Revolutionary Worker #914, July 6, 1997
Philadelphia, June 26--In the latest hearing in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, witness Pamela Jenkins testified to dramatic and powerful evidence that Mumia was framed by the authorities for a murder he did not commit. Once again, the Philadelphia police and the district attorney's office tried to intimidate a witness who has come forward to testify for Mumia. Two weeks before the hearing, police arrested Jenkins on felony charges. She was brought to the hearing directly from lock-up.
At a previous hearing last fall, Veronica Jones testified that she lied at Mumia's original trial in 1982 after police threatened her with years in jail. After her courageous testimony, Jones was arrested right in the courtroom for failing to make a courtroom appearance two years earlier. There is evidence that the police and the authorities have threatened and pressured a number of other witnesses in this case.
Instead of a "witness protection program," the Philadelphia police apparently operate a "witness persecution program" to try to silence those who might help uncover the truth.
But these cowardly attempts to stop witnesses for Mumia from speaking out did not work with Veronica Jones. And on June 26, Pamela Jenkins also stood firm, took the stand and testified.
Pamela Jenkins was a key witness for the federal government's case against police corruption in North Philadelphia's 39th District. Over the years, the cops framed hundreds of innocent people for murder and drug charges, and stole thousands of dollars. Jenkins testified that she and other prostitutes had been paid by police to fabricate evidence. Jenkins' testimony helped send a number of cops to prison. The city was forced to drop many criminal cases and pay millions of dollars in lawsuits. One of the cops who went to prison in this corruption scandal was Tom Ryan--who was involved in the frame-up of Mumia. So Jenkins' testimony links the railroad of Mumia with the web of police corruption in Philadelphia.
Jenkins was a prostitute and a police informant in downtown Philadelphia when police officer Daniel Faulkner was shot in 1981. Mumia Abu-Jamal was arrested for killing Faulkner. Mumia, a former Black Panther Party leader in Philadelphia, was a radio journalist known and respected by the people for exposing police brutality and other injustices. After an obviously rigged trial, Mumia was railroaded on the murder charge and sentenced to death in 1982.
Mumia's appeal of the conviction and death sentence is now being considered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In March of this year, Mumia's lawyers presented an affidavit to the Supreme Court containing sworn testimony by Jenkins. In the statement, Jenkins said that after Faulkner was shot, two Philadelphia cops tried to pressure her into testifying that Mumia did it--even though they knew she wasn't anywhere near the scene of the shooting. Jenkins also said that Cynthia White, the prosecution's main witness against Mumia, was a police informant and that White was also pressured to testify against Mumia. White was the only witness who testified at Mumia's trial that he shot Faulkner. Jenkins also provided Mumia's attorneys with information about at least three other cops who were at the scene of the shooting.
On May 30, the state Supreme Court ordered a hearing on the testimony by Pamela Jenkins--to be held before hanging Judge Sabo, the same judge that presided over the gross injustices at Mumia's original trial.
As the hearing began, Sabo immediately made it clear that he would not allow any other defense witnesses to testify except Pamela Jenkins. When Mumia's attorneys argued that they needed to call the cops named by Jenkins in her affidavit, Sabo yelled, "Take it to the Supreme Court!"
Throughout the hearing, Sabo showed blatant bias against Mumia and his defense team. He often yelled at Mumia's lawyers and threatened lead attorney Leonard Weinglass with disciplinary action. Dan Williams, another attorney on Mumia's legal team, pointed out afterwards, "If any case cries out for cameras in the courtroom, this one does. I don't think the written word does justice to what happens in that courtroom... You can read what he says to counsel to shut up, but it's another thing to hear him say it, and see the facial expressions that happen, to see how he cuts you off."
Pamela Jenkins testified that she met former Philadelphia cop Tom Ryan in 1981 when he picked her up for truancy, and they started a sexual relationship. Ryan was in his 20s and Jenkins was a 15-year-old Black teenager from North Philly. Jenkins also became a police informant for Ryan. She said that a few days after Faulkner was shot, Tom Ryan took her to police headquarters to meet another cop named Richard Ryan. The two pressured her to lie. "They wanted me to say that I saw Mumia shoot the officer," she testified, even though the cops knew she was nowhere near the scene of the shooting.
Jenkins also said she knew another prostitute, Cynthia White, who became the key witness for the prosecution against Mumia. Jenkins testified that cops slept with White and that White provided information to the police. Jenkins said right after she was asked to finger Mumia as the shooter, she talked with Cynthia White twice. White told Jenkins that the police were also trying to coerce her to testify. According to Jenkins, in the first conversation White told her she was "scared." The second time, White told her she was "in fear for her life." Jenkins said that White then disappeared, and that Tom Ryan paid her $150 to find her.
