New Evidence Smashes Frame-Up to Bits
Free Mumia Now!

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 758, 11 May 2001.

On May 4, new attorneys for death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent man framed up for the killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, dropped a legal bombshell with new papers filed in the federal court where Mumia’s appeal is pending. Among these papers is a sworn confession by a man named Arnold Beverly, who states: “I was hired, along with another guy, and paid to shoot and kill Faulkner. I had heard that Faulkner was a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area.... I shot Faulkner in the face at close range. Jamal was shot shortly after that by a uniformed police officer who arrived on the scene.”

At about 3:55 a.m. on 9 December 1981 near the corner of 13th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia, Faulkner had stopped a VW driven by Jamal’s brother, Billy Cook, which was carrying another passenger. In a sworn statement submitted on May 4, Jamal testifies that while filling out his log sheet in the cab he was driving at the time, he heard shouting and “recognized my brother standing in the street staggering and dizzy. I immediately exited the cab and ran to his scream. 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.”

In his own affidavit, Jamal’s brother testifies that when he saw Mumia running to the scene, “he had nothing in his hands. I heard a shot and I saw him stumble.... Mumia was not holding a gun. Mumia never intervened in anything between me and the cop. I had nothing to do with the shooting or killing of the police officer. My brother Mumia Abu-Jamal, had nothing to do with shooting or killing the policeman.”

As one of Jamal’s new attorneys, Eliot Grossman, said at a press conference following the filing of the affidavits, “Mumia Abu-Jamal was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a hit was in progress on a police officer who was causing problems interfering with police corruption.” But for the Philly cops, Jamal was in the right place at the right time. They had been gunning for him since he was a 15-year-old spokesman for the Black Panther Party in 1969. His later defense of and support for the MOVE organization against brutal police terror, which included a 600-man police siege of its Powelton Village house in 1978, only whetted the cops’ appetite to get him. As we wrote in our article “Philly Cops’ Reign of Terror” (reprinted in Black History and the Class Struggle No. 15):

“History is not a conspiracy, but there are conspiracies in history. We are not saying that the cops who were at the scene of 13th and Locust Streets the night of 9 December 1981 knew Jamal was going to be there. But they were there and had the chance they had long awaited to catch Mumia in their racist frame-up machine. This was the culmination of a political vendetta, extending back more than a decade, against a man whose impassioned defense of the victims of Philly cop brutality had earned him a special animus among these thugs in blue and their masters in the city and federal government.”

The State’s Frame-Up Machine

Mumia’s innocence has been evident from the outset. In the 1995 Partisan Defense Committee pamphlet, The Frame-Up of Mumia Abu-Jamal, we demonstrated that the prosecution’s case against Mumia at his original trial was manifestly false. That case rested on three legs: “eyewitness” accounts that were secured through police manipulation, coercion and outright terror; a purported “confession” by Jamal while he was lying near death in the hospital, which didn’t surface until two months after the killing; ballistics evidence supposedly showing that the bullets that killed Faulkner were fired from Jamal’s gun.

In fact, five different witnesses from five different vantage points told the cops on site that they had seen another man flee the scene of the shooting. Four witnesses—including two cops—described a man wearing a green army jacket. Beverly testifies that he was wearing such a jacket the night he shot Faulkner.

In fact, the police officer who was assigned to guard Jamal in the hospital the night of the killing wrote in his official report, “During this time, the negro male made no comments.” Jamal’s recent affidavit concludes emphatically, “Because of the blood in my lungs it was difficult to speak, and impossible to holler. I never confessed to anything because I had nothing to confess to. I never said I shot the policeman. I did not shoot the policeman. I never said I hoped he died. I would never say anything like that.”

In fact, there has never been any evidence that Jamal’s gun was even fired that night, as the cops did not report performing any one of the standard tests (like smelling the barrel for the odor of burnt gunpowder or testing Jamal’s hands for gunshot residue). The police crime lab reported that the rifling of the bullet that allegedly killed Faulkner was “consistent” with Jamal’s .38 calibre pistol. Yet there are millions of guns in the U.S. with that same rifling pattern.

