Mumia Abu-Jamal Speaks Out

Revolutionary Worker #1103, May 20, 2001, posted at

In a surprise announcement, the new legal team for Mumia Abu-Jamal released a statement from Mumia Abu-Jamal describing in his own words, for the first time, what happened on the night he was shot and arrested for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner.

In a written declaration addressed to the federal district court in Philadelphia, Mumia states unequivocally: "I did not shoot Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. I had nothing to do with the killing of Officer Faulkner. I am innocent."

Mumia goes on to describe how he was sitting in his cab when he heard gunshots. He then saw his brother staggering in the street and ran to his aid. "As I came across the street I saw a uniformed cop turn toward me gun in hand, saw a flash and went down to my knees..."

"The next thing that I remember I felt myself being kicked, hit and being brought out of a stupor." The declaration goes on to describe how he was assaulted by cops at the scene and beaten again at the hospital. (See "Declaration of Mumia Abu-Jamal" for the full text of his statement.)

Mumia also states that if he is called as a witness, he will testify to what happened. This is an important point because Mumia has requested that Judge Yohn hold an evidentiary hearing before ruling on his habeas petition. This would allow Mumia to place on the record vital information that is not a part of the Pennsylvania court record that was constructed by Philadelphia Judge Albert Sabo.

In addition to this written declaration by Mumia, his legal team also filed with the court four other statements including one by Mumia's brother, William (Billy) Cook. Billy gives his description of what happened that night and says that he is available to testify as well.

Billy states that he was traveling in his Volkswagen with his partner, Kenneth Freeman, who was armed. They were pulled over by Officer Faulkner. After a verbal confrontation, Faulkner beat Billy on the head with something. Billy went back to his car, and while he was rummaging in the back seat for his registration papers, he heard gunshots. Then he saw Mumia run up, he heard a shot, and he saw Mumia stumble. According to Billy, Ken Freeman fled the scene.

Mumia's lawyers also filed a statement prepared two years ago by a man named Arnold Beverly. Beverly claims that he and another man shot Officer Faulkner. Beverly says that they were hired by organized crime to kill Faulkner because other corrupt officers in the area suspected that Faulkner was working as an informant for the FBI. Beverly states that Mumia had nothing to do with the shooting.

Two other statements filed with the court give testimony on the corruption and brutality of the Philadelphia police. The first is by a confidential informant for the FBI named Donald Hersing. Hersing describes his work in 1981 and 1982 assisting the FBI to uncover information on corrupt police officials taking payoffs from the owners of bars and houses of prostitution in the area of 13th and Locust where Mumia was shot and Officer Faulkner was killed. Of particular interest is Hersing's description of the involvement of Inspector Alphonso Giordano in these vice payoffs. Giordano was the highest ranking officer on the scene at the time of Mumia's arrest.

The last statement is from Temple University professor and journalist Linn Washington. Washington was working as a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News in 1981, and in this capacity he visited the crime scene only a few hours after the shootings. He was surprised to find no police officers on the scene, and Billy's car was open and unguarded. He found traces of blood inside the car.

Washington then went to Jefferson Hospital where Mumia and Faulkner had been taken. At Jefferson Hospital he was told by a hospital employee that police had beaten Mumia in the Emergency Room. He later spoke to another reporter who had been told the same thing by another employee. Reporters were denied access to the emergency room area by the police.

These new papers will go to federal district court Judge William H. Yohn, who will rule on Mumia's petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus. This petition is a request to the federal court to overturn Mumia's Pennsylvania murder conviction on the grounds that his constitutional rights were violated. Mumia's petition to Judge Yohn cites 29 allegations of constitutional error by Judge Sabo and the Pennsylvania courts.

In March Judge Yohn rejected a motion by Mumia to add a 30th point to the habeas petition concerning the denial of Mumia's right to have a lay advisor of his choice, namely John Africa, at the defense table during his 1982 trial.

The backdrop for the release of these new statements was the filing with the federal district court of legal papers identifying to the court Mumia's new legal team. This new legal team consists of British attorney Nicholas R.D. Brown, Chicago attorney Marlene Kamish, and Los Angeles attorney Eliot Lee Grossman. The local attorney of record is Philadelphia attorney J. Michael Farrell. Brown, Kamish, and Grossman are the attorneys responsible for two of the four amicus briefs submitted to Judge Yohn last year. Yohn refused to consider all four of the amicus briefs submitted by various organizations.

These attorneys replace attorneys Leornard Weinglass, Dan Williams, and Steve Hawkins, who represented Mumia for many years. In early March, Mumia petitioned Judge Yohn to allow him to dismiss his legal team after finding out that Williams was about to publish a book on the case, the manuscript of which he had not seen. Mumia asked to proceed pro se (that is, represent himself) until he could obtain new counsel. On April 6, Judge Yohn granted Mumia's request to obtain new counsel and gave him 30 days to do so. But Judge Yohn refused Mumia's request to proceed pro se, thus denying him a basic right.

The decision by Williams to publish a book purporting to give the "inside story" of the case without proper consultation with Mumia and without showing the manuscript either to him or to the other members of the legal team has been strongly criticized by both Weinglass and Mumia activists. In response to this situation, the Executive Committee of Refuse & Resist! wrote: "We think it was a serious mistake for Dan Williams to publish such a book, even if written with the best of intentions, without consulting Mumia."

In a radio interview, Weinglass said in response to Mumia's decision that "the important thing is that Mumia must be free--I remain available to do whatever I can."

With a decisive hearing coming up in the federal court, there is a crucial political battle to be waged in order to stop the execution of Mumia, overturn his conviction and free him from jail. As C. Clark Kissinger said in his message to the May 12 actions for Mumia: "Whatever new twists and turns happen in this case...we must never lose sight of what Mumia and his case mean to the people. We must never lose sight of what Mumia stands for versus what the rulers and executioners stand for, nor what the outcome of this case will mean for all our futures."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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