Legal appeal exposes police frame-up of Mumia
Published Jul 12, 2007 11:14 PM
The struggle to free Mumia Abu-Jamal is breaking out on many fronts. Following
up on the important May 17 hearing before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals,
in early June attorney Robert Bryan filed an appeal with the Eastern District
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to reverse a decision of a lower court that
dismissed Abu-Jamal’s post-conviction petition as being
“untimely.” (Read the entire appeal at www.millions4mumia.org)
July 4, Philadelphia.
WW photo: Joe Piette
Not willing to sit and wait for the courts to do the right thing for U.S.
political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, hundreds gathered July 4 opposite the
Liberty Bell and took to the streets to demand his freedom while providing
information on his case to people visiting the area for the city’s
official “independence day” celebration. Speakers also raised the
cases of Leonard Peltier, the MOVE 9, the Cuban Five and Puerto Rican
nationalists. (See page.)
A week earlier a tape from Abu-Jamal was played several times during the
gathering of more than 10,000 people at the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, Ga.
In New York, activists have launched a petition campaign to have a street in
Harlem renamed for Mumia.
Newest appeal charges police fraud
The latest appeal filed by Bryan argues that newly discovered evidence shows
the state manipulated witnesses to give false testimony against Abu-Jamal in
violation of his rights under the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions. The
appeal charges that the lower court erred in dismissing Abu-Jamal’s Post
Conviction Relief Act petition as untimely.
Bryan states that prosecutorial and police fraud seriously undermined the
fairness of the 1982 trial, and that the Pennsylvania courts were complicit
with their dismissal without hearing a December 2003 PRCA petition filed on
Abu-Jamal’s behalf seeking relief based on this new evidence.
The 2003 petition offered newly discovered evidence from two sources. Former
prostitute Yvette Williams testified that Cynthia White, a key
“eyewitness” for the prosecution at Abu-Jamal’s 1983 trial,
admitted to Ms. Williams that she lied and committed perjury after receiving
both money and threats from police officers. At the time of Abu-Jamal’s
trial, White, also a prostitute, had several criminal matters pending against
her. While sharing a prison cell White told Williams that police officers
threatened to seek maximum penalties if she didn’t testify that she saw
Abu-Jamal shoot Daniel Faulkner, a white police officer.
Another declaration, from Kenneth Pate, challenged court statements made by his
step-sister Priscilla Durham that she heard Abu-Jamal confess to killing
Faulkner while he was being treated for a gunshot wound in the hospital
emergency room where Durham worked as a guard. According to Pate, after the
trial Durham admitted to him that she had also lied because of pressure exerted
by the police.
The December 2003 petition was dismissed in June 2005 by Philadelphia Court of
Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe for not being “timely.” Bryan
asserts that this evidence of monstrous police and prosecutorial misconduct was
not known at the time of Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial and had it been available
then or at his direct appeal it would have dealt a severe blow to the
The information provided by Williams that police coerced witnesses including
Cynthia White to give false testimony is further supported by photographs taken
at the scene of Faulkner’s shooting in December 1981 which recently came
to light. The 26 pictures by a freelance photographer reveal police
manipulation of the scene and serve to discredit testimony of key prosecution
The photographer also reported that eyewitnesses he interviewed at the scene
immediately after the shooting claimed that Faulkner’s shooter fled the
scene. Not knowing that Abu-Jamal had been shot and thinking he was the fleeing
man, the photographer offered to provide his photographs and testimony to the
prosecution, but was never called.
Challenges to death sentences on the rise
Abu-Jamal who has been on Pennsylvania’s death row for 25 years, is
currently awaiting a ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on whether he
will be granted a new trial, have his conviction overturned, or see his death
sentence reinstated. The Third Circuit is one of the last appellate stops for
death row inmates.
Abu-Jamal is one of many Pennsylvania inmates challenging death sentences. In
the past seven years, 50 of Pennsylvania’s 225 death row prisoners have
had their sentences overturned. Since 2000, about 75 have scored significant
interim victories—new sentencing hearings or retrials, three only in
recent weeks. The bulk of reversals have turned on legal errors in the original
trials, and most were in Philadelphia cases dating to the early 1980s and early
So far 24 of the reversals were in cases heard by now deceased Common Pleas
Court Judge Albert Sabo, who presided over trials that ended in 32 death
sentences including Mumia Abu-Jamal’s. Sabo, a notorious racist, was
overheard by court stenographer Terri Maurer-Carter telling another judge
regarding Abu-Jamal, “I’m going to help them fry the
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner, chief defender in
Philadelphia from 1979 to 1990, told the July 1 Philadelphia Inquirer that city
cases from the 1980s have been reversed for good reason: ‘The court
system frequently trampled all over the rights of defendants.”
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