Nov 29 2007

Journalists Decry Racism in Media Coverage of Mumia

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GUEST: Hans Bennett, Journalists for Mumia

On December 6th, NBC’s Today Show will feature a new book coinciding with its release date about death-row journalist Mumia Abu Jamal. The book’s title, “Murdered by Mumia,” reveals its intent. It is co-written by the widow of the Philadelphia Police Officer that Abu Jamal was convicted of killing, Maureen Faulkner, and conservative radio talk show host Michael Smerconish. The book, say Faulkner and Smerconish is “the first … to carefully and definitively lay out the case against Abu-Jamal, and those who’ve elevated him to the status of political prisoner.” Fearing a program rife with bias, the group “Journalists for Mumia” are calling on NBC to ensure that all sides are fairly represented on next week’s Today Show. They contend that there has been a history of media bias with respect to covering the case of Mumia Abu Jamal.

For more information, visit www.abu-jamal-news.com and freemumia.com.

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Journalists Decry Racism in Media Coverage of Mumia”

  1. Kevinon 29 Nov 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Oh for goodness sake.

    Here we go again with the Mumia stuff. It’s not like we haven’t had, say, over TWENTY FIVE YEARS to figure this one out.

    It’s one thing to oppose his execution on the grounds of opposing the death penalty. I have no problem with that, and in fact I’d encourage it if you are concerned about seeing Mumia put to death.

    But this whole interview was ridiculously slanted toward Wesley Cook and against the case of the victim’s widow.

    It’s interesting that Hans Bennett talks about Pam Africa (formerly of MOVE, of course) having a telephone meeting with NBC tomorrow. If you’re paying attention, that means that Pam will be calling them tomorrow and getting their voicemail. Like anyone else, like you or me. She has every right to call them and ask questions, but she’s not a public figure of any standing, so it’s not likely they’ll be booking new guests because she called.

    As for the “disputed” evidence and trial materials Bennett laughed about during the interview, those matters were settled long ago. Wesley Cook’s Charter Arms revolver was found near him, having been fired, and the bullets were found in Officer Faulkner. This was established at trial long ago. As for the ballistics “mismatch”, that was disproven long ago as a smokescreen by Cook’s appellate attorneys, who were throwing anything they could at the situation to get their client’s death sentence stayed or overturned. As for his confession at the hospital, this was discussed in court by the nurse who corroborated it. As for the “suspicious” delay in the officers reporting the confession, Gary Bell addressed this 8 years ago when Amy Goodman tried to “gotcha” him with it. His response of “Were you there?” was one of the only ones I have seen to cause Amy Goodman to back down during an interview. Bell made clear that he and Wacshcul were having major issues that night due to having seen Faulkner killed. And Cook did “goof” in trying to call Wacschul as a surprise witness without checking to see if the man was even in town at the time. Bennett of course forgets that Cook was trying to represent himself during the trial, with disastrous results.

    And if Bennett wants to ask questions about delayed confessions, how about asking why it took Cook’s brother William, the only close eyewitness to the events, over 20 years to come forward with any testimony other than “I had nothing to do with it”?

  2. Hans Bennetton 29 Nov 2007 at 1:24 pm

    Well, Kevin,

    For the record, Pam Africa does have a scheduled telephone conference with The Today Show for tomorrow. I did not distort this in any way.

    Regarding what you refer to as a strong case against Mumia, I think listeners of the show should form their own opinions, and check out my website Abu-Jamal-News.com where I have a major archive of reliable, hard hitting pieces that I believe expose clear evidence of a police frame-up, an unfair trial, and strong evidence of Mumia’s innocence. I will address two of your points, by posting below here excerpts from one of the articles on our website: 1)The “Hospital Confession”. and 2) The Ballistics.

