Mumia abu-Jamal [link]
THE FOP CAMPAIGN TO DEFEAT THE ADEGBILE NOMINATION
THE ISSUE IS MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: INNOCENT AND FRAMED!
2014-03-18 by Rachel Wolkenstein, posted in two parts, with part two at [http://www.rachelwolkenstein.net/adegbile-continued.html], and the entire article at [http://www.rachelwolkenstein.net/pdf-for-printing.html]:
The controversy surrounding president Barack Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) successful campaign against him was not, in fact, an abstract constitutional dispute over the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. For the FOP any defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal is grounds for a rabid attack.
In response, Adegbile and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and most supporters of the nomination, from the Obama administration down though the liberal left distanced Adegbile from Abu-Jamal’s legal defense and discount the idea that either he or the LDF had or could have challenged Abu-Jamal’s conviction for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner.
The Executive Director of the LDF describes the FOP-led campaign as a “smear campaign” against Debo Adegbile, accepting the premise that legal representation of Mumia Abu-Jamal is a “smear” instead of insisting that as a lawyer this is a point of pride, responsibility, and a cornerstone of American jurisprudence.
But the smear—the lies—propagated by the FOP are against Mumia Abu-Jamal, that he is an unrepentant, vicious cop-killer who should have been executed.
There is an unambiguous and unequivocal answer to this attack: Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent and framed for the December 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.
The Debo Adegbile nomination controversy was and is squarely about the meaning and import of the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Examining his case is akin to opening Pandora’s box—it explodes the myth of American “justice.”
The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal is the extraordinary political persecution of an innocent man, a former Black Panther Party spokesman, defender of the MOVE organization and radical journalist, know as the “voice of the voiceless,” who was sentenced to death because of his political beliefs and affiliations. It is about racist legal lynching in the United States, the legacy of slavery. It is also an expose of the every day workings of an inherently class-biased, racist and politically driven criminal injustice system.
Every element of the constitutional right to a “fair trial,” to due process, was violated in convicting and sentencing Mumia Abu-Jamal to death. But the most fundamental violation of due process is being framed for a crime you did not commit.
From moments after the shootings, the Philadelphia police and prosecution, with the complicity of the U.S. Attorney General’s office, manufactured Abu-Jamal’s guilt and actively suppressed his innocence—evidence that someone else shot and killed officer Faulkner. Every part of the police and prosecution’s case—witness testimony, Abu-Jamal’s supposed confession and ballistics—is a lie.
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s only “crime” on December 9, 1981 was that he survived being shot and then brutally beaten by police officers.
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s on-going “crime” in the eyes of the American rulers (the .001 percent backed by both parties of American capital) is his continuing opposition to the policies of the American imperialist state, at home and abroad: political repression, racial oppression and class exploitation, imperialist war and slaughter in the name of “democracy.” He is known as a “long distance revolutionary.”
From solitary confinement on death row to the “slow death row” of life imprisonment without parole, Mumia Abu-Jamal, using his voice and pen, inspires and educates millions around the globe who identify with his fight against “the system” and for justice for all of humanity. He has written seven books and recorded over 3000 commentaries. Despite the hatred and concerted effort of the American bourgeois state, Mumia Abu-Jamal could not and has not been silenced.
It is for these reasons that defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal is considered strictly verboten. And it for these reasons we must defend him insisting on the fact that he is innocent and his guilt was manufactured by a corrupt system.
A Political and Racist Frame-up -
It is undeniable that the prosecution and conviction and death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal for a crime he did not commit was politically motivated and racially biased.
From the age of 15, Abu-Jamal was under FBI surveillance and targeted as a security threat by the Philadelphia police and the FBI under COINTELPRO—a program of disruption, frame-up and extermination—for simply being a spokesman for the Black Panther Party.
The message to the BPP by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was “The Negro youth and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teachings, they will be dead revolutionaries.”
Abu-Jamal remained a target of the state—under daily surveillance over the next ten years, as he became an award-winning radio journalist, known as “the voice of the voiceless.”
He exposed police corruption and brutality, telling the truth about the government’s persecution of the MOVE organization. For this he was singled out and threatened by the Philadelphia police and by Philadelphia District Attorney Edward Rendell.
Mumia’s conviction and death sentence were the continuation of the government vendetta against the Black Panther Party that led to the murder of 38 Panthers and the frame-up convictions of hundreds, and part of the crescendo of legal frame-ups and outright terror tactics directed at the MOVE organization.