With their frame-up of Jamal now completely blown to bits, the Philly prosecutors’ office, cops and others who have been screaming for Jamal’s death are now denouncing Beverly’s affidavit as a “complete fabrication.” An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (5 May) titled “Abu-Jamal Lawyers: Killing Was Mob Hit” quotes a spokesman for the District Attorney’s office declaring that Beverly’s sworn confession to a crime punishable by death is “patently ridiculous on its face.” He is echoed by one Michael Smerconish, attorney for an organization set up by Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, who is a front for the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) campaign to push for Jamal’s execution as an alleged “cop killer.” Smerconish sneers, “The only thing they have yet to claim is that the shooter was seen on the grassy knoll and is hiding in Roswell, New Mexico.”

It is hardly far-fetched to believe that the cops would hire a hit man to get rid of one of their own, particularly if he were believed to be an informant. Just watch the movie Serpico, based on a true story, if you want a small taste of what the cops do to those who snitch on their shakedowns, payoffs and frame-ups. And the Philadelphia cops are notorious for corruption and frame-ups.

At the time that Faulkner was killed in December 1981, the FBI was engaged in at least three investigations of police corruption involving extortion and bribery in connection with prostitution, after-hours clubs, gambling and the Mafia in the Center City district that Faulkner patrolled. An affidavit by a source for the FBI at the time, Donald Hersing, which was also submitted by Jamal’s new legal team, testifies that the cops were very concerned about possible informants for the Feds. Among those targeted in the FBI investigation were James Carlini, head of Homicide; John DeBenedetto, head of the Central Division where Faulkner worked; and Inspector Alphonzo Giordano, who was the senior cop at the scene of Faulkner’s shooting. These three constituted the chain of command for the investigation of Faulkner’s killing.

Several informants or witnesses in the FBI’s investigation were murdered. A witness who testified against DeBenedetto was murdered in 1983. A reported suspect in the killing was a former cop and Giordano associate. During a federal corruption investigation of the “Five Squad” narcotics cops in the early ’80s, a prosecutor alleged that Philly cops had plotted to kill a witness. Another witness in that case testified that he’d been told that a “Five Squad” cop who had cooperated with the FBI was killed in his home.

In his affidavit, Beverly testifies that he saw police officers in the area where Faulkner was shot: “Two undercover policemen were standing on the west side of 13th St., north of Locust. Also a uniformed police officer was sitting in a car in the corner of the parking lot. They were there while the shooting of Faulkner took place. I was not worried about the police being there since I believed that since I was hired by the mob to shoot and kill Faulkner, any police officers on the scene would be there to help me.”

Dan Williams’ Book: A Brief for the Prosecution

Jamal’s new legal team of Marlene Kamish, Eliot Grossman and British barrister Nicholas Brown was assembled after Jamal dismissed former lead counsel Len Weinglass and assistant counsel Dan Williams. With the clock ticking on his life, Jamal was forced to fire his longtime attorneys after Williams authored a book purporting to be an “inside account” of his case. Jamal’s petition to dismiss Williams and Weinglass correctly indicts the book as “a breach of client loyalty.” In its statement supporting Jamal in this action, the PDC wrote: “Even within the loose ‘ethics’ of the legal profession, publication of such a book by an attorney involved in an active case, much less one in which the client’s life hangs in the balance, is an abomination” (see “Mumia Abu-Jamal Forced to Fire Attorneys,” WV No. 754, 16 March).

A measure of where Williams is coming from can be gleaned from the simple fact that, in his book, Williams acknowledges one Gerald Nicosia as “someone with whom I have spent many hours reflecting upon the case.” When Williams was fired, this same Nicosia—who has been working on his own book asserting that Jamal killed Faulkner—called a press conference featuring: Joseph McGill, the prosecutor at Jamal’s original trial; Hugh Burns, the lead prosecutor in the 1995 Post-Conviction Relief Appeal hearing; Burns’ assistant, Charles “Joey” Grant; and Maureen Faulkner.

