Class-Struggle Defense vs. Faith in Capitalist "Justice"

David Lindorff, Michael Schiffmann: Undermining Mumia's Fight for Freedom

The following article was printed in Workers Vanguard No. 892 (11 May 2007).

With oral arguments in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal scheduled for May 17 in the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the fight for freedom for this class-war prisoner is posed with utmost urgency. This could well be the final legal appeal for Mumia, an innocent man falsely convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner on 9 December 1981. For more than 25 years the cops, prosecutors, bourgeois politicians and their media jackals have howled for his blood because they see in Mumia—a Black Panther Party spokesman in his youth and later a MOVE supporter, an outspoken journalist who speaks of revolutionary change—the spectre of black revolution. The forces of capitalist “law and order” want to kill Mumia or bury him alive in prison, not only to silence his voice but to send a message to minority youth, to union militants, leftists and anyone who would dare defy their system of exploitation and racist oppression.

Mumia’s conviction and death sentence were the result of a political and racist frame-up, the continuation of the government vendetta against the Black Panther Party that led to the murder of 38 Panthers and the frame-up arrests of hundreds of others and part of a crescendo of frame-ups and outright terror directed against the MOVE organization. The police and prosecutors have stopped at nothing in their efforts against Mumia—intimidation of witnesses, suppression and falsification of evidence of Mumia’s innocence, concerted campaigns against any and all who stand in defense of Mumia.

In every legal action since Mumia’s conviction, the courts have denied the evidence of his innocence and of the state frame-up. That includes three evidentiary hearings, three motions and two appeals to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court, a habeas corpus petition filed in the U.S. District Court and three petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court. The reversal of Mumia’s death sentence in December 2001 by U.S. District Court judge William Yohn was immediately appealed by the prosecution. Mumia remains on death row, where he has languished for a quarter-century.

The history of Mumia’s legal case gives flesh and blood to the Marxist understanding of the bourgeois state and its courts as organs of repression against the working people and the oppressed. They are not neutral but serve and protect the capitalist ruling class and its profit system. There is no justice in the capitalist courts for those who stand in opposition to and defiance of that system and its manifold horrors.

It took mass international protest—protest that crucially included trade unionists—to stay the executioner’s hand in August 1995. What is needed now, as the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee have repeatedly stressed, is to rekindle such mass protests behind the call for Mumia’s freedom, based on the understanding that he is an innocent man and the victim of a racist political frame-up.

This task not only entails combatting the bourgeois media that dutifully repeats every lie dished out by the Philadelphia D.A.’s office and the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.). It also requires exposing those who claim to support Mumia while denigrating the massive evidence of his innocence and the state frame-up. Representative of such types are David Lindorff, author of Killing Time: An Investigation Into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Common Courage Press, 2003), and Michael Schiffmann, author of Wettlauf gegen den Tod (2006, available in English on the Internet as Race Against Death).

Both authors reject the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot Faulkner and cast doubts about Mumia’s own statement that he had nothing to do with the shooting. Schiffmann has denounced the Beverly evidence as “divisive” and “distracting,” while Lindorff intones that to push it risks alienating potential supporters of Mumia. Their bottom line is to plead for a new, “fair” trial by the same legal system that railroaded Mumia to death row. Thus, in the guise of “exposés” on behalf of Mumia, these books serve to undermine the fight for Mumia’s freedom.

Various reformist left groups—from the Workers World Party (WWP) to the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Socialist Action (SA)—have embraced either or both of these books, and for a reason. Each of these organizations has peddled the same illusions in capitalist “justice” and thus worked to demobilize the mass protest movement for Mumia that must now be revitalized.

Evidence of Innocence: Too Hot to Handle

Both Lindorff’s and Schiffmann’s books provide a fairly comprehensive picture of the holes in the prosecution case, the falsification of evidence and coercion of witnesses, the bias that oozed from every pore of Judge Albert Sabo during Mumia’s 1982 trial. Killing Time starkly depicts the racist jury-rigging at the trial, and Race Against Death presents ballistics and other evidence refuting the lying police account of how Mumia supposedly shot Faulkner.

