20 January 2012

Eyewitness to Mumia’s Innocence

In Honor of William Singletary

William Singletary, who courageously came forward with evidence of the innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 61. Singletary was at the scene of the 9 December 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, for which Mumia was falsely accused and sent to death row. Years before Arnold Beverly confessed to killing Faulkner, Singletary testified not only that he saw someone other than Mumia shoot Faulkner, but that the cops terrorized Singletary into silence. Mumia, America’s foremost class-war prisoner, remained on death row until this past December, when the Philadelphia D.A.’s office dropped its efforts to reinstate the death sentence, which was overturned by a federal court in 2001.

William Singletary paid a tremendous personal price for merely telling the truth about what happened that night. He passed away in North Carolina, where he had lived for many years. He found refuge there from the Philadelphia cops who, having failed to kill Mumia in the streets, terrorized any witness who posed an obstacle to his being hustled onto an execution gurney.

Singletary first came forward in the summer of 1990. In a meeting arranged by Rachel Wolkenstein, who at the time was PDC counsel, he gave a sworn deposition to Marilyn Gelb, the attorney during Mumia’s appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which had just been denied. Singletary testified, as he would during Mumia’s 1995 post-conviction relief (PCRA) hearings, that he witnessed Faulkner’s shooting, that Mumia did not shoot the officer, and that the shooter fled the scene. That could not have been Mumia, who was found on a curb nearby bleeding from a life-threatening gunshot wound. Singletary also confirmed that the prosecution’s central witness, Cynthia White, was not physically present at the time of the shooting.

In his PCRA testimony, Singletary recounted that he had owned an auto repair and tow company and had friendly working relations with cops. Minutes after Faulkner’s shooting, he volunteered to the cops that he was an eyewitness. Singletary was then hauled in to the notorious Roundhouse (police headquarters) for interrogation. He drafted statement after statement describing what he saw, each of which was ripped to shreds. Ultimately, one Detective Green “told me to write what he wanted me to write” or “they would take me to the elevator and beat me up and that my business would be destroyed.” After five hours of this treatment, Singletary signed a statement, drafted and typed up by the cops, that he did not see the shooting. He was finally allowed to exit the Roundhouse, escorted by the cops, only to then find himself trapped in a cycle of police harassment and terror.

Singletary described a visit to his garage a couple of days after the shooting by four cops claiming to be from the burglary detail. With guns drawn they ordered Singletary, his employees and customers down on the floor, warning, “This will give you something to remember.” Over the following months, cops continued to torment Singletary, repeatedly breaking the plate glass windows at his place of business, stopping his tow truck and harassing his drivers. All this forced him to close up shop and flee Philadelphia.

At the 1995 hearing, Mumia’s lead attorney Leonard Weinglass outrageously discredited Singletary, declaring to the court that his eyewitness account that Mumia did not shoot Faulkner was “inaccurate.” The prosecution leaped on this in its legal arguments. In 2007, as Singletary continued his fight to expose the truth of what happened on 9 December 1981, he recalled, “I was told to keep quiet by the police, by Mr. Jamal’s attorneys, and people on the street that I had always confided in.” In 1999, Weinglass suppressed Arnold Beverly’s confession that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner. The refusal of Weinglass to present this and supporting evidence of Mumia’s innocence compelled Wolkenstein and Jonathan Piper, an attorney also associated with the PDC, to leave Mumia’s legal team.

Wolkenstein, who resigned from the PDC and Spartacist League last year, circulated an obituary of Singletary, citing his final message, passed on by his wife Jeannette: “I didn’t know Mumia personally, but I love him like a brother. I know what he’s gone through and he is innocent. I would give up everything for Mumia to be free.”

Mumia is finally off death row, only to be subjected to a different type of prison torture. We honor William Singletary by carrying on the fight to win Mumia’s freedom. 

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 994, 20 January 2012)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.