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Workers Vanguard No. 886

16 February 2007

The Frame-Up of an Innocent Man

Mobilize Labor's Power! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!

The urgent effort to revitalize the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal was a special focus of the Partisan Defense Committee’s annual Holiday Appeal fund-raisers for class-war prisoners, which were held in December. A Black Panther Party spokesman in his youth, subsequently a MOVE supporter and award-winning journalist, Mumia was framed up on false charges of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner on 9 December 1981 and sentenced to death explicitly for his political views and activities. With Mumia’s case currently before the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the fight for his freedom has entered a decisive stage. Mumia’s attorney Robert Bryan recently announced in a letter to Mumia’s supporters that while the court had notified him in November that oral arguments would be scheduled for January, “that was later rescinded.” A decision could come within weeks or months.

The Holiday Appeal events followed a series of rallies in October called under the slogans: “Free Mumia Now! Mumia Is an Innocent Man! Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Life Is in Danger—Mobilize Now! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!” Leading up to and after the rallies, full-page ads appeared in the Nation, the Harlem-based Amsterdam News, the Chicago Defender and the San Francisco Bay View listing hundreds of trade unionists, academics, authors and other notables who had signed a PDC-initiated statement declaring that Mumia is innocent and demanding his immediate freedom. Ads have subsequently appeared in the French Communist Party’s newspaper, l’Humanité, and the Morning Star in Britain, as well as papers in Germany and Canada.

The ad (which is reprinted in WV No. 880, 10 November 2006) clearly states, “Both the Pennsylvania state courts and the federal courts have refused to consider the reams of documented evidence that prove Mumia’s innocence. Foremost is the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed the police officer.” Notable signatories to the statement include Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; the writers Alice Walker, John Wideman, and Nobel Prize winners Dario Fo and Nadine Gordimer; hip-hop artist Chuck D. of Public Enemy; New York City Council member Charles Barron and Illinois Congressman Danny K. Davis. Among the signatories from organized labor are the New York chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Amalgamated Transit Union and International Longshoremen’s Association locals and NYC’s 1199 SEIU East. The breadth of signers to the statement is evidence of the potential to mobilize mass protest on the basis that Mumia is an innocent man who was the victim of a racist and political frame-up.

Those fighting for Mumia’s freedom must recognize the depth of the hatred the capitalist rulers have for a man known as the “voice of the voiceless.” The capitalist state’s relentless vendetta against those who fight for black freedom was seen in last month’s arrest of eight former Black Panther Party members on charges of killing a San Francisco cop over 30 years ago. Those charges had been repeatedly rejected by grand juries and in one case thrown out of court because “confessions” had been coerced by the police through torture (see “Protest Government Roundup of Former Black Panthers!” WV No. 885, 2 February). That Mumia is the state’s foremost target was seen in a Congressional resolution passed with overwhelming support in December that condemned the decision by the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis to name a street after him.

With events in Los Angeles, Chicago, the Bay Area, Toronto and New York, the Holiday Appeal raised more than $10,000 for 16 recipients of the PDC class-war prisoners stipend fund. In addition to Mumia, the recipients include eight members of Philadelphia MOVE, former Black Panther supporters Mondo we Langa and Ed Poindexter, Jaan Laaman and Thomas Manning of the Ohio 7, American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier, Mumia’s son Jamal Hart and prison activist Hugo Pinell. Each of these cases illustrates that there is no justice in the bourgeois courts for anyone perceived as an opponent of the racist capitalist rulers.

We print below an edited version of a presentation by PDC counsel Rachel Wolkenstein at the December 17 New York City benefit.

* * *

We cannot be lulled into thinking that because Mumia has an appeal pending before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is hearing three (and only three) of his more than two dozen legal claims, that this is a great opportunity for Mumia. It is good that the court is hearing these claims. But it is also likely that they are just greasing the skids toward a final conclusion that Mumia should be executed.

Prior to my meeting Mumia for the first time almost 20 years ago with Paul Cooperstein, also from the Partisan Defense Committee, in August 1987, Mumia passed along a quote from Henry VI about how the first thing we’ll do after taking power is kill all the lawyers. We sent back to him a quote from V.I. Lenin that had similar negative sentiments about lawyers.