All this, and more, had long ago been established as fact, due principally to investigative work by Rachel Wolkenstein, counsel for the Partisan Defense Committee and, along with the PDC’s Jonathan Piper, a member of Mumia’s legal team from 1995 to 1999. Wolkenstein and Piper repeatedly fought in the defense team to bring forward evidence of the police frame-up and of Mumia’s innocence. It should not have taken a Marxist understanding of the capitalist state and its legal system to pursue the evidence in a case that was such an obvious frame-up, moreover one that was so loaded with racist bias and political motive. A detailed account of this evidence is included in Wolkenstein’s July 2001 affidavit submitted by Mumia’s then attorneys Marlene Kamish and Eliot Grossman to both Pennsylvania state and U.S. federal courts. The affidavit, along with Beverly’s 1999 confession and other crucial documents, was printed in the September 2001 PDC pamphlet Mumia Abu-Jamal Is an Innocent Man! (reprinted in the updated July 2006 pamphlet The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal—Mumia Is Innocent!).

But while the Lindorff and Schiffmann books lean heavily on this work (a point they fail to acknowledge), their core purpose is to undermine the fact of Mumia’s innocence and the extent and depth of the frame-up carried out by the forces of the state, who want to see him dead. Both equivocate on the life-and-death question of whether Mumia shot Faulkner. While Lindorff writes that he would “lean towards innocence” in regard to the first-degree murder charge against Mumia, he adds, “I’m not convinced that Mumia Abu-Jamal was simply an innocent bystander.” Asking whether Mumia shot Faulkner, he concludes: “The answer has to be maybe.” While Schiffmann states that Mumia is innocent of murder and points to Kenneth Freeman as the shooter, he nevertheless offers that “even if Abu-Jamal did fire the shot that killed Faulkner, he did so in self-defense.”

Lindorff attacks Mumia’s own declaration that “I did not shoot Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. I had nothing to do with the killing of Officer Faulkner. I am innocent” (see box, page 7). Schiffmann does the same thing by implication.

Both writers are quite explicit in their dismissal of the confession of Arnold Beverly. In a 1999 affidavit, Beverly declared: “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.” As Wolkenstein stated in her 2001 affidavit:

“Beverly’s confession not only established Jamal’s innocence but also laid bare the extent and consciousness of police and prosecutorial misconduct in prosecuting and convicting Mumia Abu-Jamal and sentencing him to death for a crime he did not commit. Beverly’s account of the shooting did not stand alone but was supported by a wealth of information in the record…. Beverly’s account of being hired to kill Officer Faulkner was consistent with the fact that there were at least three ongoing FBI investigations of police corruption in the Center City area where Faulkner worked at the time of his murder, and that at least one other informant in those investigations was murdered. Beverly’s account of the shooting was also more consistent with the available physical evidence than the prosecution scenario of the shooting (which was physically impossible). Moreover, the claim that police hired Beverly (along with police political bias against Jamal) helped to explain the gross police and prosecutorial misconduct permeating the case.”

For Lindorff, Beverly’s confession “strains credulity.” Schiffmann recounts that while he was initially inclined to believe the confession, under the influence of Lindorff and others he was converted to rejecting the account as an “unnecessary complex scheme” (while opining that the courts should have at least heard this evidence). In this, the authors are following in the footsteps of Dan Williams. In 2001, Williams, who was then serving on Mumia’s legal team with lead counsel Leonard Weinglass, published an unauthorized and lying account of the legal defense, appropriately titled Executing Justice. Williams told Weinglass that his book was a “pre-emptive strike” against the Beverly confession—which they had suppressed for two years—ever being used in Mumia’s defense in court.

Calling the confession “insane” and any effort to use it “bona fide lunacy,” Williams’ assertions in his book provided the sole basis of prosecution arguments for excluding this evidence from court. Mumia fired Williams and Weinglass when he learned of the publication of the book, which outrageously tried to make Mumia complicit in burying the Beverly testimony. The lie that Mumia rejected the Beverly evidence was echoed in a Socialist Action (April 2001) article by Jeff Mackler. Thanks to Williams’ treachery, the courts summarily excluded the Beverly evidence, and the cops and prosecutors have never had to try to refute it. Nor could they refute it, as Beverly’s confession throws light on the web of cop corruption that led to the conviction of a number of police officers and higher-ups.

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. This Marxist understanding is anathema to the liberal Lindorff and the anarchoid liberal Schiffmann, who embrace the very “justice” system that at every level has declared, as in the infamous Dred Scott case, that Mumia has no rights it is bound to respect.