Mumia's lawyers have been searching for Cynthia White for years. She has used many aliases and social security numbers. Despite the fact that she is wanted on a felony charge, her name is not on the NCIC national computerized list of wanted felons. The district attorney's office has refused to provide any information that would enable the defense lawyers to locate White.
Mumia's attorneys believe that Cynthia White is being protected by the Philadelphia police. During her testimony, Pamela Jenkins provided shocking new evidence confirming this suspicion. She testified that she saw Cynthia White in March of this year with Tom Ryan and Richard Ryan. According to Jenkins, she saw White while helping Mumia's defense team look for her. She and an investigator went to a North Philly crack house where she spotted White. When White saw her come in, the missing witness "looked like she saw a ghost" and "ran out the door." Jenkins testified that White got into Tom Ryan's red pickup truck with Tom Ryan and Richard Ryan--the two cops who had tried to pressure Jenkins to testify against Mumia in 1981!
Attorney Leonard Weinglass tried to question Jenkins about the systematic use by the police of prostitutes as informants and police interference with witnesses. This information would back up the defense contention that the police have been hiding Cynthia White in order to prevent her from testifying. But the prosecution repeatedly objected--and Sabo ruled against Mumia every time.
Jenkins said that she was worried the authorities would retaliate for her testimony. She described how she was arrested on felony charges. In March she was involved in the theft of a valuable painting. She cooperated with the FBI in exchange for not being charged with the theft, and the painting was recovered by the authorities. But then in early June--just a few days after the state Supreme Court ordered a hearing on Jenkins' testimony--the Philadelphia police arrested Jenkins and charged her with felonies in connection with the theft. In jail Jenkins saw Richard Ryan, who told her, "You finally graduated to the big leagues. We're gonna sit that ass down." He also told her to "keep my name out" of the Mumia case.
Attorney Weinglass asked Jenkins why she is testifying after such threats. She answered, "I'm not gonna let an innocent man go to death for something he didn't do."
When Jenkins finished, the prosecutors demanded that witnesses for their side be allowed to testify. Sabo must have recognized how damaging it would have been for Jenkins' testimony to stand unchallenged. In a blatant move, Sabo allowed the prosecution to put on their witness--even though he had refused defense requests for additional witnesses!
The prosecutors put into evidence a document they claimed was Cynthia White's death certificate. Everything about this supposed evidence is suspicious. The police claimed they first uncovered the document two weeks before the hearing. It is in the name of Cynthia Williams, one of the aliases White used, and the date of death is marked as 6/2/92. The certificate was issued in Camden, New Jersey, right across the river from Philadelphia. The medical examiner who signed the certificate had been a medical examiner in Philadelphia for 20 years. The police did not match the body with the prints on White's police fingerprint card, the most reliable way to make a positive identification. They did not contact the next of kin listed on the certificate. (Could it be that the Philly police also have a "department of fake death certificates"?)
Attorney Dan Williams pointed out: "The timing is highly suspicious.... The death certificate, if it is a valid death certificate, only surfaces after the Supreme Court is informed that Cynthia White was a paid informant. On May 30, the Supreme Court issues an order to have a hearing on that issue. And lo and behold, this alleged death certificate surfaces for the first time. Prior to that, the Philadelphia authorities are looking for a Cynthia White. Actions speaks louder than words.... Our own investigation leads us to believe she's not dead."
The prosecution also presented police documents and witnesses in an attempt to make the case that Pamela Jenkins did not meet Tom Ryan until 1982, after Faulkner was shot. At the end of the day, Tom Ryan himself was called to the stand. The ex-cop wore a button in support of the Fraternal Order of Police, which has been actively calling for Mumia's execution. Ryan was confronted with his testimony in a previous trial, when he said under oath that he had known Jenkins since 1981. Smirking, Ryan claimed his "recollection had been refreshed" and that he did not meet Jenkins until 1982. (He also claimed he didn't have a sexual relationship with Jenkins until 1984--perhaps in an attempt to avoid a charge of statutory rape.)
Sabo blocked every attempt by Attorney Dan Williams to question Ryan about whether the use of prostitutes as paid informants was a widespread policy in the Philadelphia Police Department and what he knew about Cynthia White. Then Sabo abruptly ended the hearing. It will continue Monday, June 30.
These hearings could be the last time supporters are able to see Mumia in person in the courtroom for some time. Unless another hearing is ordered to take up new evidence (for example, if Cynthia White is found), the next step in the legal case is the decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the appeal. The Court has already denied requests for oral arguments by Mumia's defense team.
After the hearing, Leonard Weinglass explained why the authorities are intent on keeping them away from Cynthia White: "We also know now that Cynthia White was an informant for the police when she testified. If we find Cynthia and she takes the stand and acknowledges the truth that she was an informant, this case is over. That's why Geronimo Pratt, after 27 years, is a free man today--because it came out in Geronimo's case that the key witness against him was an informant and that the defense was not told of that fact. That is precisely the case in Mumia's situation."
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