Mumia Abu Jamal Essay Research Paper America

Mumia Abu Jamal Essay, Research Paper

America, the land of the free, the land of the just. It is here, where paople from all over the world

can come for refuge from tyranny. Here, people are not judged by their color, but by who they are. Too

bad it isn’t true, for what you are about to read will contradict everything that America is supposed to be.

Mumia Abu Jamal, a former Philadelphia journalist, was put through an unfair and biased trial, then

convicted of murdering a Philadelphia cop in 1982, and has been on death row since. And here is his


“My name is Mumia Abu-Jamal … I’ve been on death row since July of 1982 – in fact, I’ve been

on several death rows in Pennsylvania, in the United States of America. Despite my penal status I’m

a writer, a journalist, a columnist, and a professional revolutionary.” — Mumia Abu-Jamal (Wideman 107)

Born 24 April 1954 Wesley Cook, Mumia Abu-Jamal, author, journalist and inmate of death row, is

one of America’s most powerful outspoken voices against injustice. Seen by the State as a dangerous

revolutionary who must be silenced, he has been incarcerated for the last seventeen years. (West 2)

Mumia Abu-Jamal was born in Philadelphia where he grew up. The name Mumia was given in High

School, when he took an African name for his Swahili studies. The Arabic, Abu-Jamal, meaning Father of

Jamal, came later. (West 5)

Mumia’s first introduction to politics was in his teens when he and a few friends attended a George

Wallace presidential rally. They shouted slogans and raised their fists in a black power salute. To their relief

they were thrown out, but their relief was short lived when they were set upon outside by a gang of white

thugs. Rescue seemed at hand when the police were spotted, but their ‘rescuers’ joined in the assault,

kicking and beating. Mumia was kicked in the face. (West 13)

Mumia became a founding member of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia and Minister of

Information (fall 1968). Mumia filed reports from New York and other cities, but was mainly based in

Philadelphia. For a time he worked in Oakland, California, on the staff of the party’s newspaper. The Black

Panthers were to give Mumia a good grounding in radical politics and it was where he cut his teeth as a

journalist. When the Panthers began to tear themselves apart, Mumia left. (West 34)

Mumia Abu-Jamal:

“The prospect of fighting one another sickened me. ‘I didn’t join the BPP to get involved in goddam

gang warfare!’ I thought angrily to myself. ‘Shit! I could have stayed in North Philly for this dumb

shit!’” (Wideman 55)

Mumia’s spell in the Black Panthers, as did his work as a journalist, mainly radio, as the ‘voice of the

voiceless’, brought him to the attention of the FBI and the local Philadelphia Police. At one point the FBI

tried to frame him for a murder. It was only his work record that enabled him to walk free.

The FBI began amassing a 600-page file on Mumia Abu-Jamal when he was a 15-year-old high school

activist. The FBI added his name to the National Security Index and the ADEX index of those persons to

be rounded up and interned in a national emergency. (West 24)

It was whilst out driving his cab, on the night of 9 December 1981, Mumia was shot and beaten by the

police, and later charged with the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner. Mumia had been found slumped on

the street, shot and dangerously wounded, only feet away from the dead Officer Daniel Faulkner, who had

died of gunshot wounds. Mumia remained in critical condition for a period of time following emergency

surgery. None the less, his case was rushed to trial within six months. After announcing that he would

defend himself, Mumia was given just three weeks to prepare his case for trial. Mumia was brought to trial

June 1982, and was sentenced to death 3 July 1982. (Mobilazation The Crime Scene) *See note one

Mumia Abu-Jamal was denied the opportunity to object to jury members, denied the opportunity to

represent himself and provided with an incompetent lawyer who did not want the case. For pre-trial expenses

the court allocated only $150 to the defense for the investigation of the case despite the fact that the police

investigators had conducted more than 125 witness interviews. Mumia Abu-Jamal was absent from court

for most of the trial for insisting on his right to self-representation. He was denied live transmission of the

court room and transcripts of the proceedings. (Mobilazation The Trial)

A common law right is trial by jury, trial by one’s peers. There was not a single black face in the jury.