Liberals and Capitalist “Justice”

Lindorff, whose columns appear in CounterPunch and the Nation, scorns those convinced that Mumia had nothing to do with Faulkner’s shooting as “true believers,” a timeworn anti-communist epithet. He outrageously equates those “absolutely convinced” of Mumia’s innocence with the F.O.P., which clamors for Mumia’s blood, saying that “one of those two bitterly opposed sides may be in the right, though I have my doubts about both.”

Nevertheless, Lindorff has made himself a minor celebrity on the liberal left as an “independent” authority on Mumia’s case, embraced by such reformists as the ISO, which enthused over Killing Time for “exposing the flaws in Mumia’s case” (Socialist Worker, 16 December 2005). The Web site of Refuse & Resist, which is associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), runs articles by Lindorff, whom they also trumpet as an authority on Mumia’s case, and Lindorff will be speaking at the May 12 “Writers for Mumia” co-sponsored by the WWP’s International Action Center and the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition of New York City.

In the afterword to Killing Time, Lindorff makes clear that the question for him is not whether Mumia “‘did it,’ but whether he received a fair trial and a fair appeal of his conviction.” Mumia’s case, he writes, “is nothing less than a test of the American justice system.” In fact, Mumia’s case is a testament to the racist and political frame-ups that are integral to the capitalist “justice” system. They are not aberrations staining the reputation of U.S. democracy, as Lindorff and other liberals would have it, but are just as much a part of the fabric of the bourgeois state as are the torture chambers at the Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo prison camps. Where Killing Time pleads for a “fair trial” for Mumia, Race Against Death spends several pages lauding celebrities and others demanding that Mumia get a new day in court.

Both of these books serve as tools for those whose strategy revolves around the call for a new trial. For years, this call has been a centerpiece of protest actions organized by the reformist left, sometimes with an admixture of calls to free Mumia. At a January 1999 “Emergency Leadership Summit Meeting,” representatives of some reformist left groups—SA, WWP, Solidarity, the RCP’s Refuse & Resist—along with the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and others adopted a strategy and slogans for the April 24 “Millions for Mumia” demonstrations and beyond. With abundant evidence of Mumia’s innocence, and no less proof of the frame-up methods used to send him to death row, there should have been no question that a movement on his behalf would raise the demand for his freedom, just as earlier generations were mobilized around the calls to “Free the Scottsboro Boys!” and “Free Angela Davis!” But following a debate, the call to “free Mumia” and opposition to the death penalty were rejected in favor of calling for a new trial in order to reach out to “the American mainstream.” For the reformists, who sought to forge a class-collaborationist alliance with Democratic Party politicians and other bourgeois liberals, that “mainstream” included those who were agnostic on Mumia’s innocence.

At bottom, the “new trial” slogan is an appeal to liberals who see Mumia’s case not as the frame-up of an innocent man but as an isolated “miscarriage of justice.” The program put forward by the WWP, RCP, ISO, SA et al. masks the true face of bourgeois democracy, which represents nothing other than the dictatorship of the capitalist class. In Lessons of October (1924), Leon Trotsky, co-leader with V.I. Lenin of the Russian Revolution of October 1917, pointed out the role of such reformists in “the actual training of the masses to become imbued with the inviolability of the bourgeois state.” This is precisely the role of the reformist “socialists” who rely on the courts to bring Mumia “justice.” These groups obstruct the development of a defense movement based on the understanding that it is the class nature and racial bias of the capitalist state that is behind the cops’ and courts’ virulent hatred of Mumia, and that the road to winning his freedom lies in class-struggle defense.

Since the PDC and Spartacist League took up Mumia’s case in 1987, we have advocated pursuing all possible legal proceedings on his behalf. But in doing so we place no faith whatever in the “justice” of the capitalist courts. The PDC’s efforts in publicizing Mumia’s case, raising funds for his legal defense and initiating united-front protests helped make Mumia a household name and laid the foundation for the upsurge of mass protest on his behalf in the 1990s. It is only the pressure of a mass movement, with the power of the organized working class brought to bear, that can make the courts respond. A demonstration of the social power of the working class, which can bring production, transport and communications to a halt, was seen in the December 2005 strike by New York City transit workers that crippled the financial center of U.S. capitalism.

The groundbreaking investigative work by Wolkenstein and Piper proved that Mumia is an innocent man victimized by a wide-ranging, multi-layered frame-up. In our class-struggle defense work, we seek to imbue militants with the understanding that the bourgeois state, consisting at its core of the armed forces, the cops, the courts and the prisons, is an apparatus of violence designed to protect the profits and rule of the capitalist class against the working class and the oppressed. And as Mumia’s case so amply demonstrates, in racist America, this repression, carried out under both the Democratic and Republican parties of capital, falls heavily on the black population, segregated in the main at the bottom of society.