Shortly before Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial, the notorious Philadelphia judge, Albert Sabo, “King of Death Row” and life-long FOP member promised, “I’m going to help them fry the n----r.” This determined every judicial decision he made during the 1982 trial and the three post-conviction appeals evidentiary hearings from 1995-1997. Judge Sabo’s admission of racism and bias was ruled “irrelevant” to the fairness of the trial and post-conviction hearings by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe and upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The jury selection process discriminated against black people sitting on the jury. Exclusion of black people from juries was the policy of the Philadelphia District Attorney, memorialized in a DA training videotape. Abu-Jamal was an award-winning radio journalist, an activist with no history of violence or criminal arrests. But his Black Panther Party membership twelve years earlier when he was 16 years old was the basis for the prosecution’s argument that Mumia Abu-Jamal should be executed. Neither of these violations of fundamental constitutional rights – the right to a jury of one’s peers and the right of free speech and association – was held to be applicable to Mumia Abu-Jamal. Every court, from the Pennsylvania state court to the United States Supreme Court, upheld the prosecution.
None of the evidence of Abu-Jamal’s innocence and fabrication of evidence of guilt was credited: Not the DA’s fabrication of the “hospital confession” or the lack of ballistics and other forensics evidence showing Abu-Jamal had any role in the shooting of Daniel Faulkner. Not that the shootings could not have happened as the prosecution said. Not the police threats, coercion and/or prosecutorial promises made to witnesses that compelled them to lie on the witness stand or kept them from taking the witness stand at Mumbai’ Abu-Jamal's trial (including, Abu-Jamal’s brother William Cook, Arnold Howard, William Singletary, Veronica Jones, Cynthia White, Robert Chobert). The new evidence established that the prosecution’s case is entirely false, that Mumia Abu-Jamal did not shoot Daniel Faulkner, but another man did so and ran away from the scene. This was known when police beat Abu-Jamal on the scene and arrested him.
And all of this evidence of innocence and state frame-up was brought before the courts even before the 1999 confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia Abu-Jamal, shot and killed police officer Daniel Faulkner.
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s conviction was rubber stamped in the state and federal appeals courts. And the lies about his case, including that neither Abu-Jamal nor his brother William Cook have declared Abu-Jamal’s innocence—are still, even today, perpetrated by the FOP and its ilk, and in the mainstream press.
Federal Complicity in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Conviction -
The U.S. Justice Department had a direct role in the manufactured trial evidence against Mumia Abu-Jamal at trial, and suppressed evidence of his innocence.
The U.S. Justice Department uncensored files surely contain information on its collusion with then Philadelphia District Attorney Edward Rendell to suppress information that could exculpate Mumia Abu-Jamal: the corruption investigation of the highest-ranking officer on the scene, Inspector Alfonzo Giordano, information on Daniel Faulkner or other Philadelphia police department officers who were confidential informants in the police corruption cases investigated and prosecuted from 1980-86, and the Justice Department’s own likely inquiries regarding the murder of Daniel Faulkner.
Unknown to Abu-Jamal, the highest-ranking officer on the scene and the likely architect of the frame-up, Inspector Alfonzo Giordano, was under federal investigation for police corruption at the time of the murder, as was the Commander and Deputy Commander of the Central Division where the murder occurred. In December 1981, when Daniel Faulkner was murdered, the FBI and U.S. Attorney General’s office were running at least three federal investigations into Philadelphia police corruption, including police involvement with organized crime in gambling, prostitution and drug dealing. One or more Philadelphia police officers provided confidential information to the FBI.
Not only a “dirty cop,” Giordano was a favorite of the infamous brutal and racist Philadelphia Commissioner and Mayor Frank Rizzo. Giordano was a former commander of the Philadelphia Police Department’s stakeout cops, in charge of the raids on the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party in the late 60s when Abu-Jamal was a well-known spokesman. Giordano was also in charge of the yearlong police siege of the MOVE organization home in 1978, which Abu-Jamal regularly visited and reported about. When Giordano arrived on the scene, within four minutes of the first radio call for back-up from Faulkner, he found Abu-Jamal shot and critically wounded, beaten by police and thrown into a police wagon. Giordano further assaulted Abu-Jamal, hitting him in the head with a police radio while hurling racial slurs. Giordano knew exactly who Abu-Jamal was.
Inspector Giordano was the prime police witness in pre-trial proceedings and his account that Abu-Jamal confessed in the police van was a cornerstone. But without explanation Giordano was pulled from the case and did not even testify at trial. In the short period before Abu-Jamal’s trial, Giordano was removed from his command post and transferred to a desk job with the police personnel division. Inspector Alfonzo Giordano retired from the police force at full pay on the first working day after Abu-Jamal was convicted and sentenced to death.