The jury included a man whose best friend was a former Philadelphia police officer on disability after being

shot while on duty, and an alternate juror whose husband was a Philadelphia police officer. (Mobilazation The Trial)

Eleven qualified African-Americans were prevented from being on the jury panel by peremptory

challenges from the prosecution, an illegal practice that has recently been revealed as having been taught to

Philadelphia prosecutors in a special training video. The manner in which Black jurors were purged from the

jury pool is a violation of international law as established by the International Convention on the Elimination

of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (to which the United States is a signatory). (Mobilazation The Trial)

The ‘facts’ not disputed are police officer Daniel Faulkner was shot on the street, 4 am 9 December

1981, after having stopped Mumia’s brother’s car and beating his brother with a flashlight. Mumia arrived

on the scene moments later, and appears to have been shot by Faulkner as the bullet found in his body

matched that of Faulkner’s gun. Mumia and Faulkner were found on the ground not far apart. (Mobilazation The

Crime Scene)

Mumia was taken to hospital seriously injured, where he remained in critical condition for a period of

time following emergency surgery. It was claimed by a female security guard at the hospital, a crucial

witness in the prosecution case, that Mumia openly confessed to everyone within earshot that he had shot

the policeman, adding for emphasis, ‘I hope the motherfucker dies.’ The surgeon who dealt with Mumia on

the spot said he was to weak to speak. The police officer who took Mumia into custody and stayed with

him stated in his written report that Mumia remained silent through the entire time he was with him. His

testimony was not produced in court. The officer was unable to give evidence as he was ‘on vacation’. A

defense request for an adjournment to enable the witness to be called was refused. It was learned later that

Officer Wakshul, who wrote in his report that Jamal had made no statement at the hospital emergency, ‘the

defendant made no comment’, was sitting at home and was available. (Mobilazation The Crime Scene)

Priscilla Durham (who was a friend of the deceased officer) suddenly remembered the ‘confession’ two

months after the event. She allegedly told her supervisor at the time, who also seemed to have not told

anyone else or made a written note, and was not available for cross-examination in court. The event that

jolted the memory of Priscilla Durham was several police officers suddenly recalling the ‘confession’, and

their memories were jolted by Mumia, two months later, filing charges of police brutality for the beating he

received on the night of the killing. (Mobilazation The Crime Scene)

The key prosecution witness was a prostitute with a long history of arrests. She testified that she saw

Mumia shoot Faulkner by running up behind him, shooting him once, and then firing again after he fell to the

sidewalk. Her testimony contradicted previous statements and contradicted that of other witnesses. Another

prostitute who was working the same area that night testified she was offered the same same deal as the

prosecution witness: immunity from arrest by the police in return for her testimony against Mumia. (Mobilazation

The Witnesses)

Cynthia White, the prosecution star witness, is a convicted prostitute. No one was able to place Cynthia

White at the scene, including her friend Veronica Jones, another prostitute. Cynthia White has stated she did

not see Mumia with a gun or notice which hand he allegedly used to shoot with.

Cynthia White was arrested in 1987 (five years after the trial) on armed robbery charges. Philadelphia

homicide detective Douglas Culbreth appeared in court and asked that Cynthia White be released without

posting money because she was ‘a Commonwealth witness in a very high profile case.’ Cynthia White

subsequently failed to show up for her court date and has since disappeared. (Mobilazation The Witnesses)

Of the three remaining witnesses, all male, two said they saw Mumia run to the scene where the police

officer was beating his brother. Both testified that gunfire erupted shortly after Mumia arrived, but neither

saw Mumia shoot Faulkner. The third witness, a cab driver who had pulled up behind the police car, was

closest to the shooting. He told police that a gunman fled the scene, before more police arrived, by running

to where an alleyway intersects the sidewalk some thirty yards away. The gunman was a large, heavy man.

In court, he testified the gunman took just a few steps and then sat down on the curb at the precise point

where the police found Mumia, slumped over and bleeding profusely from his wound. (Mobilazation The Witnesses)

Jeff Scanlon, a white businessman, testified that he saw the defendant standing over the body firing.