The rulers’ murderous disdain for black people is a thread connecting the mass incarceration of minority youth, mainly due to the “war on drugs,” and the racist atrocity in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, when the government at all levels left thousands to die. In capitalist America, “justice” means that it is the black people, workers, immigrants and the poor who are thrown into the depths of the vast network of prisons and death rows across the country. Over two million men, women and even children are behind bars, over half of them black or Latino. The racist bias inherent in the capitalist legal system was underscored in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1987 McCleskey v. Kemp decision upholding the death penalty despite overwhelming evidence of the racist disparity in its application. To do otherwise, the court ruled, would throw into question “the principles that underlie the entire criminal justice system.” Indeed it would!

We call to abolish the racist death penalty—a barbaric institution and, in the U.S., a legacy of chattel slavery. We fight for proletarian socialist revolution to sweep away the entire murderous state apparatus and the capitalist profit system it serves and to replace it with a workers state based on a planned, collectivized economy.

The Courts’ “Mumia Rules”

The state’s determination to kill Mumia, and why, was displayed at his sentencing in 1982, when the prosecution held up his prior membership in the Black Panther Party to secure a death sentence. As the PDC documented in “Mumia Abu-Jamal: The FBI COINTELPRO Files” (Class-Struggle Defense Notes No. 22, Summer 1995), as a teenager Mumia was a target of the FBI’s program to destroy the Black Panther Party. The cops and courts further had it in for Mumia when he won prominence as a journalist, whose searing exposés of racism and police terror earned him the title “voice of the voiceless,” and became a supporter of Philadelphia MOVE. The Philly cops’ murderous campaign to destroy MOVE was capped by the 13 May 1985 firebombing of MOVE’s Osage Avenue commune by the police and the Feds, killing eleven and burning down a predominantly black neighborhood.

Our earliest defense efforts on behalf of Mumia included explaining the numerous legal issues in his case, much of which is recounted by Lindorff and Schiffmann. In early 1989, the PDC produced a legal dossier, “The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Handbook of Constitutional Violations,” detailing the many ways in which the right to a fair trial was violated.

It is clear that the courts operate by special “Mumia rules” akin to the frame-up methods used to persecute earlier fighters for black rights, labor militants, communists and others deemed “subversive.” In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the legality of making Mumia’s membership in the Panthers the basis of his death sentence, a clear violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and association. But the court did take up and overturn the death sentence of a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, a racist prison gang, based on the same legal argument! And every court to which it has been presented has refused to consider the Beverly confession and mountains of supporting evidence.

Faulkner was shot early in the morning of 9 December 1981 on the corner of 13th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia’s Center City red-light district. Mumia was critically wounded, shot through the lungs and into the liver. As Mumia has made clear, the cops beat him at the scene and at first planned to take him to police headquarters to finish him off. At the hospital, they tried again to kill him.

To secure Mumia’s conviction, cops and prosecutors coerced witnesses into providing perjured testimony and terrorized others into not testifying at all. The latter included William Singletary, who had told police immediately after the killing that he saw someone other than Mumia shoot Faulkner. Fearing for his life, Singletary left town during the trial.

The prosecution’s case against Mumia rested on three legs, all lies, as detailed in the 1995 PDC pamphlet The Frame-Up of Mumia Abu-Jamal. First, the prosecution claimed that three eyewitnesses identified Mumia as the shooter. But not one witness ever testified to seeing Mumia shoot Faulkner. As other eyewitnesses have testified, the key prosecution witness, prostitute Cynthia White, was not even on the scene at the time of the shooting. Another prosecution witness, cab driver Robert Chobert, admitted in 1995 that he had not been parked behind Faulkner’s police car, as he claimed at the 1982 trial, and could not see the shooting. This is confirmed by photos Schiffmann discovered that had been taken by freelance photographer Pedro Polakoff minutes after the shooting clearly showing that Chobert’s cab was not parked behind Faulkner’s car.

Second, the prosecution claimed that Mumia confessed to the shooting when he arrived at the hospital to be treated for his wounds. This was a cop/prosecution fabrication pure and simple. Gary Wakshul, the cop who guarded Mumia that night, wrote in his report that Mumia “made no comments.” At a 1995 Post Conviction Relief (PCRA) hearing, held as the threat of execution was hanging over Mumia, Wakshul testified that he did not manage to report the “confession” for two months, when this tale was concocted at a roundtable meeting called by the prosecutor to prepare for trial.

