeals to order Sabo to grant discovery motions so that secret papers held by the DA's office are turned over. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the power structure must be put in a position where they feel they have to grant Mumia a new trial. This can only happen if the movement for Mumia becomes even more broad, diverse and determined.
A line has to be drawn by everyone now on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Governor Ridge has stated he will sign another death warrant immediately if the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules against Mumia. We cannot let this brother be murdered by the authorities for a crime he did not commit. We cannot wait until Mumia's appeal gets to the federal courts. The government has passed laws that limit appeals on the federal level. And the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 says that state court judge's rulings are "presumed correct" by federal courts--which means the federal courts could refuse to challenge any of Judge Sabo's findings.
The evidence continues to mount in Mumia's case, showing that a profound injustice has taken place. 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 prisoners is a key battlefront.
International Concerned Family and Friends has called for people to come to Philadelphia and demonstrate at the June 26 hearing at 9:00 a.m. on Filbert & Juniper Streets on the northeast corner of City Hall. Concerned Family and Friends is also planning a demonstration and conference in Philly on July 4-5. For more information call (215) 476-8812.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)