The work that I have done along with other comrades of the Partisan Defense Committee has been, simultaneous with legal assistance, to push propaganda, publicity and protest, concentrated on mobilizing the social power of the labor movement, of the working class, which has the only real power to change anything. We base our work on the understanding that the only way to get rid of the injustice that exists in this society is through socialist revolution, and in the process we must fight tooth and nail for Mumia’s freedom, and for democratic rights of all sorts. The abuses of the capitalist system will not stop, the capitalist system will not be reformed in any way that will be long-lasting. The only fundamental change that’s possible is a change in the social system, which means socialism.

Mumia is not a Marxist. Mumia is not a socialist. But he has been absolutely steadfast in his opposition to racist oppression, to the extremes of capitalism, to injustices, to American imperialism. That is the reason that he is a target of the rulers of this country, who see in him the spectre of black revolution. They have seen that in him from his early days as a Black Panther Party member and from his becoming an advocate for the MOVE organization, for his continued statements in defense of blacks and others against the capitalist state. And for all of these reasons, the capitalist state—the courts, the prosecution, the bourgeois politicians—are committed to seeing Mumia executed or locked up in the living hell of life imprisonment.

We are up against enormous odds. So this gathering, in which we are having fun, dancing and listening to wonderful music, has to be sort of a respite and a way to reorganize ourselves for the very critical fight to prevent Mumia’s execution and to see him freed. I want to make the point that millions around the globe took up Mumia’s case over the years. They took it up based on the work of the Partisan Defense Committee, affiliated with the Spartacist League, as is the Labor Black League, as well as many, many other organizations that did not at all have the PDC’s politics. These included the MOVE organization, the various Free Mumia coalitions, Equal Justice and Noelle Hanrahan from the Prison Radio Project and many organizations internationally. But we are unique in understanding that the capitalist state cannot be reformed and that Mumia’s case, for all the reasons that we have said, represents the epitome of the race question, the class question and the fight for freedom for us all.

People around the world identified with Mumia and his cause out of a visceral rejection of all of the injustices inherent in capitalism—poverty, war, racial and ethnic bias. In all of these ways they saw in him a symbol. Though being in lockdown 23 hours a day, seven days a week, in solitary, Mumia nonetheless has never given up his own convictions and his own fight against the injustices of the system.

What needs to be underscored here is what happens when you are on the streets demanding a new trial on the basis that the courts can be pressured to be fair. Other political organizations that say that they are socialists, like Socialist Action, the International Socialist Organization and Workers World, know full well that such demands are in contradiction with the understanding that capitalism must be overturned. These reformist groups spread illusions that the courts can be reformed, that we can count on the courts to provide some justice. Well, the courts will respond, but only from the fear of mass action, particularly the action of the organized working class, with its power to strike. It is such social unrest that drives them to make some amelioration in the system.

Early Evidence of Innocence

I worked on Mumia’s legal team from about 1995 through June 1999. Before that, we in the PDC tried our best to help Mumia get good legal counsel. We also campaigned to make it clear who Mumia was—a Black Panther Party member, a MOVE supporter, a black militant and journalist. The Partisan Defense Committee believes that Mumia is innocent. And basically the evidence of Mumia’s innocence that was uncovered during the period from 1995 through 2001 is due to the work that we did. Not because we are great lawyers, or the most experienced, but because we understood that the state had framed Mumia up and that he was an innocent man.

The evidence was simply there to be seen. In 1995, a man named William Singletary testified at a hearing for Mumia. Singletary is a black man who was not a leftist but a Vietnam vet who had a tow-truck company that required a lot of cooperation from the cops, and he happened to be on the street corner in the Center City area when Daniel Faulkner was shot. He tried to tell the cops that he saw somebody wearing a green Army jacket get out of a car and shoot the cop, and Mumia came along after the fact. They would not hear anything of this. They threatened him, coerced him and falsified his witness statements. He left town and was not there for the 1982 trial. We got Singletary to testify at Mumia’s 1995 Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) appeal hearing.

We also located Veronica Jones, and she testified in court the following year. She was a prostitute who had testified at the 1982 trial that she was on the scene but really didn’t see very much of what happened. This contradicted her initial witness statement that she saw the shooter running from the scene. When she testified in 1996, she admitted that she had lied at the trial. She said that her original statement was true, that she saw the shooter run from the scene, but that she had been coerced by cops, who had threatened that she would be sent away for a long time on a robbery charge and not see her young children, to say something different. As she was testifying in ’96, the prosecution pulled her off the witness stand and arrested her in court on a two-year-old petty larceny warrant from New Jersey.

