[Paleopsych] Front Page: Free Mumia?

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Free Mumia?
[This is a little old, but support for Mumia rages on.]

                             By [1]Paul Mulshine
                  [2]FrontPageMagazine.com | August 1, 1995

    [3]Heterodoxy | August 1995

    SEVERAL YEARS AFTER THE MURDER of her husband, Maureen Faulkner moved
    to Southern California. It was as complete a change as she could
    imagine, from the confined rowhouse neighborhoods of Philadelphia to
    the wide-open beaches of the Pacific. She wanted to get away from it
    all, but the horror of his death has followed her.

    "I had a very interesting experience the other day," she told me. "I
    was pumping gas and I saw this guy get out of his car and he had on a
    'Free Mumia' T-shirt. I went over to him and I said, 'Excuse me. Where
    did you get that shirt?'

    " 'At a rally at UCLA,' he said.

    " 'Tell me about the case,' I said.

    " 'It's about a Black Panther and the police framed him,' he said.

    "I said, 'Who do you really think shot the cop?'

    " 'Some other guy did it and ran away,' he said.

    "I said, 'You better get your facts straight, because the next time
    you walk around wearing a shirt like that the widow of the officer may
    come up to you.'

    "He said, You mean you're the widow?'

    "I said, 'If you give me your name and address, I'll send you the
    facts of the case!

    "He said, 'No, thanks. "

    Maureen Faulkner wasn't surprised by this response. Those who worship
    in the cult of Mumia Abu-Jamal are allergic to the facts. In fact,
    ignorance is a precondition for the religious experience. Far better
    to restrict oneself to the experience of Jamal's cuddly image as an
    existential dreadlocked intellectual and of his voice, a wonderful,
    mellifluous instrument familiar to listeners of National Public
    Radio's All Things Considered. In a gesture reminiscent of the
    Ayatollah's communiqués from Paris during the years of his exile,
    Jamal regularly sends out from death row cassettes that teach the
    hands of the faithful in faraway places.

    In Pennsylvania, where people know about him, Jamal is a nonentity,
    but in California he's a star. TV actors like Ed Asner and Mike
    Farrell preach his gospel, And college students in Los Angeles wear
    T-shirts emblazoned with his image and reject any invitation to learn
    the facts about his case.

    The University of California has done some amazing things over the
    years, but perhaps its most remarkable accomplishment has been to make
    available to the masses the sort of high-minded ignorance that used to
    be the sole province of Ivy League alumni. It produces an amazing type
    of person, superficially educated yet totally devoid of the type of
    intellectual curiosity that the university education is supposed to

    When I covered the wars in Central America in the 1980s, I was amazed
    at the number of University of California students I'd run into in
    places like Nicaragua and Guatemala. I'd hear these people making
    huge, sweeping statements about local politics that had absolutely no
    basis in fact. I'd offer to show them some writings and documents that
    might alter their views, but theylike the guy Maureen Faulkner met in
    the gas stationwould decline. Thought to them was not a matter of dry
    facts and boring theories; it was a question of consciousness. Once
    one's consciousness was raised about a given question, that was that.

    Though I grew up and live in the East, I attended the University of
    California in the 1960s, so I'm not unaware of the roots of this
    phenomenon. It's what could be called the California Fallacy: that
    high moral authority derives from living in a beautiful place. When
    you're up in the eucalyptus groves above Berkeley, gazing at a
    panorama of the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean beyond, it's
    easy to believe that your thoughts are as wonderful as the view. This
    isn't true, but it has one major advantage from my point of view:
    Practitioners of the California Fallacy rarely show up where I live,
    just outside Philadelphia.

    So it was a bit of a shock when, upon emerging from the dingy, gray
    Philadelphia courtroom in which the case of Mumia Abu Jamal was being
    argued, I found myself surrounded by a handful of University of
    California types who had caravanned east to chant on behalf of their
    favorite political prisoner. It was only a little more shocking
    whenfifteen minutes laterI was being assaulted by two of them on the
    street in broad daylight.