The U.S. Justice Department colluded with Philadelphia DA Edward Rendell and hid the federal investigation of Giordano from Abu-Jamal. To compensate for Giordano’s absence at the trial, the prosecution and police fabricated the story of Abu-Jamal’s hospital confession. (This hospital confession was invented at a “round-table” meeting between the prosecutor and police, and first recorded some two months after the confession was supposedly made. It is countered by police reports made the night of the shooting, including, “the negro male made no comments.”) In 1986, after providing additional evidence of corruption by other high-ranking police officers and mob connections to the FBI, former Inspector Alfonzo Giordano pled guilty to federal corruption charges and was sentenced.
Abu-Jamal’s attorneys attempted to subpoena Alfonzo Giordano to testify during the PA state appeals hearings in the mid-1990s; but this was denied by Judge Albert Sabo and upheld on appeal.
In 1999, a career criminal and self-described hit man, Arnold Beverly, confessed to shooting and killing officer Faulkner. Beverly’s sworn and videotaped confession states, in part:
“I was hired, along with another guy, and paid to shoot and kill Faulkner. I had heard that Faulkner was a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area.
“Faulkner was shot in the back and then in the face before Jamal came on the scene. Jamal had nothing to do with the shooting…. I shot Faulkner in the face at close range.”
Beverly also described police on the scene of Faulkner’s shooting and that Mumia Abu-Jamal was shot by a police officer, not Daniel Faulkner. Arnold Beverly’s confession with its description of what happened on the scene and why is supported by substantial evidence, including the affidavit of Donald Hersing, the FBI’s confidential informant, whose information and trial testimony led to the conviction of over thirty corrupt police officers, including Inspector John DeBenedetto, commander of the Central Police Division, and Inspector Alfonzo Giordano.
Abu-Jamal and his attorneys made repeated motions in federal and state courts for Beverly to testify and submitted the supporting evidence; but was opposed by the Philadelphia District Attorney, Lynne Abraham. Neither court granted an evidentiary hearing and judges ruled to prevent this evidence from being entered as part of the official court record. The only reason given by the courts is that this evidence of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s innocence was “too late.”
The Beverly confession and its suppression by the prosecution and the courts exposes and points to yet other layers of corruption behind the frame-up conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal. It provides additional light on the reasons that the FOP has been the rabid attack dogs at every juncture of the legal and political efforts for Abu-Jamal’s freedom. The Beverly evidence makes it clear that the injustice to Abu-Jamal was not the action of one rogue cop or prosecutor or judge, but the functioning of the entire capitalist legal system.
The U.S. Justice Department: Not an Ally but an Enemy -
A political irony of this attack on Adegbile’s nomination is contained in the LDF pronouncement when it became an official part of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s defense team in January 2011. It’s intent was through continuing the legal battles for Abu-Jamal, it would show young people of color that the criminal justice system in the United States works, that “Mumia’s conviction and death sentence are relics of a time and place that was notorious for police abuse and racial discrimination.”
The reality is quite the contrary: police abuse and racial discrimination is the norm in every city, every town in this country. It is also understood by those who vilify Mumia Abu-Jamal, who know that Mumia Abu-Jamal is their unbowed opponent and that an uncompromising fight for his freedom is a threat to that status quo.
There is no way to side-step the fact that Mumia Abu-Jamal is up against the combined forces of the state. That has been demonstrated over thirty years of legal persecution—from COINTELPRO, his arrest, prosecution and death sentence for a crime he did not commit, through trial and numerous appeals, rife with “Mumia Rules” and “Mumia Exceptions.” And at each and every juncture aided and abetted by the concerted efforts of the FOP.
Since the election of Barack Obama and following a decade of demanding a “new trial,” the “Free Mumia Movement” has turned to obsequiously appealing directly to the capitalist state to deliver justice, petitioning Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a civil rights investigation into Mumia Abu-Jamal’s frame-up trial. More recently, the “Bring Mumia Home” petition campaign appeals to Obama, Holder and the U.S. Justice Department to request the Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to release Abu-Jamal him from life imprisonment.
The political content of this campaign is to attempt to “mainstream” Mumia Abu-Jamal and to that end this petition doesn’t even say that he was a Black Panther Party member and spokesman, that a key reason for his persecution was his defense of MOVE.
Nonetheless and not surprisingly, these appeals have been simply ignored by the Justice Department.
While the FOP-instigated attack against Adegbile for his and the LDF’s representation of Mumia Abu-Jamal needed to be defeated, had Debo Adegbile won the nomination to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, federal action in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal would not be in the offing.