    Gary Wakshul and the False Confession

    Perhaps the clearest example of fabricated evidence used against Mumia, his alleged “confession,” was suspiciously introduced two months after his arrest. When interviewed in February 1982 by the police Internal Affairs Bureau investigating Mumia’s police brutality complaint, Officers Wakshul, Bell, and hospital security guard Priscilla Durham then reported Mumia’s supposed “hospital confession” for the first time.

    Mumia allegedly declared (in the presence of 15-20 other cops that have never confirmed it): “I shot the motherfucker and I hope the motherfucker dies!”

    Testifying in 1982, Bell (Faulkner’s partner and “best friend”) claimed the over two month mental lapse (Bell first reported the “confession on February 25, 1982) resulted from being so upset about Faulkner’s death.

    At trial, Durham amended her statement to police by suddenly testifying that she had reported the confession to her supervisor the next day. While neither her supervisor or the alleged hand-written statement were presented in court, the DA sent an officer to the hospital–returning with a suspicious typed version of the alleged report. Sabo accepted the paper (not signed or dated) despite both Durham’s disavowal of it (because it was typed and not hand-written) and the defense’s protest that there was no establishment of authorship or authenticity.

    Unfortunately, the jury never heard the most explosive evidence discrediting the confession. While the DA called Bell and Durham to testify, Wakshul was suspiciously absent. On the final day of testimony in 1982, Mumia’s lawyer discovered Wakshul’s statement from Dec.9—the morning of the shooting. After riding with Mumia to the hospital and guarding him until his treatment, Wakshul reported: “The Negro male made no comment.”

    When the defense immediately sought to call Wakshul as a witness—the DA reported that he was on vacation. On grounds that it was too late in the trial, Sabo denied the defense request to locate him for testimony. Subsequently, the jury never heard from Wakshul or about his written report. When an outraged Mumia protested, Sabo cruelly declared: “You and your attorney goofed.”

    Wakshul’s “Negro male” report was key evidence at the PCRA hearings, and it was well-known that he would have to testify to defend his “confession” story. Unknown to Mumia’s lawyers, on July 13 (days before his PCRA testimony) Wakshul was savagely beaten by undercover police officers in front of a Judge in the Common Pleas Courtroom where he worked as a court crier. Almost two years later, the two attackers (members of Philly’s Vice Squad) were suspended without pay as punishment. With the motive still unexplained, the beating was likely used to intimidate Wakshul into maintaining his “confession” story at the PCRA hearings.

    On the stand, Wakshul defended both his Dec.9 report and the two month delay as just being a bad mistake. Further discrediting the “confession” story, he repeated his incredible statement given to the IAB investigator in 1982: “I didn’t realize it had any importance until that day.”

    The original trial’s injustice was further exposed when Wakshul testified to being home for his 1982 vacation—in accordance with explicit instructions to stay in town for the trial so that he could testify if called.

    The “confession” story has been thoroughly discredited. As Amnesty International concluded: “The likelihood of two police officers and a security guard forgetting or neglecting to report the confession of a suspect in the killing of another police officer for more than two months strains credulity.”

    The Ballistics

    At the PCRA hearings, defense ballistics expert George Fassnacht testified that he declined a request to assist Mumia’s defense in 1982 because the court-allocated $150 was insufficient. Subsequently the defense never presented their own specialist. While testifying that the fatal bullet was probably the same caliber as Mumia’s gun (legally purchased after his Taxi was repeatedly robbed), Fassnacht challenged the prosecution’s 1982 evidence in two key ways.

    1.

    Fassnacht defined “particular” and “general” rifling characteristics. “Particular” traits are “the small stria or scratches which identify a particular bullet” as coming from one specific gun. In contrast, “general” traits can only link a bullet to a particular type of gun.

    Police experts have always said that the fatal bullet was too damaged to link the “particular” traits to Mumia’s 38 caliber Charter Arms revolver.