Lastly, the prosecution argued that the fact that Mumia’s gun was found at the scene showed that he did the shooting. There is not a shred of evidence that Mumia’s gun was ever fired that night, let alone that Mumia had fired it.

The story cooked up by the cops and the D.A.’s office is that Faulkner had made a routine traffic stop of a VW he saw driving erratically, with Mumia’s brother Billy Cook behind the wheel. Cook emerged from the car and a scuffle took place. Mumia, parked in the cab he drove, saw his brother beaten by Faulkner, ran across a parking lot and shot Faulkner first in the back and then emptied his revolver straight down at a prone Faulkner. It was while Faulkner was falling, the prosecution claims, that he shot Mumia. This is a totally false story.

The essential premise of the prosecution case was that only three men were on the southeast corner of 13th and Locust when Faulkner was shot—Faulkner, Billy Cook and Mumia—and that since the shooter was not Cook, it must have been Mumia. This scenario was refuted by no fewer than five witnesses who have testified that a black man ran away from the scene to the east.

At the 1995 hearing, it was revealed that police had found a driver’s license application belonging to one Arnold Howard in Faulkner’s uniform. At this hearing, Howard testified that he had given the document to Kenneth Freeman. Billy Cook, in a 1999 declaration submitted to Wolkenstein, included in The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, declared that Freeman was in the Volkswagen with him at the time, and that “Freeman told me after that night that there was a plan to kill Officer Faulkner, that Freeman was part of that plan, that he was armed that night and participated in the shooting.”

Schiffmann strenuously argues that it was solely Freeman who killed Faulkner. Freeman’s involvement is certainly a crucial part of the picture. Suspiciously, and conveniently for the cops, he was found dead on 13 May 1985, just hours after the bombing of the MOVE commune. But it is the confession of Arnold Beverly that ties Freeman’s role and other evidence into a coherent picture of what happened on 9 December 1981.

Doing the Prosecution’s Work: Smearing Arnold Beverly

Beverly recounts that he had been waiting on the north side of Locust Street and had a partner on the south side, with cops positioned to make sure the hit went off. Beverly states that when Faulkner pulled over Cook’s VW:

“I heard a shot ring out coming from east on Locust Street. Faulkner fell on his knee on the sidewalk next to the VW. I heard another shot and it must have grazed my left shoulder. I felt something hard on my left shoulder. I grabbed at my shoulder and got blood on my hand. I ran across Locust Street and stood over Faulkner, who had fallen backwards on the sidewalk. I shot Faulkner in the face at close range. Jamal was shot shortly after that by a uniformed police officer who arrived on the scene.”

Beverly states that he escaped through a station on the Speedline subway with help from the cops. The fact that he himself had been shot in the hit on Faulkner helps explain why he came forward with his confession.

A vitally important part of Beverly’s statement is that he was wearing a green army jacket at the time of the shooting. No less than five witnesses, including two cops and two prosecution witnesses, said that someone at the scene thought to be the shooter was wearing a green army jacket. Dessie Hightower’s friend Robert Pigford, who never testified at the trial and later became a cop, told police that immediately after hearing shots he saw a man in an army jacket standing over the fallen cop. Billy Cook said that Freeman was wearing one, and William Singletary confirms that the shooter who got out of the VW was wearing one. The person or persons wearing a green army jacket could not have been either Mumia or Billy Cook. Mumia was wearing a blue and red striped quilted jacket, and Billy wore a blue Nehru-style jacket.

Beverly’s account also answers the critical question of how Mumia was shot. His claim that Mumia was shot by a backup cop and not by Faulkner is supported by the account of a homicide cop named Westerman, included in a medical examiner’s report, that Mumia was shot by “arriving police reinforcements.” This accords with the testimony of Dessie Hightower that Faulkner’s gun was in his holster as police removed him from the scene. The trajectory of the wounds Mumia suffered—traveling down through his chest from his lung and into his liver—blows apart the prosecution’s claim that he had been shot while standing over Faulkner, i.e., from below.

