MEDIAWISE

The Media vs. Mumia Abu Jamal

by Scott Loughrey


In the mainstream press, supporters for Mumia Abu Jamal-death-row inmate, convicted murderer of policeman Daniel Faulkner, and former Black Panther-are usually depicted in easily dismissable terms, while very little information regarding the case is seeing the light of Jamal's remaining days.
In a recent column entitled "Convicted Killer Raises Questions We Need to Hear," Sunpaper columnist Gregory Kane mockingly derides Jamal's advocates as "celebrities across the land" who have been "doing the pouting and proclaiming for him...because, well, the man is innocent, dag nab it. (3/15/97)."
Yet, Kane refuses to include in his column any of their questions regarding Jamal's verdict. Who then, is doing the pouting and proclaiming when the other side doesn't get to have its say, dag nab it? Among what the late syndicated pundit Mike Royko called the "glitzy crowd falling head over heels for another jail-house author" are Amnesty International, the PEN American Center and Human Rights Watch (E.L. Doctorow, 7/17/95). However, one has to do research in the public library to find any reference in the Sun of a supporter of Jamal's who is not articulating as part of an uninformed mob, rather than a member of a reputable community organization.
After E.L. Doctorow's Op-Ed piece, only one other article has appeared in the Sun that even briefly outlines the case against executing Jamal. This was by Norris West and it appeared on 7/23/95. Since then the Sun has closed the proverbial prison door on such commentary. Even the letters section is not immune. After Kane's column this writer wrote a letter to the editor of the Sun for publication. At this writing, since Kane's diatribe, the Sun has published no letters on the topic.
What the media pundits find inexpressible in their columns, Op-Eds and articles are some facts which raise troubling questions about Jamal's pending execution.
Understand, by repeating them here, the author isn't claiming to know what really happened on 12/9/81 in Philadelphia. Still, in the U.S. no one should be convicted of any crime-much less executed for one-unless they're proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
To wit:
Jamal, who had never committed a crime, is to die for killing without premeditation. (This was pointed out by Kane.) On the night in question Jamal, then Wesley Cook, was a cab driver on duty who saw Faulkner beating up his brother, William. He approached the scene. Something happened between Faulkner and Jamal. The prosecution says that Jamal first shot Faulkner in the back, and the officer then turned and shot Jamal in the chest. Jamal then walked over to the supine officer and shot him between the eyes.
Yet, Jamal's supporters say the angle from which he was supposed to have shot Faulkner is inconsistent with prosecution claims that he stood over the victim while shooting. Furthermore, Jamal was never tested to see if he had fired a gun.
The .38 the police claim Jamal brought to the scene was never tested to see if it had been fired. It is unknown whether Faulkner was killed by a bullet from a .38 or a larger caliber. The Philadelphia Police Department's medical examiner originally concluded Faulkner died from a .44 caliber bullet.
The prosecution's start witness, Cynthia White, whom other witnesses said was not even there, is the only witness who claimed Jamal even had a gun in his hand. Ms. White, who continually changed her story, had many previous arrests for prostitution and three cases pending at the time of Jamal's trial.
The other prosecution witness who fingered Jamal as the gunman was a cab driver on probation for a felony arson conviction.
At least four witnesses claimed to see a gunman, much heavier than Jamal, run from the scene. None of them testified at the trial.
After loading the wounded Jamal into a paddy wagon the police allegedly drove him around for awhile in the belief he would bleed to death. Between that time and when they arrived at the hospital, Jamal was severely beaten.
Three months after the incident Jamal filed brutality charges. Only after he did this did a policeman who was friends with Faulkner claim that Jamal, while being wheeled into the hospital, shouted, "I just shot the motherfucker and I hope the motherfucker dies." This assertion contradicts the official written report of Officer Gary Wakshul, who was with Jamal continuously. Wakshul's report stated clearly "the negro male made no statement."
During the 1982 trial Jamal's efforts to subpoena Wakshul was blocked by Judge Sabo, who presided over Jamal's 1982 trial, because Wakshul was "on vacation."
According to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Judge Sabo has handed down more than twice as many death sentences than any other judge in this country.
Those who believe that Mumia Abu Jamal should be re-tried before his lethal injection is administered should voice their concerns to the local media at once. It is not "pouting" for the public to demand to know for certain that prisoners who are to be executed have received due process.
In this case, it will be simple barbarism if Jamal is executed without another trial.


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This story was published on May 7, 1997.