To state the obvious to make this concrete: Eric Holder as Attorney General wouldn’t even bring civil rights charges against George Zimmerman for killing Travon Martin. Debo Adegbile defended his nomination to head the Civil Rights Division, with assurances that he supports the police, minimized the LDF’s role and wouldn’t state that the LDF became lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal with the commitment to challenge his conviction on evidentiary grounds.
Moreover, any Justice Department investigation regarding police corruption and Mumia Abu-Jamal’s conviction would have to start with the U.S. Justice Department itself, beginning with fully opening its files on COINTELPRO including collaboration with the Philadelphia police, collaboration with Edward Rendell investigating and the prosecuting of Mumia Abu-Jamal, MOVE, Alfonzo Giordano and all other police officers involved with the prosecution of Abu-Jamal and information on Daniel Faulkner and Philadelphia police officers who were confidential informants in federal investigations of police abuse and corruption from 1978-1986.
In the struggle for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom, there is no room for illusions in the neutrality or justice of the courts--or that Obama and his U.S. Attorney General are anything other than the Commander in Chief of U.S. imperialism and the top cop protecting the interests of the ruling class, defending the profit system against the working people, against minorities, against immigrants, against any and all perceived opponents this government’s policies.
It is in the context of increasingly glaring inequality—and the potential for an upsurge in social struggle—that the state reinforces its arsenal of repression. Barack Obama has far exceeded George W. Bush in the evisceration of democratic rights, unrestricted government spying on the entire populace in the U.S. and globally, legalization of torture and “rendition,” murder by drone attack, indefinite detention in solitary, without attorney or trial.
A campaign strategy that puts expectations on Obama and the Justice Department to bring “justice” to Mumia Abu-Jamal is an obstacle to building an international campaign that fights for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom. It both disarms and demoralizes those who join the struggle. It has been and is a recipe for defeat.
The Way Forward to Fight for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Freedom -
In March 1989 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against Mumia Abu-Jamal in his first direct appeal. It was strikingly, even shockingly vicious; containing lies and denied every single one of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s claims, ignoring clear Pennsylvania precedent on due process violations in the prosecutor’s summation argument. Abu-Jamal’s conviction should have been reversed. In writing about this Abu-Jamal stated, “Law is politics under another name.” As one legal challenge after another was denied in state and federal court, Mumia Abu-Jamal repeated this basic truism about the legal system. In April 2009, he told Free Speech Radio News, “The law is the tool of those in power, so how they use it doesn’t depend on the law; it depends on power.”
The power is that of the capitalist class supported by the state repressive apparatus including the cops, the prosecution, the courts and prisons. The politics is that of the two parties of capital. Law is ultimately the rules governing the defense of private property and its varying social relations. The courts primarily adjudicate disputes between and among the corporate and government interests and are not neutral enforcers of “justice.”
The relationship of class bias and law is succinctly stated as, “The law in its majestic equality forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.” (Anatole France, a staunch defender of Alfred Dreyfus and 1921 Noble Prize winner)
And in the United States, the legal system is imbued with the legacy of slavery; that it is fundamentally racially biased is factually indisputable. The United States Supreme Court acknowledged this in the 1987 decision in McClesky v. Kemp, which challenged the racist disparity in the application of the death penalty. The Court ruled that although this racial bias was proven by statistical evidence, it had to be considered irrelevant. Otherwise, “taken to its logical conclusion, this position would throw into serious question the principles that underlie our criminal justice system.”
To overturn death sentences because the system is racially biased would “taken to its logical conclusion” require a further declaration that the entire U.S. criminal justice system is based on inequality—and “logically” require judicial invalidation. But because this racial disparity is fundamental to the American legal system, the Supreme Court would not— and could not—overturn McClesky’s death sentence. The Supreme Court ruled racial disparity wasn’t relevant, precisely because it absolutely too relevant. Warren McClesky was executed on September 25, 1991.
Every acknowledgement of democratic rights in law and court ruling has been the result of social struggle. And whether a democratic right exists in reality for the entirety of society, and not only on paper, take for example, the vaunted constitutional Sixth Amendment right to counsel. It took the mass defense campaign in the Scottsboro Case to save the lives of nine black youth falsely accused of raping two white women for the U.S. Supreme Court to first rule that counsel is required in all state capital cases (Powell v. Alabama). It was not until the 1960s in the context of the social struggle for civil rights that the Supreme Court unanimously held that an indigent person accused of a serious crime was entitled to defense counsel at state expense (Gideon v. Wainwright).