Other elements of Beverly’s testimony have been corroborated as well. When Rachel Wolkenstein first located Beverly in 1989, he said that a black officer, “Boston,” was involved in the shooting. Wolkenstein pointed out in her affidavit that “the existence of a police officer named ‘Boston’ was confirmed when reviewing the records of a 1979 federal law suit concerning police brutality in Philadelphia.” Wolkenstein noted that Beverly’s account was backed up at a 1997 PCRA hearing for Mumia by the testimony of a prostitute named Pamela Jenkins, who had been an FBI informant in an infamous corruption scandal involving Philadelphia’s 39th police district. Wolkenstein stated: “Jenkins testified that in 1982, while a prostitute and lover of P.O. [Police Officer] Thomas Ryan, she learned that a black police officer named Boston and other police officers, including ‘Sarge’ and Det. Richard Ryan, were present during the shooting of Officer Faulkner.”

In 1999, Wolkenstein and Piper resigned from Mumia’s legal team when it became clear that Weinglass and Williams refused to use the explosive evidence provided by Beverly and the supporting evidence of the police frame-up and of Mumia’s innocence, after suppressing it for two years. It was finally introduced in 2001, after Mumia had fired Weinglass and Williams. That Beverly’s confession tied together previously unexplained loose threads and that he passed two lie detector tests is fact. But from the moment it was introduced, the confession has been met with a frenzied attack, by both those leading the charge for Mumia’s legal lynching and by individuals and groups who consider themselves to be supporters of Mumia’s legal battle.

It was when Mumia was trying to prevent the publication of Williams’ Executing Justice and found himself under renewed attack by the F.O.P. and the press that Lindorff popped up with an article in (23 March 2001) titled “Mumia Sues to Halt Book.” Having written very little about Mumia’s case previously, Lindorff claimed that Williams’ treacherous book, which concluded that Mumia may have been guilty, “makes a forceful argument that Abu-Jamal deserves a new, fairer trial.” Three months later, when Mumia and his new attorneys introduced the Beverly confession, Lindorff denounced it as “a kind of legal ‘Hail Mary’ pass” while scurrilously attacking Mumia’s lawyers (“Mumia’s All-Or-Nothing Gamble,”, 15 June 2001).

Lindorff continues his attack on Beverly’s testimony in Killing Time without offering a single fact to refute it. Nowhere does the “award-winning investigative reporter” Lindorff even mention the repeated descriptions of the green army jacket.

Schiffmann’s tack in Race Against Death is to distort the facts and neatly discard what he finds inconvenient. Much as Williams did in regard to the Beverly confession itself, Schiffmann does the work of the prosecution by arguing that the fact that five people saw someone in a green army jacket on the scene, and that this could not have been Mumia or Billy Cook, is irrelevant. He argues that these sightings must have been mistaken due to “weak memory,” “bad light at the scene” and “obstructed” views. Though he repeatedly cites and gives credence to testimony from Robert Pigford, Schiffmann fails to mention Pigford’s telling the police that he saw a man with a green army jacket standing over Faulkner.

Cop Corruption and the Killing of Faulkner

Schiffmann’s book has been hailed for reporting “new” ballistics evidence that had already been uncovered by Wolkenstein and set forth in her affidavit. This includes the lack of divots in the sidewalk at the scene of the shooting, which contradicts the cops’ tale that Mumia fired repeatedly as he stood over Faulkner.

Schiffmann, however, like Lindorff, simply disappears facts that back up Beverly’s account. Neither writer mentions that Beverly’s reference to a cop named Boston is corroborated, although Lindorff covers Pamela Jenkins’ testimony in depth. Nor do they make any reference to Westerman’s report, instead repeating ad nauseam that Mumia was shot by Faulkner. They ignore the evidence in Wolkenstein’s affidavit that, according to the police ballistics report, the gun reputedly used by Faulkner to shoot Mumia “contained powder fouling, dirt and lint in the chambers,” could “not cock as designed” and “had a bent hammer spur”—i.e., was inoperable. In buttressing Schiffmann’s case that Freeman was the sole killer, Race Against Death cites evidence that the bullet trajectories do not accord with the prosecution’s account of how Faulkner was shot. In fact, as Wolkenstein’s affidavit demonstrates, those trajectories point to more than one shooter.

