Workers Vanguard No. 879

27 October 2006


Chicago PDC Rally

Mumia Abu-Jamal Is an Innocent Man!

We print below a speech by Partisan Defense Committee counsel Jonathan Piper at an October 13 Chicago rally called by the PDC in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is an innocent man and his life is in grave danger. The state is intent on killing this former Black Panther Party member, MOVE supporter, outspoken journalist, because of his professed revolutionary politics. They see in him the combination of black and red, which they view as a deadly threat to their system. They seek to legally lynch Mumia Abu-Jamal to send a message to all black people, trade unionists, radical youth—anybody who would speak out against their system of racist capitalist oppression.

Mumia’s case is on the fast track for what could be the final decision on whether he lives, dies, spends the rest of his life buried in prison, or gets more legal proceedings. A brief is due Monday [October 23], which will be his last brief, and a decision in the case is on a fast track to come in a matter of months. Many people wonder about the maze of legal procedures, so let me just try to break it down quickly. For a state criminal defendant there are three sets of appeals. The first is an appeal directly in the state court. That’s what Mumia had in the 1980s. After that you get post-conviction appeals in the state courts. That is what Mumia had in the 1990s. Finally, there is the right of federal habeas corpus. That’s what Mumia is doing now. But the right to federal habeas corpus was gutted in 1996, when Democrat Bill Clinton signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which pretty much took away the right to get a new hearing in federal court. This is a striking example of how the “war on terror” is used to gut all our rights, and how the Democrats, just as much as the Republicans, have been leading the speedup on death row targeting Mumia Abu-Jamal.

In 2001, federal judge William Yohn overturned the death sentence in the case, but upheld every aspect of Mumia’s conviction. The state is now appealing to reinstate the death penalty. Mumia is appealing to overturn his conviction. But, outrageously the Court of Appeals is allowing him to raise only three issues: the racist jury-rigging that kept blacks off his jury; the prosecutor’s closing argument that the jury didn’t have to worry about reasonable doubt because Mumia would get “appeal after appeal”; and the notorious, obscene prejudice of the judge, Albert Sabo, during the 1995 post-conviction hearings. Sabo was the racist hanging judge who sent more people to death row than anyone else in recent history, who said at the time of Mumia’s 1982 trial, “I’m going to help them fry the n----r.”

These three issues give a taste of the political and racial bias that is spread all over Mumia’s case. But what the courts have refused to hear is the overwhelming evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including the confession of Arnold Beverly that he shot Officer Faulkner and that Mumia had nothing to do with the shooting. None of the courts have allowed Beverly’s evidence to be heard because it is too hot to handle. It exposes that Mumia’s frame-up is not just some aberration of a rogue cop or a bad judge, but the result of the workings of a whole “justice” system whose real purpose is the repression of workers, minorities and the poor on behalf of the capitalist rulers.

The courts will not hear the Beverly evidence, the evidence of rampant cop coercion of witnesses, the blatant fabrication of a confession, the fact that Mumia was denied the right to represent himself, was saddled with an incompetent and unprepared lawyer and was banished from large portions of his trial. All of these obvious violations have been rubber-stamped by court after court.

If the bourgeois courts will not hear the evidence of Mumia’s innocence, it is all the more urgent that we make that evidence known in the streets, in the factories, on the campuses, in all your organizations. We must make it known: Mumia Abu-Jamal is an innocent man!

I want to focus a little on the Beverly evidence because what is becoming clearer and clearer to more and more people is that Beverly’s confession fits with all the other evidence of what happened that night, December 9, 1981. It is not just that Beverly passed lie detector tests on his fundamental points, but his account ties all the surrounding evidence into a package, ties up many of the loose ends in the case.

For example, the whole premise of the prosecution case was that there were only three men on the corner where Faulkner was shot: Faulkner, Mumia and Mumia’s brother, Billy Cook. But we know there was someone else there, because there were no less than five witnesses, including two cops, who said there was someone on that corner wearing a green army jacket. Several said this person was the shooter. And yet Faulkner obviously was wearing his police uniform, Mumia was wearing a red and blue striped jacket, and Billy Cook was wearing a dark blue Nehru-style jacket. None of those could be mistaken for a green army jacket. This is in the police evidence in plastic bags in boxes. We know what they were wearing. Beverly says that he was wearing a green jacket, and so was the other shooter that was there to hit this cop. From the ballistics evidence to the fact that no prosecution witness could explain how Mumia was shot, Beverly’s account corresponds to the medical examiner’s report, which says that arriving backup police shot Mumia.