    But I'm getting ahead of myself. I was at the hearing in August 1995
    because I was trying to discover just what it is about Jamal that has
    made him into an international celebrity. His fame is certainly a
    mystery to the working journalists of Philadelphia who have covered
    his case since the beginning. The evidence against Jamal at his trial
    was so conclusive that no one, not even those who are Philadelphia's
    politically liberal equivalent of the conservative, wealthy Main Line
    residents, doubts that Jamal shot police officer Daniel Faulkner.

    One of the journalists who knows the case best is David Holmberg, who
    covered it for the Philadelphia Daily News. At the time of the trial
    in 1982, he was a committed liberal who was very skeptical of the
    Philadelphia police. He was prepared to give Jamal the benefit of the
    doubt. "It was just one of those things where the whole tone was, hey,
    this is a black guy. This is the Philadelphia police. If you were
    there at the time, your first inclination was to identify with Jamal,"
    says Holmberg. "But the evidence was just so overwhelming. The
    testimony was so convincing."

    Not only that, but Jamal also sabotaged his own defense by demanding
    to act as his own attorney. The crusty old judge, Albert Sabo, granted
    that request but refused to grant a further request that Jamal be
    aided in his defense by John Africa, leader of a weird back-to-nature
    cult called MOVE that Jamal had embraced. Mumia's ties with the cult
    had become so strong, in fact, that he had left his part-time job as a
    correspondent for public radio. Although in late 198 1, the time of
    the killing, Jamal was the head of the local chapter of the National
    Association of Black journalists, by then he had only a tenuous
    connection to the journalism profession. He made his living by driving
    a cab.

    When Judge Sabo refused to permit John Africa to join the defense
    team, Jamal responded by disrupting the trial and playing to the
    audience, which was composed largely of MOVE members. A pattern
    developed. After warning him several times to cease disrupting the
    proceedings, Sabo would have Jamal removed from the courtroom and let
    his backup attorney, Anthony Jackson, handle the defense. Then Jamal
    would return for a while, until his next disruption.

    After the jury returned a guilty verdict on first-degree murder, Jamal
    sealed his fate by choosing to address the jury during the penalty
    phase. He began a long political harangue during which he openly
    insulted the jurors, two of whom were black. They responded by
    sentencing him to death. Jamal's behavior was so bizarre that a
    Philadelphia Inquirer reporter speculated in print that the defendant
    was suicidal.

    David Holmberg, now with a Florida newspaper, says he can't understand
    how the pathetic character on display at the trial metamorphosed into
    the cult hero of an international movement. "It's amazing the way
    these people come out of the woodwork for Mumia," he says.

    That's what I figured and that's why I was in the courtroom when Jamal
    was brought into Philadelphia for hearings on the appeal of his death
    sentence. I wanted to find out just who was behind the Mumia
    phenomenon. One day, after the hearing ended, I went into the plaza to
    interview the demonstrators who'd been showing up faithfully for
    several weeks. A rather pleasant looking young woman handed me a "Free
    Mumia" pamphlet. I asked if I could interview her. It began well
    enough. She gave her name as Karla and her age as twenty-three. A
    graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, she was looking
    for something to do during the summer, so she joined a six-car
    "caravan for justice" that began in Santa Cruz and eventually brought
    twenty-seven people to Philadelphia. She was a very nice, very sincere
    person whoin the great University of California traditionwas innocent
    of any knowledge of the case that she had traveled three thousand
    miles to protest.

    I knew a lot more about the case than she did, and not simply because
    I'm a journalist. By pure coincidence I happened to be what might be
    called an "earwitness" to the crime. On December 9, 1981, 1 was living
    just two blocks from 13th and Locust streets in Philadelphia. I was up
    late that night writing. I was still awake when, just before 4:00
    A.M., I heard a quick burst of what sounded like gunfire. I heard five
    or six shots, and it was over almost as soon as it began. Then I heard

    The next morning, the newspapers said that a twenty-five-year-old cop
    by the name of Daniel Faulkner had been shot to death. Jamal was also
    shot, apparently by the cop. The facts were not controversial.
    Faulkner had stopped Jamal's brother, William Cook, for a traffic
    violation. Jamal happened, by what appears to have been pure
    coincidence, to have been driving a cab nearby. He observed Faulkner
    and Cook struggling. He ran across the street toward them and shot
    Faulkner in the back, according to the police account. Faulkner got
    off one shot and hit Jamal in the chest. Jamal then stood over the
    fallen officer and fired four more shots. When police arrived on the
    scene they found Faulkner dying from a bullet between the eyes and
    Jamal sitting on a curb nearby. A .38 caliber Charter Arms revolver
    registered to Jamal was at his feet with five spent cartridges in it.
    Jamal was wearing a holster.

    I asked Karla to explain to me how Jamal could possibly have been
    innocent. Why was he wearing a holster? What happened to Jamal's five
    bullets? Had he, in a burst of compassion, fired them into the air
    while some Good Samaritan came to his aid and shot the officer?

    "I don't know," Karla said. "There's a big possibility that another
    person shot him."

    "Give me a scenario," I said. "Just one."

    At this point she became a bit confused. She fetched another Mumiaite.
    He gave his name as Dan.

    .Did you graduate from UCSC?" I asked.

    "I went there," he said.

    "Give me a scenario."

    "There's a lot of scenarios" he said. "There were 125 eyewitnesses who
    claim they saw what happened, and the defense didn't get a chance to
    question them."

    "Wait a minute," I said. "One hundred and twenty-five eyewitnesses at
    Broad and Locust at 4:00 A.M. on a December night? Have you ever been
    to Broad and Locust?"

    Dan admitted he hadn't. I pointed out to him that, having traveled
    three thousand miles, he might want to walk three blocks to visit the
    murder scene. This might aid him in realizing that the intersection of
    Broad and Locust was certainly not the type of place where hundreds of
    people congregate at 4:00 A.M.

    He backpedaled: "I'm not saying 125 people saw who did what."

    "What are you saying? You mean you came all this distance and you've
    never even thought of a scenario by which your man could possibly be

    At this point Dan and Karla seemed to realize that, unlike most of the
    out-of-town journalists who had descended on Philadelphia for the
    Jamal hearings, I was not a fan.

    "I don't want you to quote me," said Karla. "I want my quotes back."

    "I'll consider it," I said.

    "Me too," said Dan. "I don't want you to quote me."

    I began to walk away. The City Hall courtyard was filled with
    Mumiaites, and I didn't want to attract a crowd of them. They were the
    usual collection of clueless Quakers, burned-out sixties radical
    women, and rasta-dressed middle-class black people. They'd been having
    their little party out there for days, and it was a pathetic sight. A
    woman who identified herself as the Socialist candidate for New York
    City Council took the megaphone to praise Cuba as "the only
    revolutionary free nation on the earth." At another point, a young
    black man who might have been a college student actually smashed a
    black-and-white TV with a crowbar to show his contempt for the media.
    I hadn't the heart to tell him that that particular piece of guerrilla
    theater had become a cliché before he was born.

    No, I didn't want to get mau-maued by that crew. So I tucked my
    notebook in my back pocket and melted into the midday crowd. It was
    when I was a block away from City Hall that it happened. I felt a tug.
    I turned and saw Karla trying to escape with my notebook. I grabbed it
    back. Karla, to give credit where it's due, had a hell of a strong
    grip. Before I could work my notebook free, I felt someone grabbing me
    from behind. It was a tall Jamal supporter whom I'd seen back at City
    Hall. "Call the police!" I began to yell at bystanders.

    The thought of an imminent arrest by the Philadelphia police instantly
    inspired a burst of rationality in the Mumiaites. The tall guy let go,
    and Karla surrendered the notebook. I stuck my finger in the tall
    guy's chest. "Listen, bozo, I could have you arrested for assault!"

    "I am not a bozo!" he replied.

    "Can't we compromise?" said Karla. "Those are my quotes. I don't want
    them used."

    "Well, if you don't want your quotes used, don't talk to journalists,"
    I told her. "This is the East. We play for keeps."

    I went looking for a pay phone to dial 911 and have the two arrested.
    But by the time I found one, I began to appreciate the humor in the
    incident. "I am not a bozo!"they should print that up on the back of
    all those T-shirts that say "Free Mumia!" in front.

    The next night I attended a panel discussion on the Jamal case. By
    coincidence, the annual convention of the National Association of
    Black Journalists was in town. Security was heavy. The Mumiaites were
    out in force, picketing at the entrance to the hotel where the
    convention was being held. The panel featured attorneys on opposite
    sides of the case. For Jamal, there was Leonard Weinglass, the
    leftwing lawyer who has represented everyone from the Chicago Seven to
    the men who bombed the World Trade Center. The anti-Jamal side was
    represented by Joseph McGill, who had prosecuted Jamal in the original
    trial in 1982. McGill had since left the district attorney's office
    and gone into private practice, but he retained an interest in the
    Jamal case. He was fond of telling the media that the case was a
    prosecutor's dream, with every base coveredfrom motive to physical
    evidence to eyewitness testimony.

    The panel discussion promised great drama, tremendous tension. The
    room was packed with the cream of the nation's black journalists,
    hundreds of reporters and editors from all over the country who were
    eager to examine the racially charged case of a black journalist on
    death row for killing a white policeman in a city that had had a
    history of bad relations between the races. As it began, the
    principals fiddled with their microphones and talked nervously.

    Then an amazing thing happenednothing. Weinglass got a bit of a charge
    out of the audience by bringing up every possible racial aspect of the
    case. He hit hard on the idea that the Philadelphia police were out to
    get Jamal because he had been a Black Panther in his youth. But McGill
    pointed out the simple facts of the case. Even if the police had been
    out to get Jamal, there is no way they could have arranged for him to
    show up at that particular intersection, armed, at the exact moment
    his brother was being arrested.

    "It is almost beyond belief to imagine a conspiracy so wide and so
    deep as to get all this evidence together:' McGill said. He pointed
    out that the defense had failed to come up with any challenge to the
    fact that Jamal's gun was found at his feet with five spent casings in

    As for Jamal's political involvement, it was more likely to prove his
    guilt than his innocence, McGill argued. Jamal's obsession with the
    MOVE cult had led him to grow dreadlocks and become an advocate of the
    group, if not a member. Shortly before the Faulkner shooting, Jamal
    had covered a trial at which MOVE members were convicted of killing a
    white policeman during a siege at one of their fortified houses.
    "Abu-Jamal indicated he was just overwhelmed with anger in 1981 when
    the MOVE members were sentenced," said McGill.

    Shortly after this statement I first noticed a curious phenomenon: The
    black journalists in the audience were filing out. Discreetly, in ones
    and twos, they began making their way to the back of the room.
    Elsewhere in the hotel were hospitality suites, recruiters from major
    newspapers, all kinds of attractions for the young, well-dressed,
    upwardly mobile cream of the African-American journalistic
    establishment. Inside was a debate between white people about what,
    when you got right down to it, was the sort of local crime story that
    most reporters have seen enough of.

    The question-and-answer session began. A Jamal supporter, one of those
    aging-hippie types with long hair on the sides but none on top, began
    a tirade on the subject of how unfair it was to call Jamal a
    "convicted cop-killer." This characterized Jamal as someone who
    habitually killed police officers, when, in fact, he was accused of
    having done it only once. The moderator cut him off after a minute or
    so: "Do you have a question?"

    "Yes," the man said. "Mr. McGill, how can you call Mumia Abu Jamal a

    "He killed a cop," McGill replied.

    "That doesn't make him a cop-killer!" the guy yelled.

    This dialogue caused the remaining black journalists to look at each
    other. The movement toward the doors became less discreet. There were
    still some unfortunates left, however, when Pam Africa got to the
    microphone. She had wild dreadlocks and a child, also in dreadlocks,
    on her hip. The assembled black journalists seemed appalled. Unlike us
    white male journalists, who generally dress only slightly better than
    carpenters, black journalists tend to have a sense of style. Pam
    Africa was a living stereotype of every upwardly mobile black
    professional's nightmare.

    In a guttural voice, Ms. Africa began a tirade on the innocence of
    Jamal. The trickle to the exits became a flood. After the panel
    discussion ended, a few black journalists whom I knew came over and
    discussed the Jamal case with me. They knew I was covering the case,
    and they were being polite. But to them, it was a non-story.

    And for good reason. Leonard Weinglass has done an admirable job of
    fooling the national media into thinking there is some doubt about who
    shot Faulkner. But he's up against a problem often cited by a football
    coach at my old high school: You can't make chicken salad out of
    chicken shit. Jamal's decision to act as his own attorney at his 1982
    trial left Weinglass with a trial record that is extremely damaging to
    his client. Weinglass can nibble at the edges of the evidence all he
    wants, but he can't get rid of that Charter Arms revolver found at
    Mumia Abu-Jamal's feet. Weinglass concedes there were five spent
    casings in the gun, but he criticizes the police for not testing the
    gun to see if it had been fired recently.

    "How do you do that?" someone asked. Weinglass said, "You just smell

    Wonderful: His client was literally caught with a smoking gun, so he
    criticizes the police for not smelling the smoke.

    The other objections raised by Weinglass and the Jamal supporters have
    little coherence. The objections represent at least four separate and
    mutually exclusive theories of what happened that night. The theories
    get more and more fantastic as the case progresses. In this latest
    hearing, the defense one day produced a witness who said Faulkner was
    shot by a passenger in William Cook's car and on another day produced
    a witness who said Faulkner was shot by a guy with "Johnny Mathis
    hair" who drove up to the scene in the middle of the action and fired
    the coup de grace into Faulkner's face.

    The press reported these scenarios as if they might have had validity.
    This is nonsense. The media haveamazinglyfailed to report the most
    salient fact about the Jamal case: Jamal has never once said he didn't
    shoot Faulkner. A Time magazine article, for example, repeated the
    oft-stated contention that Jamal has denied shooting Faulkner. But in
    fact, he's never made such a statement. At his trial, he divided his
    time between political tirades about the MOVE organization and
    questioning that seemed to indicate a mild endorsement of the
    mystery-gunman theory. This strategy backfired when Jamal, acting as
    his own attorney, challenged the testimony of a prosecution witness, a
    cabdriver named Robert Chobert, who said, "I saw you, buddy. I saw you
    shoot him and I never took my eyes off you."

    Jamal didn't take the stand at that trial to give his story. Nor did
    he call as a witness his brother, who presumably could have identified
    the mystery gunman. In all public statements since the trial, he has
    studiously avoided any discussion of the events of December 9, 1981.
    Reporters who get jailhouse interviews with him are told in advance
    they can't ask about the only moment in Jamal's life that is in any
    way newsworthy. All the various fantastic scenarios involving mystery
    gunmen come not from Jamal, but from his acolytes. What we have here
    is a first in historya debate in which one of the participants holds
    up his end without talking.

    Why the silence? On two separate occasions I asked Weinglass if he
    intends to stick to the mystery-gunman theory in the event Jamal wins
    a retrial. On both occasions he declined to comment. I upped the ante.
    "You're going to plead self-defense, right?" I asked. At this point he
    got a bit testy and called me a "prosecuting journalist."

    The reason for his testiness is obvious. The search for a mystery
    gunman is a charade, a fund-raising stunt, a way of getting a new
    trial. In the event that he and his supporters outside the courtroom
    manage to win a retrial, Weinglass is likely to admit the obvious:
    that Jamal shot Faulkner. He could then claim that Jamal acted only to
    save his brother from a beating like that Rodney King received. (This
    isn't trueCook sucker-punched Faulkner, eyewitnesses said.) He could
    stage a defense of the variety pioneered by Huey Newton in 1967a
    political extravaganza of white guilt, inquiries into American racism,
    and cop-baiting. Putting the nation on trial, Weinglass might well
    create doubt about a few very hectic seconds of violence. The
    advantage to this strategy is that Weinglass doesn't have to win an
    acquittal. Under Pennsylvania law, any verdict below first-degree
    murder would permit Jamal to walk out of the courtroom the next day by
    virtue of time served.

    This is the long-range strategy. For now, Mumia must remain silent. If
    he were to deny right now that he shot Faulkner, the political defense
    would be sidetracked because his statements could be used against him
    in a retrial. "You lied about shooting the officer," the prosecutor
    could ask. "What else are you lying about?"

    Weinglass's plan may be a good one for his client, but it's an awful
    one for the United States. People around the world are being told that
    Jamal is a political prisoner who is on death row for a murder that
    someone else committed. It isn't true, but it's a compelling story,
    and he's a compelling character. On several occasions I've seen Mumia
    Abu-Jamal in the flesh, and he isand this is a strange thing to say
    about a convicted murderercute. The dreadlocks, the granny glasseshe
    looks like a white hippie in racial drag. He reminds me not of any
    black person I've ever known but of my organic-farmer friend, George
    (who, coincidentally, is also a graduate of UCSC).

    The Jamal people make a lot out of the racial nature of the case, but
    in fact few blacks in Philadelphia give a damn about Mumia. The MOVE
    group has zero popularity in the black community. The 1985 siege in
    which eleven MOVE members died was prompted because the neighbors of
    MOVE, virtually all of them black, demanded that the police do
    something about the noise and filth at the compound. Among the black
    journalists in Philadelphia, support tends to be limited to those who
    were friends of Jamal before the shooting. The crowds outside the
    courtroom are made up almost entirely of non-Philadelphians.

    No, the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal does not strike a chord with most
    black Americans. In fact, his support comes almost exclusively from
    white Americans who are stuck in the sixties. These people, like the
    Santa Cruz students, hate the idea that actions have consequences,
    that a man can, in a few seconds, embark on a path that will put a
    permanent stain on his life. The ethos of the sixties was "If it feels
    good, do it." And perhaps it felt good, that night, for Mumia
    Abu-Jamal to take out a gun and even the score for what he perceived
    to be three centuries of racism. In the minds of the Jamal supporters,
    a balance has been struck. The racism of the Philadelphia police
    cancels out whatever happened the night Daniel Faulkner was shot.

    In the middle of researching the Jamal case and reading his book, Live
    from Death Row, I happened to come upon a book by another black
    journalist/convict. The title is Makes Me Wanna Holler, and the author
    is Nathan McCall, who now writes for the Washington Post. McCall
    describes a life growing up in a solid, lower-middle class family. In
    his early teens, he joined a gang. Soon he participated in the
    gang-rape of a scared young virgin. Then he graduated to burglaries,
    holdups, and gang fights; on several occasions, he shot a pistol at
    other teenagers who were unarmed. Eventually, his political
    consciousness was awakened by the Black Panthers. He drove to a suburb
    and walked up to the picture window of a home where a white family was
    watching TV. He aimed his sawed-off shotgun at the window, fired, and
    ran away. He never learned whether he hit anyone.

    He tells these stories in a bragging tone, full of the hip slang of
    the black underculture. He gives the standard dissection of that
    underculture and shows why it was racism that caused him to commit his
    crimes. By the end of the book, when McCall is safely at the
    Washington Post, he clearly wants the reader to be impressed by his
    generosity in coming to forgive white people. He's still upset,
    though, by the way some white folks act. When he enters elevators
    alone with middle-aged white women, they shrink defensively into a

    This he ascribes to racism. Perhaps. But perhaps these women are just
    good judges of character. Perhaps they sense intuitively that they are
    in an extremely confined space with someone who has proven himself
    capable of gang-raping a child, shooting at a family, and robbing
    people at gunpoint. The progressive theory of criminal justice holds
    that the past can be eradicated. No act is irrevocable. Given enough
    time, evil acts stop being evil acts and become something elsematerial
    for a best-seller. Rape a child? Shoot a cop? Write a book.

    The problem of Nathan McCall, and of Mumia Abu-Jamal, is the same
    problem Herman Melville delineated in Billy Buddwho was, however, a
    far more sympathetic character. Budd was by all accounts a wonderful
    fellow. Even the naval officers who sentenced him to death realized
    that he struck and killed a superior in a moment of inarticulate rage
    caused by that man's unfair harassment of him. Billy Budd apologized
    from the heart for his crime. But that didn't make the crime go away.
    His execution was necessary to maintain the ritual of order on a ship
    in wartime. "With mankind, forms, measured forms, are everything,"
    says Captain Vere, who reluctantly orders the execution.

    Melville was one of the first to be skeptical of the modem notion that
    human nature could be changed by the great burst of rationality that
    shaped the nineteenth century. You wonder what he would make of the
    example of novelist E. L. Doctorow. Doctorow has come to Jamal's
    defense not out of any understanding of the case, but out of an
    amorphous, damp feeling that the matter should be discussed into
    eternity. Doctorow wrote a piece in the New York Times based solely on
    the many distortions in Weinglass's petition for a new trial. In the
    piece, he refers to "Jamal's own account"which does not exist"that he
    was shot first by the officer as he approached." He concludes that a
    retrial should be granted.

    There are several amazing things about Doctorow's piece. A man who has
    written extensively about crime, Doctorow didn't bother to call the
    Philadelphia district attorney's office and get the other side of the
    story. But even more amazing is that he seems to be building a theory
    that Jamal, having just been shot by a cop, somehow managed to get off
    five shots without hitting anyone while someone else came along in
    that same brief moment and shot the officer. Doctorow concludes,
    unctuously, "Will the pain of Faulkner's widow, who supports Jamal's
    execution, be resolved if it turns out that the wrong man has been
    executed and her husband's killer still walks the streets?"

    If Doctorow were really concerned about "the pain of Faulkner's
    widow," he could simply call Maureen Faulkner and discuss it. Then
    he'd learn that this pain is greatly exacerbated by foolish people
    like him who take the side of her husband's killer without learning
    the facts. But few of the people who follow Mumia Abu-Jamal seem to
    want to think too much about the facts. They're happy with hints of a
    mystery gunman, and they'd like to leave it at that, floating in the

    What they hate more than the police, more than racism, is the idea
    that some acts are irreversible, that a cute, reasonable-sounding guy
    like Mumia Abu-Jamal could have held a gun eighteen inches from the
    head of a man who was lying helpless on the sidewalk, pulled the
    trigger, and sent a hollow-point bullet into his brain, where it
    proceeded to expand to many times its original size. (The gun-shop
    owner who sold Jamal the hollow-point bullets testified at the trial
    as well.)

    Well, tough luck, boys and girls. Jamal did it. Worse, he did it and
    he never once expressed any remorse, any sadness for anyone but
    himself Sorry, Karla, we can't compromise. Some things are
    irreversibletrivial things like quotes given to a reporter and big
    things like a bullet in the brain. Sorry E. L., this isn't one of
    those Random House novels where the identity of the mystery gunman is
    revealed at the end. This is real life in a bad part of town. If
    there's a better candidate for the death penalty than a man who kills
    in cold blood and shows not the slightest regret, we Philadelphians
    haven't heard of him.

    The great irony here is that if Jamal had simply told the truth at his
    trial and let his lawyer do his job, he probably would have been
    convicted of manslaughter or third-degree murder. He would have served
    his time by now and been released. He appears to have learned his
    lesson. These days, he sits quietly in court while his defense team
    does the talking. He is evolving. "You wait," says Maureen Faulkner.
    "if he ever gets a retrial, you're gonna see Jamal in a buzz haircut
    and a suit."

    A safe bet. But its also a safe bet Jamal will never get another
    trial. The rules for appeals call for the defendant to show not only
    that an issue was wrongly decided at trial, but also that if the
    decision had gone the other way, the verdict might have been reversed.
    In Jamal's case, that's a stiff burden. Throw out any one piece of
    evidence and there are still a dozen more. And the smoking gun simply
    won't go away.

    As a radio journalist, Jamal was a failure. As a writer, he's a
    mediocrity. It is often said of bad writers, "He couldn't write a
    ransom note." That can't be said of Jamal. His entire book is a ransom
    note, a cleverly disguised plea to raise the ransom to get him off
    death row. So far it's brought in at least $800,000. But as
    literature, it's laughable.

    In life, Mumia Abu-Jamal was little more than a sixties social
    experiment that failed. It's only in death that he will finally be
    able to do something for his fellow man. His departure, if it ever
    comes, will signal to all Americans-from the most august professor at
    the University of California to the lowliest TV star-that we human
    beings are irrevocably tied to our actions. It will mean that we are
    not condemned to frolic forever clueless among the redwoods, but that
    we do indeed have a civilization, and that civilization has certain
    rules that protect us from the whimsies of our barbaric nature.

      * [4]International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
      * [5]ABC News 20/20, "Hollywoods Unlikely Hero"
      * [6]Justice for Daniel Faulkner
      * [7]FrontPage Black Panther archive


    1. http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/authors.asp?ID=343
    2. http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=3642
    3. http://cspc.org/het/index.htm
    4. http://www.mumia.org/
    5. http://www.frontpagemag.com/panthers/unlikely12-14-98.htm
    6. http://www.justice4danielfaulkner.com/
    7. http://www.frontpagemag.com/panthers/index.htm

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