Appropriately titled Executing Justice, Williams’ book tries to pre-emptively kill the evidence of Jamal’s innocence presented in the new affidavits. Both Williams and Weinglass were well aware of this evidence some time ago. Beverly’s affidavit was sworn in 1999 before Rachel Wolkenstein, who is PDC staff counsel and was then part of Jamal’s legal team. When Williams and Weinglass refused to present it in evidence, Wolkenstein and Jon Piper, another attorney on the case associated with the PDC, refused to be part of this unconscionable suppression of evidence of Jamal’s innocence and resigned from the legal team.

An article in the Philly Daily News (5 May), whose front-page headline read “Abu-Jamal’s Attorneys Drop a Bombshell,” reports: “Abu-Jamal’s former attorney, Daniel Williams, said that the [Beverly] document had been in the legal team’s files but that he and attorney Leonard Weinglass had decided not to use it. He declined to say why, and Weinglass said he would have no comment.” Why, indeed? It is a cardinal rule for any real defense lawyer to use all available means to demonstrate the client’s innocence. Here was a signed affidavit from a man confessing to having shot Faulkner. Yet Weinglass and Williams refused to use it!

In his book, Williams makes it clear that to him, maintaining the sanctity of the bourgeois “justice” system stood above presenting evidence proving Jamal’s innocence. In a chapter of his book titled “Fighting Ideology,” he deprecates any evidence that goes against the grain of his own belief in the ultimate fairness of the capitalist courts, claiming that such evidence could only be the product of deranged conspiracy theories driven by the “ideological zeal” of the PDC. Williams’ denunciation of the Beverly testimony is, not surprisingly, now being used by the Philly D.A.’s office, whose spokesman declaimed, “Even his defense team thought it was crazy, and we agree” (Philadelphia Daily News, 8 May).

Williams trashes not only Beverly’s testimony but that of William Singletary, who witnessed Faulkner’s killing and testified at Jamal’s 1995 appeal hearing. Singletary said that Jamal was innocent and that the shooter was a black man in a green army coat who fled the site. Williams’ central premise is that the cops never could or would knowingly frame up an innocent man:

“I was sensitive to the possibility that Mumia’s sympathies with MOVE might have prompted law enforcement to jump to a conclusion about Mumia’s guilt. I even believed that law enforcement was willing to fabricate evidence to help in the effort to convict a man they believed to be guilty. Rachel and Jon held more extreme views; they were convinced—actually, to them, it was sacrilegious to believe otherwise—that law enforcement knew Mumia was innocent, knew that the shooter fled the scene, and relished that a conviction and death sentence would be a terrific coup in the city’s war against MOVE.”

Even if one only considers the cases documented by the Feds, it is simply empirically evident that the Philly cops knowingly frame up innocent people. Hundreds of convictions based on concocted evidence, coerced confessions, police torture, and manipulation of prostitutes to serve as “witnesses” have been thrown out just in the last several years. Among the more notorious of these was the case of a 53-year-old black grandmother, Betty Patterson, whom the cops set up on charges of drug dealing in order to manufacture evidence against her sons in a murder investigation.

The whole history of this country is littered with frame-ups of those who have struggled to defend their unions, to fight capitalist injustice or to in any way challenge the rule of capital. In this country, the rule of capital and the brutal exploitation of labor are premised on the enforced subjugation of the overwhelming majority of the black population at the bottom. The rulers put their machinery of state repression in high gear particularly if they sense any potential evidence of the explosive combination of black and red.