Schiffmann questions why no witness described Beverly disappearing into the Speedline subway entrance. This is hardly a mystery. According to Beverly (and others), the street was swarming with cops who were keeping witnesses at bay. Schiffmann also disputes Beverly’s testimony regarding the presence of two undercover cops and a uniformed police officer in a car nearby, claiming that “one would expect them everywhere else in order to be able to plausibly deny any involvement in the crime.” Schiffmann does not mention that in late 1996, three years before Beverly’s confession, “an eyewitness named Marcus Cannon came forward with the information that he saw two white men who appeared to be undercover police officers present on the scene during P.O. Faulkner’s shooting” (Wolkenstein affidavit). Singletary has also testified that he saw two police “white shirts” and a number of uniformed cops at the scene.

What Lindorff and Schiffmann’s arguments against Beverly boil down to was summed up by Schiffmann in a November 2006 interview with journalist Hans Bennett, posted online, in which he remarked, “The scenario Beverly describes is certainly not one I would resort to if I wanted to kill a fellow cop,” with “too many people in the know, too many imponderables in its planned execution, and far too much traffic, pedestrian and otherwise.” Those who actually do this for a living might beg to differ. In one of the most famous mob hits of all, in 1985 Paul Castellano was gunned down in front of a crowded Midtown Manhattan restaurant by a group of converging hit men. All were wearing trench coats and Russian fur hats to create confusion and make identification nearly impossible, which might indicate why Beverly and Freeman were both wearing green army jackets.

Lindorff and Schiffmann concede the overwhelming evidence of cop corruption, with Lindorff noting that “one-third of the 35 cops involved with the case had compiled a record of deceitful behavior and even evidence tampering.” He even notes that Faulkner’s FBI files could be consistent with his being an FBI informant—the motive for the hit!

The history of Philly cop corruption is a matter of public record. Virtually the entire chain of command for the “investigation” of Faulkner’s death was under suspicion in federal corruption probes, including the head of the Central Division, John DeBenedetto (convicted), and the head of Homicide, James Carlini (unindicted co-conspirator). Inspector Alfonzo Giordano, who pled guilty in 1986, was senior officer at the scene after Faulkner’s shooting and played a key role in initiating and orchestrating the frame-up. Giordano certainly knew who Mumia was in December 1981, having been the right-hand man of the racist police chief Frank Rizzo during the cops’ vendetta against the Black Panther Party and having helped lead a police siege of MOVE’s Powelton Village home in 1977-78, when Rizzo was mayor.

But Lindorff and Schiffmann reject any connection between this history and the possibility of a mob/police hit on Faulkner, which Lindorff declares to be incredible. He admits that it is not uncommon for cops to kill their own, but claims that “the standard modus operandi for police executions has been for them to occur in a dark part of a park or alleyway, out of view of anyone—often with the officer’s own gun used so as to make it look like a suicide.”

Well, sometimes yes, sometimes no. Consider the case of sheriff-elect Derwin Brown of DeKalb County, Georgia, gunned down in December 2000 in front of his house after he vowed to clean out corruption in the sheriff’s department. Or take the well-known case of Frank Serpico, a New York City cop who worked as an informant against police corruption in the 1970s and was set up by his fellow officers to be shot during a drug raid. Under that scenario, the cops could claim that street thugs shot Serpico, just as the Philly cops could cover their tracks by hiring Beverly and Freeman to do the job on Faulkner.

Ever so naively, Lindorff asks how the cops could have thought they’d get away with a hit on Faulkner. Lindorff himself provides a clue, writing that Deputy Police Commissioner James Martin was “overseeing that entire department” and was responsible for all major investigations, “a responsibility that included the case of Officer Faulkner and Abu-Jamal.” The same Martin was later convicted of extortion and sentenced to 18 years.

Mumia Is an Innocent Man!

Against all the evidence, Lindorff writes that Mumia could have “shot Faulkner, but simply as a matter of self-defense. It could be he wounded the officer and someone else finished the job off…. If he was defending himself but overreacted after being shot, or after seeing his brother being beaten, it could be the charge should have been manslaughter.” He even accepts as a possibility the grotesque prosecution scenario that Mumia “stood over the officer and fired more shots at him.” Schiffmann, in contrast, names Freeman as the likely killer and absolves Mumia of any involvement—sort of. In Schiffmann’s scenario, upon hearing Mumia run up behind him, Faulkner turned and shot him “in putative self-defense,” prompting Freeman to fire at Faulkner. But for good measure, Schiffmann echoes Lindorff in arguing that Mumia may have killed Faulkner, writing that “even if Abu-Jamal did fire the shot that killed Faulkner, he did so in self-defense.”