And then we had another PCRA hearing in 1997, where another former prostitute named Pamela Jenkins, who was a prostitute-lover of a cop who had been prosecuted and convicted on federal corruption charges, testified that various police officers knew that Mumia was not the shooter. She testified that Cynthia White, another prostitute who was the key prosecution witness, had lied when she said that she saw Mumia shoot Faulkner. She lied due to threats from and fear of the cops.

These are some of the things that happened in the early period before the late Judge Sabo, the racist judge who ran the courtroom without even the pretense of what’s supposed to be a fair hearing. In 1982, before Mumia’s trial, Judge Sabo stated in the presence of a court stenographer and another judge, “I’m going to help them fry the n----r.” That was Judge Sabo.

The Significance of the Beverly Confession

I want to say a bit about Arnold Beverly, who confessed to killing Faulkner. Arnold Beverly was a hitman for the mob. He was hired, according to his statement, by the mob and the cops—working with a cop liaison—to shoot and kill Faulkner on that night in December 1981. He had heard—and this was all he was told—that Faulkner was a problem for the cops and the mob. Center City was rife with corruption. The cops got payoffs for the clubs, the gambling, the prostitution.

Later we learned that at the time Faulkner was killed, there were three ongoing federal investigations into cop corruption, which disclosed the fact that the cops and the mob were like one. We have an affidavit from a witness who testified in several different federal prosecutions that he had heard from cops that they were afraid that there was a cop informant working for the FBI. We believe that informant was Faulkner, that the killing of Faulkner was a hit, and that Beverly was one of the people hired to do that. When Mumia showed up on the scene, quite accidentally, the cops who were there knew exactly who he was. Some of the cops involved in corruption were the very same cops who had earlier attacked the Panthers and who had attacked MOVE.

The chief police officer on the scene on December 9, 1981, was Inspector Alfonzo Giordano. He also happened to have been the right-hand man for Frank Rizzo, the former head cop and mayor of Philadelphia. He also happened to have been the head of the Stakeout squad, the SWAT team in Philadelphia that went after the Panthers in 1969 and 1970. He also was the cop who was in charge of the barricades thrown up around the MOVE Powelton Village compound in 1977-78.

When the cops saw Mumia on the scene in December 1981, they all knew him as the one who was the 16-year-old spokesman for the Panthers back in 1970, the one who spoke out after the FBI killing of Panthers. Less than ten years later, Mumia became a reporter and exposed the lies that the cops and the city were saying about the MOVE organization. Mumia covered the trial of the MOVE 9, who were falsely convicted of killing a cop during the Powelton Village siege, when in fact the cop was killed in police crossfire. MOVE members were sent away to prison for 30 to 100 years. That trial took place in August 1981. Faulkner was shot, and Mumia was shot and almost killed, in December 1981. The police knew exactly who Mumia was and they were really happy to get him.

Now there are a lot of stories going around about Arnold Beverly, that he is all about the money and the fame, and that he has told many different stories. There is an affidavit by Beverly in the PDC pamphlet, The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, that you should read. I first talked to Arnold Beverly in 1989. He said a lot of things to me that never changed, except for one thing. In 1989 he didn’t admit that he killed Faulkner. In 1999 he did admit this. The fundamentals of what he said, including the particular cops who were involved in setting this up, remain the same. Arnold Beverly confessed and is willing to testify for Mumia not because he is a good guy and is altruistic, nor for money. Rather, the cops tried to kill Beverly that night, too, because they wanted to make it look as if there was just a shootout on the street between various blacks, and Faulkner was shot in the middle of it. And Beverly was shot that night.

I also want to address the rumor that Mumia doesn’t want anything to do with the Beverly evidence. Mumia knows what the PDC is doing about his case, as he has for the 20 years we’ve worked with him. That doesn’t mean that Mumia agrees with everything the PDC says, but there is nothing we have done about his case that he has not known about, that he has not been able to say yea or nay to. He knows about the PDC-initiated newspaper ads titled “Mumia Abu-Jamal Is an Innocent Man!” that have been published which protest the state frame-up and cite evidence of his innocence, including the confession of Arnold Beverly. Mumia has approved of all the work that we are doing.

Why is there so much hullabaloo over this? I want to make it clear that the Beverly evidence did not come to the fore until 2001. His evidence presented an entire picture of what happened. The very contradictory evidence presented by the prosecution at Mumia’s trial is explainable only with the benefit of the information that Beverly provided. This has to do with the number of shooters and where the shooters were. It has to do with the type of gun that was used.