This was captured in the words of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s: “The Negro youth and moderate must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teachings, they will be dead revolutionaries.” This warning was brought home in blood in the murder of 38 members of the Black Panther Party under the FBI’s “Counter-Intelligence Program” (COINTELPRO). Those they couldn’t kill they tried to frame up. As we wrote in “Mumia Abu-Jamal: The COINTELPRO Files” (WV No. 624, 2 June 1995):

“Mumia Abu-Jamal survived the rulers’ onslaught against the Black Panther Party in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He was not assassinated in his sleep in the dead of night like Chicago Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. He was not then railroaded into a prison hellhole like Los Angeles Panther leader Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt) who has spent the last 25 years of his life buried alive for a crime that the government knows he did not commit—because they had wiretaps proving his innocence. But the feds and the Philly cops did not call off their vendetta against Jamal with the demise of the Panther Party. They continued to hate him for his eloquent and impassioned defense of black rights, and particularly because he remained defiant and unbowed in the face of state repression and racist oppression.”

Mumia’s role as an articulate young spokesman for the Panthers put him squarely in the sights of the Philly cops and the FBI. The FBI amassed over 800 pages on Jamal in its COINTELPRO files. Jamal was put on the FBI’s Security Index of those deemed a “threat” to “national security” and on the Administrative Index of those to be rounded up and thrown into concentration camps in case of a “national emergency.”

And such cop frame-ups are hardly confined to Philadelphia, or the United States. British barrister Nicholas Brown, who is on Jamal’s new legal team, earlier served as an assistant to the lawyers for the Birmingham Six, victims of a British police vendetta against the Irish Republican Army. Rounded up in 1974 for two Birmingham pub bombings, they were beaten, tortured and put behind bars for 16 years. When the government finally acknowledged their innocence and freed them in 1991, one of the six said: “The police told us from the start that they knew we hadn’t done it.... They told us that we were selected and they were going to frame us.”

At the time of their conviction, the presiding judge dismissed evidence of torture and forced confessions, arguing that “to believe would have to suppose the existence of a ‘conspiracy...unprecedented in the annals of British criminal history’ among the officers involved.” Shortly before their release, a leading spokesman for the British establishment complained that the mass campaigns resulting in their freedom wouldn’t have happened “if they’d been hanged” in the first place. This is the line today of the F.O.P. and others who seek the legal lynching of Jamal.

There Is No Justice in the Capitalist Courts!

From the time the Spartacist League and PDC first took up Jamal’s case 14 years ago, we have sought to assist him in pursuing every possible legal avenue. Rachel Wolkenstein and Jon Piper served on the legal team and fought, against the resistance of Weinglass and Williams, to follow up every lead that would further demonstrate Mumia’s innocence. At the same time, as the PDC’s statement of purpose printed on the back page of every issue of Class-Struggle Defense Notes says: “We place all our faith in the power of the masses and no faith whatever in the ‘justice’ of the courts. While favoring all possible legal proceedings for the cases we support, we recognize that the courts, prisons and police exist to maintain through organized violence and terror, the rule of one class over others.”

We have organized united-front actions across the country which were infused with the understanding that the social power of labor must be mobilized in Jamal’s defense, not only in the U.S. but internationally. We fought to get bigger forces to take up his case, bringing it to trade unions, death penalty abolitionists and others. And we were successful. We recognized that these other forces would seek to silence our revolutionary politics as they tried to keep the protests “safe” for Democratic Party liberals. Their politics are captured in the central slogan of Jamal demonstrations over the past few years—the call for a “new trial.” Williams accurately describes the sensibilities behind this slogan in his book: “Mumia may very well be guilty, the agnostics argue, but who is to say? There has been no legitimately fair proceeding to adjudicate his guilt. His trial was a travesty, a besmirchment and stain on ‘American justice’.”

