Block Report by Minister of Information JR
JR: You are listening to another edition of POCC Block Report Radio with Minister of Information JR. Today we are going to be talking to Philadelphia Tribune writer and Temple University professor Linn Washington, who is going to give us an update on the case of Mumia Abu Jamal.
Linn, how are you?
Linn Washington: Very good, JR. How you doing?
JR: I’m good. Real quickly, can you just give the people who may have been living under a rock somewhere a brief introduction to who Mumia Abu Jamal is?
Linn Washington: Mumia Abu Jamal is the most recognized inmate on death row in the world. Now that really is a dubious distinction because who wants to be on death row?
But this guy is brilliant. He has written seven books while on death row, created more than 2,000 commentaries. He was a journalist in Philadelphia and continues to work as a journalist while on death row.
He was convicted in 1982 of killing a Philadelphia police officer. Evidence clearly indicates that he did not receive a fair trial. If evidence is viewed with intellectual honesty, you would see that in the trial that he has endured as well as all of the appellate courts that have upheld his conviction. This is just a farce and a supreme injustice.
JR: Can you tell the people a little bit about the Nov. 9 hearing? What was its importance and what is going on in the aftermath?
Linn Washington: The hearing that took place at the 3rd Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Philadelphia was to determine a very narrow issue. The courts in Pennsylvania as well as the federal courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court level have blocked Mumia from getting a new trial. The preceding on the 9th involved a very narrow legal issue of whether Mumia Abu Jamal would spend the rest of his life in prison or if his death sentence would be re-instated.
Last year, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case in Ohio involving a murderer who is a Nazi sympathizer and somewhat of a transvestite cross-dresser. The Supreme Court said that that case applied to the Mumia case, despite the fact that legally, it does not.
So they ordered the 3rd Circuit to reexamine that issue. So this is not an issue of Mumia getting a new trial, although it could possibly lead to that. But like I said, the very narrow legal issue deals with whether the jury received proper instructions from the judge when they decided on the death penalty and the outcome would be either to send him back on the conveyor belt for execution or he would just spend the rest of his life in prison.
JR: So how did Nov. 9th go?
Linn Washington: The hearings were pretty vigorous but like I said, though, they were on a very narrow legal issue with so much legalese that even the lawyers sitting in the court room who weren’t arguing the case, their eyes were glazing over. It’s hard to tell how it went.
The judges had some very poignant questions. They seem to indicate that they wanted to keep their ruling of two years ago, which said that the death penalty in the Mumia Abu Jamal case was invalid, thus setting the stage for him being in prison for life.
But it’s hard to tell which way the judges will go, because two years ago, actually three years ago, when they were holding a hearing regarding claims that Abu Jamal was the victim of jury discrimination – racism in the selection of his jury by the prosecutor – the judges asked some very poignant questions that seemed to indicate that they were going to finally provide Abu Jamal with a sense of justice, or should I say a semblance of justice, and grant him a new trial. But what they did was create new law to deny giving Mumia an opportunity to get a new trial.
JR: I know that you and another journalist recently were engaged in doing an experiment that deals with the case of Mumia. Can you talk a little bit about what you recently discovered?
Linn Washington: Well, what we did was confirm what should be obvious, that the prosecution’s case against Abu Jamal rests on absolutely no evidence at all. There were three elements of the conviction. One is ballistics evidence, the other is eye witness evidence and the other is a confession.
What we dealt with was the aspect of the ballistics evidence. According to the prosecution and police, Abu Jamal straddled the police officer after he had shot him once in the back, stood over him and fired four times, striking him once in the face and killing him instantly. If that is the case, there should be three bullet marks in the sidewalk.
The case against Abu Jamal rests on absolutely no evidence at all.
What we did was recreated that scenario. We got a similar kind of gun, similar kinds of bullets and we got a chunk of sidewalk and we actually fired into the sidewalk from 18 inches high, which is what the prosecution said Abu Jamal did. We actually put a lot of marks in the sidewalk with all kinds of different bullets: the Plus-P ammunition the prosecution said Abu Jamal had, the standard ammunition that the police had, metal jacketed bullets as well as hollow point bullets. All of them made marks on the sidewalk.
If Abu Jamal did what the prosecution said that he did, there should be marks on the sidewalk. But in all the crime scene photos, there are no marks.
What we also did was have the crime scene photo analyzed by a NASA space scientist whose job is to do digital enhancements of deep space photos from Saturn. And he ran the crime scene photos through his super computers and, as we suspected, there are no bullet marks there.
So, with that evidence, that goes right back to not only the ballistics evidence but also it goes to the credibility or the lack of credibility of the two main witnesses against Abu Jamal. One was a prostitute who was pretty much working for the police and another was a cab driver who was on probation at the time for throwing a fire bomb into a school. That’s somebody that would be likely to be influenced by police if pressured. They both say they saw Abu Jamal fire a pistol at the officer in a manner that the prosecution described in court.
So this experiment that we did and the results that we came up with not only show that the crime scene photos are phony in terms of the prosecution’s scenario of Abu Jamal shooting but the eyewitnesses are wrong also. If the eyewitnesses were correct in their testimony that Abu Jamal shot down to the sidewalk, there should be bullet marks and there wasn’t any.
JR: Can you speak to the other recent controversy dealing with the new photos that recently surfaced in dealing with the night that Officer Faulkner died and Mumia was shot?