Very importantly, the Beverly evidence has to do with how Mumia was shot—not by Faulkner but by another cop. And there was something that had always plagued us. We had gone through the record, and there were all these references in police reports that said that the shooter wore a green Army jacket. Somebody said that the guy in the car that was stopped by Faulkner at the site wore a green Army jacket, and somebody else said that Mumia wore a green Army jacket. Six or seven people said that there was somebody on the scene with a green Army jacket.

I’ve seen the evidence that the prosecution has, and I’ve talked to Mumia and his brother, Billy Cook. And I’ll tell you that Mumia did not wear a green Army jacket that night. He wore a quilted sort of ski jacket, red with big blue stripes in the front. Billy Cook wore a blue Nehru-style jacket with brass buttons. And Faulkner wasn’t wearing a green Army jacket; he wore a police uniform. Singletary said the shooter wore a green Army jacket. Two cops said there was a green Army jacket there, including one who said the shooter had a green Army jacket. Arnold Beverly said he wore a green Army jacket.

Frame-Up and Cover-Up

In addition to that, the evidence of the shots fired does not fit with the prosecution’s case. Also, the cops and prosecutors invented a confession that Mumia supposedly made. And on this confession question, let me go back. Giordano, who was on the scene when Mumia was arrested, invented a witness to whom, it turns out, promises were made and who wasn’t in the place that the prosecution said he was. Giordano also invented the story that Mumia—after he was shot, beaten up, thrown into a police van—confessed and that his gun was simply lying at the scene.

Giordano never testified at the trial. In fact, Giordano was removed from regular duty and put on desk duty during Mumia’s trial. He resigned from the police the day after the death sentence came in. It wasn’t until 1986 that he was actually charged with and pled guilty to corruption and tax evasion charges based on his receipt of tens of thousands of dollars in illegal payoffs during the 1979-1980 period. 1981 isn’t included in there. But we have a witness who says that Giordano was a target of the federal investigations going on that year.

Nothing in the prosecution’s case holds up under examination. You look at the ballistics evidence, and the witnesses and what they said they saw and what the prosecution says, and it does not hold up. There is proof over and over again that Mumia is innocent, that his conviction was a police and prosecution frame-up, that the FBI knows perfectly well who was involved in the case. They know that Faulkner was an informant or otherwise involved in this. And they know that cops like Giordano who were involved in the prosecution of Mumia were being investigated. None of that came out during Mumia’s trial. And the court refused Mumia’s defense any and all information during the PCRA hearings from 1995 to 1998.

What the Beverly evidence does is to make it impossible for anyone to argue that Mumia’s case is about one rogue cop, or one not-so-honest prosecutor and one racist judge. Mumia’s case proves the nature of the capitalist state, the nature of the courts, the cops and the prosecution.

I got a call from Frank Serpico about a week ago. People may know him as the New York cop who spilled the beans on police corruption in 1971. What he said to me about the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) is very interesting. He said: I know about those guys. I know that the fact that the Fraternal Order of Police targets every person who has gone on record for Mumia is proof that they are covering up for something, that this is proof that Mumia is innocent, and proof of the corruption of these cops. Because the F.O.P. has protected cops all over.

Now, I don’t agree with Serpico that it is possible to have a police force without corrupt cops. I want to make that clear. But this is a man who spent his life trying to find some honesty in the police force and risked his life to do that. So one has to respect that, within its own terms. These police forces are very powerful, and they are given aid and comfort and support by the Democrats and Republicans. And falling in behind are the fake socialists who promote the lie that the capitalist state can be reformed.

I want to end with the following point. We have a huge, huge battle ahead of us. It will not do us any good to think that maybe because the Court of Appeals may be hearing oral argument in Mumia’s case and will be rendering a decision sometime in the next few months, that this is the answer for Mumia. Every single stage of Mumia’s case has shown that the courts are committed to seeing Mumia executed or making him spend his life entombed in prison. It will take not only us here tonight but mass mobilizations, primarily focused on the power of labor with its allies—youth, the unemployed, etc.—to show that we will not permit the state to execute Mumia or entomb him in prison for life, to show that we are committed to fighting to free Mumia now. Free Mumia now!


Workers Vanguard No. 886

WV 886

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