There is so much more, but I want to turn to the surrounding context, which is that Beverly says he was hired to kill Faulkner because Faulkner was interfering with the police graft in downtown Philadelphia. There are many who assert that the idea of a mob or police hit on Faulkner is “incredible,” that it sounds too much like it was made for Hollywood. These same people probably would say it was incredible that for two decades there was a torture chamber where hundreds of black men were being tortured in a Chicago police station. They would probably say it’s incredible that the U.S. Army is grabbing Iraqis off the street, flying them to Poland to be tortured. This kind of thing is not some aberration. It happens every day. This is business as usual for the frame-up machinery of the bourgeois state.

Look at here in Chicago. Just last month the prosecutors had to drop over a hundred cases because a set of Special Operations cops were kidnapping people, robbing them and then framing them up. Not long ago in New York, they indicted an FBI agent who was feeding the mob information to help them with their hits.

Back in 1981, there were three ongoing investigations of police corruption in Philadelphia, including an investigation of graft in the Central City red-light district right where Faulkner worked. The cops in the district were up to their ears with the mob, taking graft from prostitutes and from the late-night club owners. Would they go so far as to kill a witness? We know they did. There was another witness in the corruption case that was murdered a few months after he testified. We have an affidavit from an FBI informant who said that he heard in December 1981, when Faulkner was shot, that the cops were paranoid that there was a cop informant and that they were going to kill any they could find [see PDC pamphet The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, July 2006]. A federal prosecutor told me that they had an informant in law enforcement, a cop informant whose brother was also a cop, and we know that Faulkner and his brother were both cops. FBI agents who have looked at Faulkner’s FBI records say that they look very unusual, that it could well be that he was an informant.

There is more, but let me focus on Alfonzo Giordano, who was the senior cop on the scene after the shooting. Who was Giordano? He was one of the cops under investigation in December 1981, as was the head of homicide, who was ultimately convicted. He was also the senior cop, back under Mayor Frank Rizzo. He was Rizzo’s right-hand man in going after the Black Panther Party, and he helped run the police siege of MOVE’s Powelton Village commune in 1978. There can be no doubt that Giordano, the ranking officer on the scene, knew exactly who Mumia Abu-Jamal was. He had known him over a decade, had been targeting him for over a decade.

Giordano was also the guy that got the cabdriver, who originally said that the shooter ran away, to go and identify Mumia in the van and change his story. And Giordano claimed that Mumia confessed in the back of the police van, even though the other cop who was there denied this. Yet Giordano was not called as a witness at Mumia’s trial, and the day after Mumia was convicted and sentenced to death, Giordano retired from the police force. Four years later, he pled guilty in the corruption cases. Obviously, the prosecutor and cops were tipped off that Giordano was going down, and they didn’t want Mumia’s case to go down with him. So again, Beverly’s account squares with the reality of what happened in this case.

Since taking up the case in 1988, the PDC has consistently argued that every legal remedy must be pursued on Mumia’s behalf. For that reason we are asking you to dig deep and we are passing the bucket to raise funds for Mumia’s current legal team. We had a fundraiser here in Chicago in June that raised over $1,500 for Mumia’s defense.

But we have also consistently warned against any illusions in the justice of the capitalist state and the capitalist courts. The forces of the state, from the cops to the prosecutors to the judges to the prison wardens, have lined up in unison behind this frame-up. We must put all our faith in the fight for Mumia’s freedom in the only force that has the interest and power to win it—and that’s the power of mass protest centered on the labor movement. The fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal is also a fight to establish his innocence, not just in court, but on the political battlefield.

You know there are many people fighting to push the lie of Mumia’s guilt. We’ve got the F.O.P. [Fraternal Order of Police] out there pushing the lies. But let’s not forget that there are many bourgeois liberal forces whose only concern with Mumia’s case is that it is a stain on their great “justice” system. They want to wipe the stain away. They don’t care if Mumia gets a new trial and is sent to prison for the rest of his life. These people are the ones that have tried to suppress the Beverly evidence, and they have many leftist tails who have helped them in that effort.

We need to build more broadly in our unions, on our campuses, in our community groups, ringing the alarm: Mumia Abu-Jamal is an innocent man! Free him now! Abolish the racist death penalty! Free Mumia now! Free Mumia now!