Linn Washington: Yes, a couple of years ago, a German researcher named Michael Schiffmann found these photographs. A photojournalist, a guy that was working for newspapers on the night of Dec. 9, 1981, the night that the police officer Faulkner was killed and Abu Jamal arrested for that killing – this photojournalist was on the scene, literally within 11 minutes of the shooting.
He was there about a half an hour before the police crime scene people came. He took a number of photos – one which dealt with the bullet marks on the sidewalk and there is no bullet marks. He took a number of photographs of the crime scene. Showed a police officer holding the gun that they claimed they recovered from Abu Jamal and also the gun from the slain police officer.
This officer testified in court that he got there, secured the guns and put them in evidence bags immediately. These photos show that he is holding the guns in his hands for over half an hour. And that’s probably the reason why they found no fingerprints on Abu Jamal’s gun. They claimed it was his gun but there were no fingerprints on it. So that was one thing that the photos showed.
There is a very gripping photograph of the officer’s hat lying down on the ground beside where he allegedly fell down and Abu Jamal executed him. Well, in the photos by the photojournalist, you see the hat on top of a car, you see it down on the ground then back on top of the car. They were just moving it around, playing around with the crime scene. There were other aspects of the crime that the police claim that the photos show that were absolutely incorrect.
JR: Now the Fraternal Order of Police that are based in Philadelphia have been engaged in a 30 year long campaign against Mumia Abu Jamal. What is the importance of this case and why are they so invested in trying to lock up what we believe is an innocent man, as well as kill an innocent man?
Linn Washington: A couple of things. The Fraternal Order of Police is the police union in Philadelphia and is also the largest police union nationwide. They have a vested interest in protecting police, including corrupt and brutal police.
So this case of Abu Jamal involves misconduct by police officers, including brutality as well as corruption. So the local FOP has a vested interest in covering that up.
Because that really would shine a very bad light but a very true and realistic light on who and what the police officers are in Philadelphia. They are a very corrupt bunch. Last week, actually about 10 days ago, an inspector, which is like the second highest rank in the police department below the police chief, was arrested for trying to shake down a former business partner and some other crazy stuff.
It seems like every other week, a police officer is being arrested for drug violations or something like that. And we have the ongoing brutality, be it being people like in the Askia Sabur case or actually shooting people, sometimes fatally. So they have that vested interest there.
But the Abu Jamal case has pretty much taken on a life of its own in that it has become the lightning rod for the conservative law and order elements in this country who, as you know, have historically been about using their power to terrorize communities of color. So they have taken it upon themselves to hold the line with the Mumia Abu Jamal case. So they have been fighting very hard to have him executed.
Every 25 to 30 years, these sorts of things come along. In the 1930s, it was the Scottsboro boys. In the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, it was Huey Newton. So we have these sorts of incidences come up time and time again and again and again.
Nobody wants to deal with the racism.
In parts of the U.S. government and in the U.S. society – be it the members of the clergy, corporate leaders, political leaders, civil leaders, people in academia – nobody really wants to deal with the racism that’s at the core of many of the problems in this country. And at the core of the Abu Jamal injustice, is extraordinary amounts of racism.
JR: I know that you recently wrote an article that included the case of Oscar Grant and during this interview you just mentioned the recent case in Philadelphia of Askia Sabur. How do you put the Mumia case in the context of police terrorism on communities of color nationwide? What are the connections?
Linn Washington: We have a journalist who covered police brutality before his arrest and unlawful incarceration and a person who has written about it in an academic and commentary type role since he has been in prison. So he is someone who has analyzed and exposed police brutality.
But also, Abu Jamal has been a victim of police brutality. When he was a teenager – I think he was about 14 years old, almost 15 – he went to a protest against a racist Southern governor who was running for the United States presidency at the time. In Philadelphia, police beat him unmercifully. He was beaten so bad that when his mother came to visit him in the hospital, she couldn’t recognize him and this was in 1968.
On the night of the arrest, Abu Jamal was beaten very badly at the scene of the crime and also he was beaten badly in the hospital where they had taken him because the police officer shot him in the stomach and he was dying. The police officers were in the emergency room kicking him, beating him and spitting on him.
We also can’t forget the confession that Abu Jamal allegedly made or, more specifically, the confession that police officers remembered two months after it was made. They somehow forgot it for two months but then they suddenly remembered it when there was a police investigation into a complaint of brutality that Abu Jamal had filed for a beating that he received on the night he was arrested.
So police brutality plays roles in the Mumia case and as you rightfully noted, decade after decade after decade, from New York to Miami to Chicago to L.A. to San Fran to Seattle back to Boston and to Philadelphia and D.C. – we can take the circuit anyway you want to do it – police brutality is an everyday occurrence in communities of color.
I noted that you guys out in the Bay Area had another fatal shooting: police officers mistaking a guy with a gun. This shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality that they just get away with, it’s just wrong. You never see this happening in communities where whites live predominately, in particular the higher up the socioeconomic ladder you may get. They may shoot the person’s dog but they don’t shoot the person down like a dog or beat them like a dog as you find regularly in communities of color.
JR: You were just listening to the voice of Philadelphia Tribune reporter, Linn Washington. Also, he is a professor at Temple University. He was giving us an update on the Mumia Abu Jamal case. I am the Minister of Information JR, signing off for BlockReportRadio.com. Until next time, what’s the call? Free Mumia! Free ‘em all! Thanks, Linn.
Linn Washington: Ok, JR. Thank you, man.