Such liberal politics are also peddled by various self-proclaimed “Marxist” organizations and black nationalists who have organized Mumia mobilizations over the past several years. This is typified by Socialist Action, whose leader, Jeff Mackler, alibis Williams’ dismissal of Beverly’s testimony as some kind of deranged conspiracy theory. In an article titled “The Tragic Evolution of Dan Williams & Gerald Nicosia” (Socialist Action, April 2001), Mackler writes:

“The reference to mobsters killing Faulkner is also to be found in Williams’ book, his ‘Inside Account.’ According to Williams, this refers to a discussion among Mumia’s four attorneys, wherein one raised ‘mobsters’ as a possible avenue to pursue. But the defense team and Mumia rejected it.

“Aside from this reference, there has not been a single occasion where this notion was raised, either publicly or during the course of Mumia’s trial proceedings by any attorney—or for that matter by anyone associated with Mumia’s defense. The attorney who Williams attributes the remark to was dismissed from the case more than a year ago.”

For Mackler, Williams’ great crime was that “he was apparently unprepared to remain a disciplined member of Mumia’s legal team and serve his client in pursuing a line of argument that provided concrete evidence that Mumia was denied his constitutional right to self-representation.” We, too, believe that Mumia was denied his right to represent himself. But for Mackler the emphasis is on pursuing only those angles which violate the Constitution—the bourgeoisie’s codification of what rights should be accorded the population. By his lights, any evidence which points to the true nature of the capitalist state, its cops and courts is out of bounds.

For Class-Struggle Defense!

With the Republicans now occupying the White House, the organizers of the upcoming May 12 Mumia demonstrations now occasionally raise the call to “free Mumia.” To be sure, it would look more than absurd to call on people to pressure Bush attorney general John Ashcroft, an open sympathizer of the Confederate slavocracy, for “justice for Mumia.” But it never stopped these reformists from arguing that Mumia could get a fair shake from Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, who ordered the attack on the integrated Branch Davidians religious sect near Waco, Texas in 1993. In any case, even their call to “free Mumia” is defined by the goal posts set by capitalist “law and order,” as they argue that the state should set Mumia free because it violated its own Constitution in not allowing him to represent himself. In this, they serve to demobilize workers, youth and others who want to fight for Jamal’s freedom. Why take to the streets if it’s simply a matter to be settled in the bourgeois courts?

From Mexico City to Johannesburg, workers who daily experience grinding exploitation and brutality have taken to the streets in support of Jamal because they see in his struggle their own. As the Spartacist League, Spartacus Youth Club and Labor Black League argue in the call for a Revolutionary Contingent in the May 12 Mumia demonstration in San Francisco: “Workers unions are the only significant force for integration in racist America. Unlike students, the working class in trade unions has the social power to bring this system based on exploitation and racial oppression to its knees and to shake the foundations of decaying world imperialism. But the working class must be mobilized independently of the capitalist state which has worked for years to frame up Jamal.”

In his book Lessons of October, Leon Trotsky, leader together with V.I. Lenin of the victorious 1917 Russian Revolution, pointed to the role of the reformists in “the actual training of the masses to become imbued with the inviolability of the bourgeois state.” That is the role played by the reformist organizers of the May 12 protests, whose appeals to the state for “justice” simply try to mask the true face of bourgeois democracy, which represents nothing other than the dictatorship of the capitalist class. In contrast, in our class-struggle defense work we seek to raise political consciousness regarding the nature of the capitalist state as the machinery for organized violence against the working class and oppressed. At the pinnacle of that machinery of repression in the U.S. is the death penalty, rooted in the legacy of chattel slavery. We oppose the death penalty for the guilty as well as the innocent. We do not accord the state the right to decide who shall live and who shall die.

The frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal is vivid testimony to this fundamental Marxist understanding. We fight to make the working class conscious that if it does not fight against racial oppression enforced through brutal state repression, so starkly demonstrated in Jamal’s case, it will never break the chains of its own exploitation. Our purpose is building, training and steeling the working-class vanguard party needed to smash the rule of capital and turn the wealth of this country over to those who labor to produce it. Free Mumia now! Abolish the racist death penalty!

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