But this right to counsel is today still only a right on paper. A hundred years ago, Mark Twain said, “The law is a system that protects everybody who can afford to hire a good lawyer.” That is no less true today. The vast majority of the populace, the poor, the immigrant, are not provided counsel, let alone effective counsel. The cases of capital prisoners whose death sentences have been upheld in the spite of lawyers who are asleep, drunk or on drugs are legion.
In this period the penultimate state attack on the right to counsel was the prosecution and conviction of attorney Lynne Stewart on the bogus charges of “providing material aid to terrorism” in a “war on terror” show trial. Her “crime” was representation of and advocating for her client. With the authorization of the Obama administration her prison sentence was increased from 22 months to 10 years—a virtual death sentence—because she did not show “remorse” and continued her public support to Mumia Abu-Jamal, other long-imprisoned political prisoners and Moslem prisoners, innocent victims of the “war on terror.”
Lynne Stewart, terminally ill with cancer, was released from federal prison after an international campaign for “compassionate release” that drew on support from a wide range of political and other organizations and 40,000 petitioners. A critical, and not only symbolic, campaign component was the several months of protests in front of Obama’s White House by her spouse, Ralph Poynter, demanding Lynne Stewart’s release, all the while also protesting for freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal and other political prisoners.
As with all struggles against social oppression and deprivation, the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal requires a clear understanding of the class forces involved, of its enemies and obstacles in going forward. We can fight to win freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal through social struggle, without illusion in or reliance on courts, politicians or government agencies. That means organizing on a mass international basis, based on support from organizations of the multi-racial working class, in alliance with minorities, immigrants, and all opponents of this racist, repressive, exploitative system. At the same time we need to seek out all possible challenges and utilize all possible legal proceedings. A winning fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal requires class-struggle defense.
We can and must renew the struggle and wrest Mumia Abu-Jamal from the slow death row of life imprisonment. Mumia Abu-Jamal’s family has issued a Freedom Petition that says straight-out, “Mumia Abu-Jamal is Innocent! Free Mumia, Now!” Organizations and individuals from around the globe can unite under the demands of “Free Mumia Now! Release Mumia Abu-Jamal Immediately from the Hellhole of Prison!”, without any ifs, ands, or buts.
In 2013, two major films were released worldwide that capture the passion and revolutionary times of Mumia Abu-Jamal. These two documentaries also underscore the corruption associated with Abu-Jamal's life and case. Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary is an internationally acclaimed and widely distributed feature documentary that chronicles Abu-Jamal's life from his early years as a member of the Black Panther Party battling the draconian actions of the Philadelphia Police Department as well as the FBI’s COINTELPRO. The film also chronicles Abu-Jamal's life as a black, radical journalist both prior to and after incarceration. A chorus of potent voices support the narrative that Mumia Abu-Jamal is an innocent man, that he has refused to allow the state to silence him, and that his work continues, ensuring his significant impact on political and social discourse the world over.
The second film, Manufacturing Guilt, is a short film that documents how the Philadelphia Police Department and District Attorney's office not only manufactured Abu-Jamal's guilt beginning in the early morning hours of December 9, 1981 but also how these same forces moved heaven and earth to conceal his innocence. Taken together, these two films forever document the political machinations that condemned this innocent man to spend thirty years in solitary confinement on death row and now faces life imprisonment without parole.
These are weapons in our arsenal to organize to fight for Abu-Jamal’s freedom.
We can turn the tide. But make no mistake: We need to fight for Mumia Abu-Jamal on the basis of who he is and what he himself has fought for. Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent and framed by this state. He speaks out with the recognition that this system is irreparably class and race biased and that total change is necessary. He speaks for all those victims of imperialist war and depredation, for people of all color who are homeless, jobless, impoverished, for the immigrant, those fighting for their lives from death row and in solitary confinement and those caught in the monstrous mass incarceration system. He speaks not for himself but fights for true justice and the freedom of all those others.
As such Mumia Abu-Jamal cannot and will not be “mainstreamed” or made “respectable” to the establishment. But there are millions around the globe who have embraced Mumia Abu-Jamal’s courage and draw inspiration from him. These millions have also embraced Abu-Jamal’s legal struggle as their own because they see in his case the state’s persecution of an innocent man. Ultimately, they are moved and inspired by his unyielding opposition to injustice and corruption. These millions are strengthened in their own battles for freedom and human liberation. These are the allies in the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Some fifteen years ago, after Mumia Abu-Jamal’s second state appeal was denied, he declared: “Even after their legal legerdemain, I remain innocent. A court cannot make an innocent man guilty. Any ruling founded on injustice is not justice. The righteous fight for life, liberty, and for justice... can only continue.”