Witness in case of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Published Jan 15, 2010 10:25 PM
Veronica Jones, a witness during the 1982 trial and 1996 Post-Conviction Relief
Act hearing for Mumia Abu-Jamal, died Dec. 8. Jones will be remembered as a
heroic sister who stood up to Judge Albert Sabo in October 1996 and testified
that she had been coerced by the Philadelphia police to lie about what she had
Abu-Jamal, a progressive journalist and former member of the Black Panther
Party, was framed in the fatal shooting of Philadelphia police officer Daniel
Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981. Jones, a young sex worker who was in the area when
Faulkner was shot, told police that she had witnessed two men
“jogging” away from the crime scene.
Between that time and Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial, Jones was arrested and
imprisoned, facing charges of robbery and assault. There in her cell she was
visited by two detectives. Stressing that she faced 10 years in prison and the
loss of her children if convicted, the police pressured Jones to finger Mumia.
Afraid of losing her children, Jones didn’t actually finger Mumia, but
did not report that she had seen two men running from the scene of the killing.
Subsequently, Jones only received probation and was never imprisoned on the
However, when asked by the defense at the 1982 trial if she had talked with
police since making her first statement, Jones testified that police had
visited her in jail and offered to let her and key prosecution witness Cynthia
White, another sex worker, “work the area” in return for testimony
that Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner.
When the district attorney denounced her testimony as “absolutely
irrelevant” and asked Judge Sabo to block that line of questioning and
strike Jones’ statement, Sabo happily complied.
The state’s efforts to silence Jones continued through Abu-Jamal’s
PCRA hearing in October 1996, when she again took the stand, this time openly
on Abu-Jamal’s behalf. As Jones stood to testify, Sabo immediately
threatened her with five- to 10-years’ imprisonment if she admitted to
having perjured herself in 1982. Jones refused to back down and testified about
the police pressure to change her version of events.
During cross-examination, the district attorney announced that there was an
outstanding arrest warrant for Jones on charges of writing a bad check, and
that she would be arrested after concluding her testimony. With tears pouring
down her face, Jones defiantly stated, “This is not going to change my
In a letter to MSNBC’s Today Show in November 2007 — at the time
the show’s hosts were set to interview attorney Michael Smerconish and
Maureen Faulkner, spouse of Officer Daniel Faulkner, about their book
“Murdered by Mumia” — Jones wrote: “If there were no
merit or questions looming regarding Mr. Jamal’s innocence, then can
someone please explain to me why so much effort was exerted to publicly try to
discredit and humiliate me? Having me handcuffed and arrested while on the
witness stand when I tried to come forward with the truth is one such example
of the intimidation, threats and bullying I’ve endured since December
Until her death, Jones continued to support efforts to win a new trial for
Abu-Jamal and was a frequent speaker at rallies on his behalf. Longtime Black
Power activist Herman Ferguson once described Jones as a real working-class
Suzanne Ross of the New York Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition said of Jones:
“She was a reminder of what people can rise to when provided with any
support or encouragement. We loved Veronica, and will never forget her.”
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