However, on the night of the incident in a written statement to police he described the ‘assailant’ as a heavy-

set man with an Afro-hairstyle. Mumia Abu-Jamal wears long dreadlocks. (Mobilazation The Witnesses)

Dessie Hightower, a Black man, testified that Faulkner’s gun was still in his holster when he was put into

a wagon on route to the hospital. He witnessed the brutal beating of Mumia and the ‘accidental’ ramming of

his head into a pole. He saw a man run away from the scene in dreadlocks. (Mobilazation The Witnesses)

A witness not called, a local resident, reported seeing a man flee the scene in the same direction as

reported by cab driver Robert Chobert on the night. As did a third prostitute who observed one or two

men running from the scene, but recanted her story after lengthy questioning by the police. In total, four

witnesses situated in four separate locations on the street, none of whom knew each other or Mumia Abu-

Jamal, reported seeing a gunman flee the scene, and all saw him fleeing in the same direction. (Mobilazation The


A key eyewitness, not called, was William Singletary. He saw the whole incident and has testified that

Mumia Abu-Jamal was not the gunman. Singletary, a local businessman, was intimidated by police when he

reported this, and subsequently fled the city. William Singletary’s testimony (11 August 1995) describes how police

tore up his written statement, and forced him to sign a different statement which they dictated. (Mobilazation The


The prosecution case was that Mumia first shot Faulkner, wounding him slightly. When the officer returned

fire and hit him, Mumia, angered, stood over Faulkner, who had since fallen to the sidewalk, and shot him in

the face, killing him instantly. None of the witnesses saw this version of events, none even saw Mumia get

shot. (Mobilazation The Trial)

A bullet first reported by the medical examiner as being in two fragments and of .44 calibre,

reconstructed itself together and became one bullet of .38 calibre ‘consistent’ with Mumia’s gun. The

prosecution ballistics expert claimed he could not match the bullet recovered from Faulkner’s body to

Mumia’s gun due to the fragmented nature of the bullet. A copper bullet jacket was found at the scene. The

police ballistics expert testified that the bullets in both Faulkner’s gun and Mumia’s gun did not have copper

jackets. The defence was unable to provide a ballistics expert due to lack of funds. (Mobilazation The Trial)

The Medical Examiner wrote in his report ’shot w/ 44 cal’, the gun owned by Mumia Abu-Jamal was

.38 calibre. Mumia was carrying a legally purchased gun on his job as a late night cab driver because he had

been robbed several times. (Mobilazation The Trial)

It was learned later that the police never tested Mumia Abu-Jamal’s gun to see if it had been recently

fired, never tested Mumia’s hands to see if he had fired a gun, had no proof that Mumia’s gun was the fatal

weapon, and have lost a bullet fragment removed by the medical examiner. (Mobilazation The Trial)

The judge, Albert Sabo, has sentenced more people to death than any other sitting judge in the United

States. Six former Philadelphia prosecutors have sworn in court documents that no accused could receive a

fair trial in his court. (Mobilazation Judge Sabo)

Philadelphia is a cesspit of police corruption and brutality, racists and corrupt political patronage. This is

the city of Frank Rizzo, former racist police chief and mayor, who took pleasure in attacking Black school

children and personally arresting black leaders like Malcolm X. This is the city where representatives of the

police, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), were convicted in a Federal Court on charges of racketeering. (Mobilazation

The FOP and Their Lies)

The reign of Mayor Frank Rizzo finally came to an end. He was replaced by Wilson Goode, then Ed

Rendell (1991 elections). Rendell served as District Attorney alongside Mayor Rizzo. Rendell was District

Attorney in 1978 when the police first attacked MOVE (beating and kicking MOVE members on live TV);

Rendell was District Attorney in 1982 when Mumia Abu-Jamal was assigned a place on death row; Rendell

was District Attorney in 1985 when police dropped a fire-bomb on the MOVE house killing 11 people

(including 5 children) and burning down a black neighborhood. Rendell can’t afford to let Mumia Abu-

Jamal live, not if he wants to stand as state governor or run for Senate. He has too many skeletons in the

cupboard that will return to haunt him if Mumia Abu-Jamal mounts a successful appeal. (Mobilazation The FOP

and Their Lies)

National Public Radio commissioned Mumia Abu-Jamal to produce 12 3-minute radio commentaries.