Attacking Mumia’s May 2001 declaration, Lindorff claims that his account of running toward the scene after hearing shots being fired and then being shot by a cop “flies in the face of much of the testimony at the trial and at the PCRA hearing—testimony which, rightly or wrongly, has already been affirmed by state and federal courts as being credible and believable.” Sanctifying a key component of the prosecution’s lying account, Lindorff asserts that “all the main witnesses in this case, for both the defense and the prosecution, say that all of the shooting happened after Abu-Jamal began crossing the street or as he was crossing it to come to his brother’s aid.” Lindorff is so committed to “proving” that Mumia “could be” involved in the shooting that he relies on the coerced, fraudulent testimony featured at Mumia’s frame-up “trial”—testimony that Lindorff’s own book lays out as false!

Schiffmann’s account likewise goes against Mumia’s testimony that he ran up only after hearing a gunshot. Schiffmann and Lindorff both accept as fact that Mumia was shot by Faulkner as part of their contention that Mumia may have shot Faulkner in self-defense. This is all part of their appeal to those who are agnostic on Mumia’s innocence and might rally around the call for a new, fair trial. The reformist left trumpets Lindorff and Schiffmann’s “exposés” with the same intent.

As an idea of the bourgeois forces they seek to appeal to, look at Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah. Last December, Fattah voted along with 367 other Democrats and Republicans for a House resolution condemning the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis for naming a street in honor of Mumia, a resolution intended to grease the skids for Mumia’s execution. His vote evoked outrage among those of Mumia’s supporters who recalled his earlier assistance in obtaining a Congressional Black Caucus resolution calling for a new trial. But as Fattah himself noted, there was no contradiction between these acts. In a statement posted on his Web site, Fattah declared: “While I remain unconvinced that justice has been served in this case, I am voting for the Resolution because the glorification of anyone who stands convicted of so terrible an offense is an affront to those who risk their lives on a daily basis to serve and to protect.” He continued by reaffirming his “hope” for a new trial.

Lindorff criticized those who voted for the resolution “without any real knowledge about this complex case,” but followed up with a jab at Mumia’s supporters, who “sometimes equally ignorant of the facts, have lionized him and honored him with honorary citizenships and street names” (CounterPunch, 7 December 2006).

There can be no clearer display of the role played by Lindorff and Schiffmann in undermining the fight for Mumia’s freedom than their attacks on the Beverly confession and those who have publicized it. Lindorff intones that the Beverly evidence “could risk losing some of the enthusiasm that had made Jamal something of a symbol of the national and international campaign to abolish capital punishment in the U.S.” In fact, it was the liberal strategy of reliance on the capitalist courts that demobilized Mumia’s army of supporters around the world. That outlook meant rejecting the very reasons that millions had taken up Mumia’s cause: revulsion over the poverty, racial oppression, war and injustice that are inherent in the capitalist system. There was broad identification with Mumia’s fight against the “system”—rather than liberal concern for repairing the damaged reputation of the system.

The claim that you cannot win widespread support for Mumia on the basis that he is an innocent man is refuted by the many who have signed the PDC statement that says just that and cites the Beverly confession. Signatories include Nobel Prize winning author Nadine Gordimer, black intellectuals Manning Marable and Henry Louis Gates Jr., and numerous trade unionists around the world. (The statement appears in WV No. 880, 10 November 2006; for a full list of signatories, see the PDC Web site, The crux of this statement was echoed by the March 2007 issue of Shopsteward, published by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which warned: “The state is as determined as ever to execute Mumia, an innocent man…. Mumia’s freedom will not be won through relying on the capitalist rigged justice system. What can really turn the tide is the power of united millions across the world—working people united in struggle to free an innocent man.”

Indeed, labor’s power must be brought to bear on behalf of Mumia. But it is self-evident that this can only be done by mobilizing independently of the forces of the capitalist state that framed up this innocent man. Integrated unions representing millions of workers have gone on record in support of Mumia. That these millions have not been mobilized in action to combat this racist frame-up is the responsibility of the pro-capitalist labor misleaders, who shackle the unions to the political parties and state agencies of the capitalist class. Serving to reinforce those shackles are Lindorff, Schiffmann and reformist leftists who would subordinate Mumia’s fight for freedom to reliance on the capitalist courts.

The fight to free Mumia and all class-war prisoners is an integral part of the struggle to forge a Leninist vanguard party. Acting as the champion of all the exploited and oppressed, such a party is the necessary instrument to lead the fight to overturn the capitalist order through socialist revolution and open the road to black liberation and the liberation of us all.