    Fassnacht noted an unexplainable contradiction in police ballistic expert Anthony Paul’s original report. Paul first describes the bullet’s “general” traits as “indeterminable.” Contradicting himself in the same report, Paul later identified a general trait: a “right-hand direction of twist.” Paul’s 1982 testimony went further by identifying another general trait never mentioned in his written report “8 lands and 8 grooves.”

    After deeming the general traits “indeterminable,” Paul then alleged two general traits that conveniently implicated Mumia’s gun type. However, even if these “general” traits existed on the bullet, it was not a reliable link to Mumia’s gun. Paul was asked by the defense in 1982, “approximately, how many millions of guns have eight lands and grooves and how many would provide this bullet?” He acknowledged that it could have come from “multiples of millions,” including many millions of guns not manufactured by Charter Arms.
    2.

    Police did not officially perform two basic forensics tests—the “smell” and “wipe” tests. It is standard to “smell” the gun’s barrel for gunpowder (which can be smelled up to 4 or 5 hours after discharge). The “wipe test” checks for gunshot residue on suspects’ hands and clothing.

    When challenged by the DA, Fassnacht insisted that these tests were reliable and routinely used.

    Quoting Amnesty International, “the failure of the police to test Abu-Jamal’s gun, hands, and clothing is deeply troubling.” Most likely, police did perform the tests, but hid this when the results did not implicate Mumia. This obvious ballistics manipulation seriously challenges the credibility of other evidence, such as the police allegation that Mumia’s gun was at his side with five spent cartridges when police arrived.
    3.

    A third challenge of the prosecution’s ballistics was raised by medical examiner John Hayes. In 1982, prosecutor McGill argued that Mumia had been shot in the chest from below by a falling Faulkner. Recognizing the bullet’s downward trajectory McGill claimed that the bullet ricocheted off bone within Mumia’s torso and then tumbled in a downward direction.

    Challenging this far-fetched theory, Hayes testified in 1995 that X rays proved the bullet traveled without any deflection. Easily disproving the official scenario, Mumia was probably shot while running across the street towards Faulkner and his brother.

    —Regarding the ballistics, there is also the recent argument presented by German author Michael Schiffmann (co-founder of Journalists for Mumia) about the “missing divots” where Mumia allegedly shot down at Faulkner (when Faulkner was on his back) and missed several times. You can see the official police crime scene photo at the recent SF Bay View article (which also publishes a newly discovered crime scene photo the further exposes police manipulation of evidence):

    http://www.sfbayview.com/News/Main/Color_of_law_Photos_bolster_claims_of_Mumia_s_innocence_and_unfair_trial.html

    As the caption itself reads: There are no large bullet divots, or destroyed chunks of cement, which should be visible in the pavement if the prosecution scenario was accurate, according to which Abu-Jamal shot down at Faulkner – and allegedly missed several times – while Faulkner was on his back. The sidewalk was not damaged in any way. Dr. Michael Schiffmann writes: “It is thus no question any more whether the scenario presented by the prosecution at Abu-Jamal’s trial is true. It is clearly not, because it is physically and ballistically impossible.”

  3. Kevinon 30 Nov 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Hans, I agree with you in one area.

    People who read this or listen to KPFK are well-informed enough that they can check the facts on their own.

    This is an extremely well-documented case. Even the transcripts of the original trial are available for everyone to read. (I’m assuming you’ve read them, as I have)

    So if they want to visit your website, that’s fine. But there are many, many, many sources of information on this case, and I encourage people to make up their own mind after they read them on their own.

    As to the rest of your response, it has pretty much all been discredited by other sources. I won’t waste people’s time trying to point by point nitpick on everything here, but a wikipedia link check or a google search will bring a lot of this stuff up.

    You allege that Wakshul was beaten to maintain his story. Please show your proof. The issue with Wakshul was that Cook tried to call him as a “surprise” witness without any notification and then was surprised himself to find out that Wakshul was on vacation and not even in town to appear. That was why the judge told Cook he had “goofed” in trying to suddenly call that witness, if that was the key to the case. And as I said, Gary Bell very effectively answered these questions 8 years ago on “Democracy Now” when he schooled Amy Goodman on the issue. I recommend you listen to his statements on this, as they are quite instructive.

