December 5, 2007

Mumia Memory Lane

Yesterday I asked readers to find the record of an ABC News report on Mumia Abu Jamal from almost ten years ago, one which exploded the myths of the Free Mumia movement. Incorrectly, I recalled John Stossel working that segment, or perhaps he did another piece independently, but reader Greg Lang of -- which follows the case of former SLA fugitive and murderer Kathleen Soliah/Sara Jane Olsen -- forwarded me the transcript of the show I remembered. Sam Donaldson reported on the 20/20 segment almost exactly nine years ago on the shooting of Daniel Faulkner, and the myths that arose from the defenders of the controversial defendant:

Myth #1: The 44-Caliber Bullet

DONALDSON: ... 20/20 has looked at the arguments both she and the free Mumia movement make on the key points. First, ballistics. Jamal's supporters say the bullet that killed Officer Faulkner was .44-caliber, not a .38, like the gun found at the scene.

CLAUDE PUJOL: The bullet is not the size of the gun, first thing. They never did any tests.

ED ASNER: The fact that no ballistics tests were done, which is pretty stupid.

SAM DONALDSON (voice-over): But ballistics tests were done and proved the bullet was fired by a .38-caliber revolver. The claim that the bullet was a .44 rests solely on a hasty note scribbled by a pathologist at the autopsy. However, the pathologist later testified that he had no expertise in ballistics, that he had only been guessing. But Weinglass [Mumia's attorney, former Chicago Seven attorney Leonard Weinglass] refuses to believe that. ...

SAM DONALDSON: But if it's a .38, then your contention that it was a .44 is wrong.

LEONARD WEINGLASS: Well, I think that issue is very much something that should be played out in front of a jury.

SAM DONALDSON (voice-over): But it had already been played out in front of a judge, when, three years ago, Weinglass's own ballistics expert testified the fatal bullet was a .38.

Myth #2: The Fabricated Confession

Eight different witnesses testified that Mumia Abu Jamal admitted to shooting Faulkner at the hospital while being treated for his own gunshot wound, and then said, "I hope he dies." Later, Mumia recanted this admission and claimed it never happened.

SAM DONALDSON (voice-over): It is a fact that the confession surfaced only after two months. And that one officer present originally reported, "The Negro male made no comments."

But hospital security guard Priscilla Durham (ph) told the jury she reported it to her supervisor the next day. And another security guard, James Legrand (ph), says he, too, heard the confession. The slain officer's partner, Garry Bell, says the shock of the shooting suppressed his memory.

GARRY BELL: I've searched my soul. I've beaten myself up wondering how I could not have gone at a sooner date, immediately even, and report what I had heard.

SAM DONALDSON (voice-over): Finally, if there was a plot to fabricate a confession, then it had to include at least the eight people involved in reporting and investigating it, an idea rejected by two separate appeals courts in the last three years.

Myth #3: The One-Armed Man Gambit

The defense claims that several witnesses saw a man shoot Faulkner and then run away. However, these witnesses contradict each other, themselves, and the physical evidence, and don't explain how the man shot Faulkner, ran away, but left the murder weapon next to Mumia.

DONALDSON: ... Then there are the defense eyewitnesses. Leonard Weinglass says four people saw the real killer running from the scene. But his number-one witness, William Singletary (ph), waited more than a decade before testifying to a story so bizarre even Weinglass has trouble defending it.

(on camera) He said the shooter emerged from the Volkswagen, yelling and screaming, shot Officer Faulkner in the head and ran away. Whereupon, according to Singletary, Abu-Jamal approached the scene and said, "Oh, my God, we don't need this," bent over Faulkner, who'd been shot between the eyes, and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help you?"

Whereupon, according to Singletary, Faulkner's gun, which was in Faulkner's lap, miraculously discharged, hitting Jamal in the chest. Now, that's incredible.

LEONARD WEINGLASS: He might be wrong on some of his timing. There's no doubt about that.

SAM DONALDSON: Timing? He's telling a story here which, clearly from the forensic evidence, couldn't have happened.

LEONARD WEINGLASS: This is my point. The jury should have heard from Singletary.

SAM DONALDSON (voice-over): Witness number two was a cab driver parked here, in plain view of the murder.

LEONARD WEINGLASS: As the police arrive, he told one of the arriving officers -- I believe a captain, "The guy ran away." Those were his first words.

SAM DONALDSON (voice-over): But the report from which Weinglass quotes goes on to say the shooter "didn't get far, and then he fell." And Weinglass's third witness, high up in a hotel room one block away, actually insisted that police were already on the scene when she looked out her window. And...

(on camera) ...she did not testify that she saw someone running away, simply that she saw someone running.

LEONARD WEINGLASS: Yes, which was different slightly than the statement she gave the police.

SAM DONALDSON (voice-over): Defense eyewitness number four was a prostitute standing on this corner two blocks away, who, after 14 years' silence, claimed she saw two men jogging from the scene. She also admits to being, in drug lingo, "half a nickel bag high."

The prosecution's witnesses all were within 50 feet of the shooting, and their testimony was consistent. They gave essentially the same story to three different police officers within minutes of the shooting, and testified under oath during the trial. That's more than Mumia's own brother would do -- the man who started the incident, William Cook. Despite a subpoena from his own brother, Cook refused to testify, and at the time of the 20/20 segment, had gone missing to avoid taking the stand.

The site Greg provided contains a number of rebuttals to the rest of the Mumia myths. Be sure to peruse it at length.

Incidentally, Shaun Mullen also has written about Mumia -- and he knew Mumia Abu Jamal. He has no doubts about Mumia's guilt, even though he does have doubts about the trial:

Beyond political postering and basking in the glow of international awards, among them being made an honorary citizen of Paris (sacré-freaking-bleu!), Abu-Jamal has been unable or perhaps has not even wanted to do the one thing that would seem to matter most -- make a convincing argument for his own innocence.

He has refused to testify on his own behalf and has failed to produce his brother to testify. As perverse as it seems, Abu-Jamal may understand that the fame he has attained in prison would have eluded him on the street.

Be sure to read all of Shaun's post, too. And don't forget that I'll have Maureen Faulkner as my guest on December 12 at Heading Right Radio. In the meantime, you can order Faulkner's book, Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice, to get the entire story.


TrackBack URL for this entry: