23 November 2007

Sinister Book Recycles Frame-Up Lies

Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Innocent!
Free Him Now!

With the Third Circuit Court of Appeals set to rule in the case of death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, the fight to free this former Black Panther Party spokesman, renowned journalist and MOVE supporter is growing ever more urgent. As the court decides whether to uphold his death sentence or keep him in prison for life, or alternatively to grant a new trial or further court hearings, the forces of racist capitalist “law and order” are once again howling for his legal lynching. The cops and prosecutors, Democratic and Republican politicians and press hacks tell any lie to bury this unbroken fighter for the oppressed. The biggest lie of all is that Mumia shot and killed Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner on 9 December 1981. Now a new book by Faulkner’s widow Maureen—luridly titled Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain and Injustice—is due for release in early December, an ominous escalation in the drive to kill this innocent man.

Faulkner and co-author Michael Smerconish, a Philadelphia shock jock, will be trotted out on a book tour blitz, and Faulkner is due to appear on the Today show on December 6. Smerconish, who once served as a political adviser to the late Frank Rizzo, Philly’s notoriously racist police chief and mayor, has orchestrated the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) media offensive against Mumia, including the “Justice for Daniel Faulkner” Web site. In 1999, Smerconish hosted a $100-a-plate dinner to fund his anti-Mumia crusade, drawing over 800 F.O.P. heavies and a phalanx of local Democrats like Pennsylvania governor and former Philly mayor Ed Rendell, who as District Attorney in the early 1980s oversaw the frame-up of Mumia. Last April, the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal was forced to change venues for events celebrating Mumia’s birthday in Philadelphia and New York after the F.O.P. threatened the venues’ proprietors.

As mouthpieces for the cops’ frame-up machine, Maureen Faulkner and Michael Smerconish even deny Mumia’s credentials as a journalist, which flies in the face of Mumia’s widespread acclaim as the “voice of the voiceless.” Mumia was recently awarded membership in PEN, a writers organization for human rights, in recognition of his writings. A new documentary about Mumia titled In Prison My Whole Life premiered in London and Rome in October, helping to publicize his struggle.

Beginning with Mumia’s 1995 post-conviction hearings, reams of evidence have refuted the cops’ and prosecutors’ lies, establishing beyond any doubt that Mumia’s conviction was the product of a wide-ranging, multilayered, racially and politically motivated frame-up. This overwhelming evidence of innocence is capped by Arnold Beverly’s confession that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner. According to Beverly, who gave his testimony in a June 1999 affidavit, he and an accomplice were hired to kill Faulkner because he was interfering with police graft and mob vice in Philly’s Center City. Mumia arrived after the shooting, had nothing to do with it and was shot by arriving police reinforcements. The Beverly confession, Mumia’s own statement that he did not kill Faulkner and other evidence of Mumia’s innocence are laid out in detail in the Partisan Defense Committee pamphlet, The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal—Mumia Is Innocent!

Beverly’s account is backed up by a range of supporting evidence, including the fact that in December 1981 there were at least three ongoing federal probes of the Philly cops including mob links. The targets included the entire chain of command for the “investigation” of Faulkner’s shooting: the head of Homicide, the Central Division commander and the ranking officer at the scene of the shooting, Alfonzo Giordano. A longtime henchman of Rizzo, Giordano targeted the Black Panther Party and oversaw the 1977-78 police siege of MOVE’s Powelton Village house. He knew exactly who Mumia was and had both motive and opportunity to frame him up. But despite the widespread evidence supporting Beverly, court after court has refused to hear his testimony. Evidence of Mumia’s innocence continues to grow. In the past year, German radical-liberal writer Michael Schiffmann has publicized newly unearthed crime scene photos showing that police tampered with much of the evidence of Faulkner’s killing in order to prosecute Mumia.

Schiffmann, however, has undermined the evidence of Mumia’s innocence by joining those who claim that it is “incredible” that a cop would hire a hitman to kill another cop. In 1999, when Beverly first confessed, Mumia’s lead counsel at the time, Leonard Weinglass, and his co-counsel Dan Williams suppressed the evidence. Then, in 2001, Williams published a book, Executing Justice, as a “pre-emptive strike” against Beverly’s account, which he declared was “bona fide lunacy.” This was seized upon by the prosecution to keep the testimony out of court. For this betrayal, Mumia fired Weinglass and Williams, and his new legal team brought the Beverly confession forward.

In response, liberal writer Dave Lindorff popped up as a self-appointed Mumia “expert” and launched his own attack on Beverly’s confession. A central point of Lindorff’s 2003 book, Killing Time, was to trash Beverly’s testimony. Lindorff has never offered a single fact to refute Beverly and even acknowledges the widespread Philly police corruption and that cops sometimes kill other cops. Instead, Lindorff argues that hiring hitmen is not the “standard modus operandi for police executions” and that it “seems improbable that they would involve so many people in the carrying out of such a heinous plot.” Echoing Lindorff, Schiffmann contended in a November 2006 interview that the Beverly account involves “too many people in the know, too many imponderables in its planned execution.”

That the cops would work hand in hand with gangsters is common knowledge, except perhaps for those blinded by illusions in the police as “public servants.” On the heels of highly publicized cases of collusion between cops and/or Feds and mobsters in Boston and New York, just this September Chicago cop Jerome Finnigan was indicted on charges of plotting, with fellow police officer Keith Herrera, to hire two street gang members to murder another cop whom they correctly suspected of working for the Feds in a police corruption probe. Finnigan has been at the center of federal and state criminal cases charging Special Operations cops with shaking down “drug suspects” for hundreds of thousands of dollars through home invasions, false arrests, robbery and kidnapping. In August, he told Herrera that the hit was “all taken care of,” and in September he said that they “might as well take care of all the witnesses against them” (Chicago Sun-Times, 27 September). What Finnigan did not know was that in the meantime Herrera had started working for the Feds and was wearing a wire.

In our article “Class-Struggle Defense vs. Faith in Capitalist ‘Justice’,” (WV No. 892, 11 May), we wrote: “Why would Lindorff and Schiffmann, two self-proclaimed advocates for Mumia, follow Williams by tearing at the Beverly confession, doing the prosecutors’ work for them? At bottom, it is because the Beverly evidence shows that Mumia was the victim not of a rogue cop, bad prosecutor or racist judge but of an entire ‘justice’ system in which the cops, prosecutors and courts act to uphold the class interests of the capitalist rulers.”

What is crucially needed is mass protest on Mumia’s behalf, centered on the social power of labor. If undertaken with a mobilization of the union movement, the fight to free Mumia and abolish the racist death penalty would be a first, giant step toward infusing workers with the consciousness that the whole system of capitalist repression must be smashed through socialist revolution.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 903, 23 November 2007)

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