    Cook’s defense was not limited to $150 – that canard was disproven years ago.

    Ballistics experts have disputed the findings of Cook’s defenders, saying among other things that there are differences of opinion even among the experts about what tests to run at which times. Nothing of what you have alleged changes the fact that Cook was found sitting on the ground, his registered Charter Arms .38 near him, the gun having been fired and the bullets having been found in the victim’s body and head. Even Cook’s defense attorneys have been unable to dispute that one.

    And you still have no answer as to why Wesley Cook’s brother William, the only close-up eyewitness to this matter, had no testimony for 20 years other than to say at the scene of the crime “I had nothing to do with it”. And when he did finally say something all those years later, it was to back up a conspiracy theory that hasn’t held up. If my brother were on death row and I was an eyewitness to his “framing”, then I think I’d have something public to say about that.

    Finally, I’m not doubting you that Pam Africa is calling the Today Show today. But since she’s simply a private citizen, like you or me, I think you’re embellishing a bit when you try to paint this as a major “conference”. Like any other TV viewer or fan, she can call in and ask whatever she wants. But that doesn’t mean they have to do what she says.

  4. Hans Bennetton 10 Dec 2007 at 3:15 pm

    We won!

    Watch the Today Show, where NBC broke the mainstream media blackout of the new crime scene photos!

    http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=en-US&brand=msnbc&vid=31683df5-5f31-403d-a34d-2e5290d1cc02

    Go to Abu-Jamal-News.com to read my report on the show.

    Thanks Uprising Radio for helping spotlight our successful campaign!

    Hans

  5. Kevinon 17 Dec 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Actually, Hans didn’t win on this one. It went the other way. If you actually watch the Today Show clip, you’ll see that the new photos were completely dismissed in seconds. Maureen Faulkner raised the obvious question of where the heck these photos have been for 26 years, which could also be applied to many of the Wesley Cook Instant Defenses we have been subjected to over the years. So, yes, the photos were shown and mentioned, as were the protesters across the street. And they were properly dismissed as not having any impact on the fact that Wesley Cook shot a policeman to death and then confessed to it.

    And if you watch the other link that MSNBC has helpfully provided to the Joe Scarborough show, things get worse for the pro-Mumia crowd. They bring up the fact that Cook’s brother said nothing about it for 20 years, which by itself is a pretty bad blow for the defense.

    Also, I saw no discussion of or with Pam Africa. Looks like I was correct to say that she called them up like any other fan of the show and they added her comments to the list of fan notes they get every day. If she had been a major personality that they needed to have a “conference” with on the subject, surely they would have mentioned her name and position when discussing the matter with Faulkner and Smerknonish. Since she is not a major personality, they ignored her and continued with the real focus of their story – Maureen Faulkner’s 26 years of dealing with Wesley Cook continuing to manipulate the legal system after committing murder.

  6. pdcsupporteron 28 Jan 2008 at 3:56 pm

    The photos weren’t presented by the prosecution to the defense during discovery. That’s where they were. And despite the lies, there’s no evidence that Mumia’s gun was ever fired that night. The PDC has an excellent fact sheet that refutes Faulkner and Smerconish’s lying book in great detail here: http://partisandefense.org/pubs/articles/factsheet1231.html.

    The only real conspiracy theories here are the prosecution’s that Mumia had any motive to kill Daniel Faulkner, and Faulkner/Smerconish’s today that Mumia’s defenders are all brainwashed dupes.

    Mumia’s innocence, on the other hand, is not a theory but a fact.

  7. Kevinon 08 Feb 2008 at 11:26 am

    There’s actually plenty of evidence that Mumia fired his Charter Arms .38 into Daniel Faulkner several times.