The commentaries were recorded, but never transmitted. NPR caved in to political pressure. The

commentaries subsequently appeared in print as Live From Death Row (1995), with additional material. It

is easy to see why the State wanted to silence Mumia, the commentaries are a searing indictment of the

brutality of the US prison system. A prison system that has more in common with Turkey than a supposedly

enlightened Western country, a prison system where Blacks are handcuffed to a metal grill and beaten to a

pulp by their guards. (Mobilazation Support for Mumia)

The Fraternal Order of Police attempted to have the book banned, and members of the state legislature

called for seizing any proceeds from the book. When Sergeant Stacy Koons, in prison for beating Rodney

King, published his book, FOP did not object. (Mobilazation Support for Mumia)

Mumia Abu-Jamal was denied visitors and phone calls as punishment for writing Live From Death

Row. The federal district court in Pittsburgh ruled that Pennsylvania had illegally singled out Mumia Abu-

Jamal, when they barred the press from interviewing him in retaliation for his book. A few days after this

1996 ruling, the prison system instituted a new rule banning the media from recording or photographing any

prisoner in the state system. (Mobilazation Support for Mumia)

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s second book Death Blossoms (1997) is a series of reflective essays and poetry,

that in part map out his own spiritual journey. Mumia Abu-Jamal has also managed to record a series of radio

commentaries for Prisoner Radio which are also available on CD as All Things Censored. These were recorded

before Pennsylvania banned all recording of Mumia Abu-Jamal. (Mobilazation Support for Mumia)

In 1997 Pacifica Radio’s program ‘Democracy Now’ program broadcast a series of Mumia Abu-

Jamal’s recordings. These were to have been carried in Philadelphia on WRTI, the radio station of Temple

University. FOP protested. WRTI cancelled the show the day it was to go on air. (Mobilazation Support for


January 1999, Rage Against the Machine and three other bands rented the Continental Arena in East

Rutherford, New Jersey, to hold a benefit concert for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Governor Christy Whitman

expressed public regrets that the program could not be legally banned, and called on people to boycott the

performance. The concert was a sell-out. (Mobilazation Support for Mumia)

Not content with silencing Mumia Abu-Jamal, not content with pushing for a speedy execution, there is

now a growing smear campaign. Vanity Fair recently participated in that campaign when it published a

lengthy article by Buzz Bissinger (August 1999). Buzz Bissinger is publicist for Philadelphia Mayor Ed

Rendell. The major revelation in the scurrilous article was yet another ‘confession’ by Mumia Abu-Jamal. An

echo of the ‘confessions’ reported by Philadelphia officers two months after the event when their memories

were jogged by Mumia filing a complaint for police brutality, only this time, prison visitor Philip Bloch

waited ten years to reveal the ‘confession’. Apparently his conscience had started to trouble him. Bloch

became convinced of the guilt of Mumia Abu-Jamal when he allegedly confided in him his regret at killing

Officer Daniel Faulkner. (Mobilazation Support for Mumia)

Mumia Abu-Jamal:

“Once again we hear about a so-called confession, but instead of two months later this comes over a

decade later. We don’t hear it from a priest, from a lawyer, or from a personal friend but from an

official Visitor of the Pennsylvania Prison Society; over ten years later. A lie is a lie, whether made

today or ten years later. But I suppose Mr Bloch wanted his fifteen minutes of fame in which case I

hope he has received it. I find it remarkable that this rumor turned lie was never brought to my

attention by the author, by Mr Bloch himself or by Vanity Fair magazine which never contacted me.

Welcome to snuff journalism.

“I look forward to the state producing this witness, Mr Bloch, after I am granted a new trial! The

only thing worse than ‘a forgotten confession’ is one allegedly born on the ‘false wings’ of

harassment. If ever one needed proof of the state’s desperation here it is. I thank Vanity Fair, not

for their work but for stoking this controversy, because controversy leads to questioning and one

can only question this belated confession.” (Wideman 127)

In State sanctioned executions, the United States is in a league of its own, together with other major

violators of human rights, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran. If the State succeeds in executing Mumia Abu-Jamal, he will

be the first Black revolutionary to be legally executed in the United Sates since the days of slavery. And if that were

to happen, then America would be right back where it was , two hundred years ago.


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