    Maureen Faulkner wrote her book as a direct response to people like the PDC trying to rewrite the history of what happened to her husband, using the facts of the case and the trial transcripts to rebut the stubborn insistence by Wesley Cook’s supporters that he is somehow an innocent victim here. Was her book perfect? No, since she doesn’t seem to know that William “Billy” Cook actually did make a statement some 20 years after the fact. On the other hand, Cook’s statement was practically science fiction, as Dave Lindorff admits in his book “Killing Time”.

    The prosecutors who won their case against Wesley Cook didn’t spend time establishing a “conspiracy theory” about why Cook killed Faulkner. They simply presented eyewitness testimony, ballistics evidence and the complete litany of overwhelming evidence that Cook did in fact shoot the policeman, for whatever reason.

    The belief that Wesley Cook’s “defenders” are acting like “brainwashed dupes” stems from the fact that they seem to be blindly supporting him, without taking any time to learn the real facts of the case.

    And Wesley Cook’s guilt, proven in a court of law to a jury, is not a theory but a simple fact. Saying that the man is somehow innocent is to ignore the evidence and cherry pick a case to selectively view that fateful evening.

    Had Cook’s supporters simply said that they oppose the death penalty, regardless of what Cook did, they would have far greater credibility. Opposition to executions is a noble position, and even the people who want to see Cook executed can respect that. But trying to drum up a case for his “innocence” taints the whole matter to the point that Cook’s defenders simply can’t be taken seriously.

  8. adamon 27 Mar 2008 at 10:50 am

    Thank you Kevin, i am glad someone has a brain in this country. i checked the facts myself, and Mumia is guilty…period.

  9. JUSTICE-IS A LIEon 07 Apr 2008 at 12:21 am

    IF THE POLICE GOT A CONFESSION BY HIM YELLING HE KILLED THE M-FER, WHY DID THEY NOT GET IN WRITTING THE CONFESSION THAT MUMIA SO PUBLICLY MADE??
    WHY DO POLICE NOTES FROM THE NIGHT AND FOLLOWING HOSPITAL STAY OF MUMIA STATE “THE NIGRO MALE MADE NO STATEMENTS” AND JUDGE SABO DID IN FACT DENY THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF MUMIA TO REPRESENT HIMSELF, MUMIA’S GUN WAS NEVER TESTED BALISTICALLY, SO NEITHER SIDE CAN CONCLUDE MUMIA’S GUN SHOT FAULKNER, AND IT HAS EVEN BEEN SAID THAT MUMIA RAN TO AIDE THE OFFICER AFTER HE WAS SHOT, AND ALL WITNESSES SAID FROM THE BEGINNING THAT AT LEAST 1 MALE RAN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION THEN OTHERS RAN WHEN THE SHOTS RANG OUT, ALL PROSECUTION WITNESSES (except police) HAVE ADMITTED THEY CHANGED THEIR TESTIMONY AND LETS NOT FORGET SINGLETARY WHO EVEN VACATED PHILADELPHIA BECAUSE OF POLICE INTIMIDATION AND HARASSMENT, AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST THE THREAT OF FRANK RIZZO TO SHUT MUMIA UP BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE LISTENING TO HIM, I BELIEVE WERE THE WORDS OF RIZZO..
    AND PA. HAS BEEN THE ONLY STATE SUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FOR IT’S NOT SO “BROTHERLY LOVE”ING PROSECUTION TACTICS AND ITS STANDARD COURT ROOM PROCEEDINGS THAT MOST CITIZENS KNOW AS JUSTICE. COINTELPRO WAS A DOCUMENTED LARGE PLAN OF MASS DESTRUCTION, AND MUMIA HAD BEEN A TARGET SINCE THE AGE OF 15, THIS IS ALSO DOCUMENTED WITH F.B.I. FILES, SO JUST THESE FACTS ALONE DO NOT PROVE INNOCENCE BUT THEY WOULD BE GROUNDS OF A NEW TRIAL FOR SOME ONE OUT SIDE THE DIRECT SCOPE OF THE F.B.I. AND HAVE BEEN GROUNDS FOR OTHER DEATH ROW INMATES, THE LACK OF EVIDENCE GOES ON AND ON, THIS WAS A CASE OF SPECULATION BY POLICE THEORY, EVEN IF THEY ARE RIGHT IN WHAT THEY SAYHAPPENED THAT NIGHT, THEY DID NOT PROVE IT IN A COURT OF LAW WITH FACTUAL EVIDENCE, IM NOT OPPOSED TO THE DEATH PENALTY BUT I DO BELIEVE THE STANDARD OF GUILT HAS TO BE UNQUESTIONABLE BEFORE WE SEND PEOPLE TO DIE, THERE ARE CLEARLY TOO MANY LOOSE ENDS IN THIS CASE, IM ALSO A HUGE MUMIA SUPPORTER AND DO BELIEVE HE IS INNOCENT, AND I ALSO BELIEVE HE IS A POLITICAL PRISONER…MUMIA WILL BE FREE IF THE EVIDENCE IS EVER HEARD AND THEY KNOW THIS, THEY SHOOULD WANT THE KILLER, BUT TO SAY MUMIA IS INNOCENT WOULD BE TO SAY THEY ARE GUILTY, AND WHO COULD HAVE THAT?? DEFINATELY NOT THE ONES WHO HELPED THE KILLER ESCAPE!!!

  10. Jesseon 22 Jul 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent, Maureen Faulkner’s new book even supports Donald Hersing’s affidavit and Arnold Beverly’s confession, the book was proven to be lie infested as well. Mike Harmon’s new testimony supports Arnold Beverly’s confession, Hans Bennett pointed out that the Polakoff Photos weren’t released to the public until 2006 because he thought that Mumia Abu-Jamal was guilty but he did send them to the district attorney’s office in recent years or even more shortly i’m not sure after Daniel Faulkner was murdered and the district attorney ignored and suppressed these photos. Michael Smerconish was even asked a question on the Polakoff Photos on the bullet divots and examined the reliability of Mumia innocence factors in order to escape answering the question which he couldn’t answer, showing that he was dumbfounded even if he interrupted Matt Lauer when Matt Lauer asked him the question, some of the witness’ occupations and them being at the scene support Arnold Beverly’s confession which is also backed up by Billy Cook and Donald Hersing, Bily Cook also pointed out Kenneth Freeman, who Arnold Beverly could’ve been pointed out when he stated that he was hired along with another guy. Veronica Jones being arrested for a crime she was already arrested for and being regarded as a fugitive in a PCRA hearing (u kno in which she was tesitfying in court [VERY BALLSY FOR A FUGITIVE PROVING IF NOT STRONGLY IMPLYING THAT SHE WASN’T A FUGITIVE]) is nothing but fishy. Look at the THREAT Frank Rizzo administed to Mumia Abu-Jamal, and when reading the threat ask yourself “What did Mumia Abu-Jamal do and am i really considering the innocence factors he possesses and the corrupted trial that he had which is even revealed in the court transcripts?” look more importantly what the government did to Mumia Abu-Jamal in the past and the unbelievable crimes they charged him with in the past.

    Note how the Judge and The Prosecutor and The Defense Lawyer went into collusion which is noted in the sidebar of the transcripts

    Note how Judge Sabo claimed “Yeah i’m going to help ’em fry the n****r” before the trial began.

    Look at all the other innocence factors that Mumia has and the corrupted trial Mumia had, he’s a blatantly innocent man and it’s disgusting that they’ve kept him in prison and on death row this long.

  11. Stevenon 01 Oct 2014 at 8:48 am

    Outstanding post however , I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic?
    I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Many thanks!