(pic of my favorite Mumia supporter)
Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 09:07:05 PM PST
that was on the rec list opened with:
I'm not kidding about the Free Mumia thing: many liberals cite that very phrase as one of those "fringe" topics on the left that make them CRINGE in embarrassment on behalf of similiarly minded liberals.
I didn't get that diary, but I have strong feelings about this subject. I became involved in Mumia's cause when I read that the bullet that killed the officer did not match Mumia's gun, and devoted countless hours to this cause (details below). I CRINGED in anger when I read this exchange involving Mumia's then-new lawyer:
SAM DONALDSON: But if it's a .38, then your contention that it was a .44 is wrong.
LEONARD WEINGLASS: Well, I think that issue is very much something that should be played out in front of a jury.
Part of what makes me a liberal is that I form my opinions based on evidence. I hate bullshit and deceit, staples of the Republican diet. I don't support the death penalty and I agree that it appears that Mr. Cook/Abu-Jamal didn't get a fair trial, but in a fair trial, he would be found guilty. I see nothing wrong with liberals cringing in this case.
One day, I walked up to an ATM in Oberlin, OH, where I lived and worked. I saw a flier about Mumia, and I was horrified to read that this man had been convicted and sentenced to death for killing a police officer even though the bullet(s) that killed the officer didn't match Mumia's gun. I couldn't believe that someone could be sent to his or her death when something so flagrant about the case was wrong. Young, idealistic, energetic me, I joined that cause.
The flier announced a meeting in Cleveland, which I decided to attend without hesitating. It was the first of many. The headquarters for these meetings were a "fringe" bookstore (revolution, communism, Che, Mao, socialism, etc.). Drives were planned to raised funds and awareness. I volunteered to drive others around dangerous neighborhoods in downtown Cleveland where I would never have gone otherwise. We had a four-way speaker on the roof of my car and my co-pilot would do the preaching. I had photocopied the fliers at work that we distributed. We'd just stop when we saw enough people in one place and start accosting them.
The fliers had a picture of Mumia, tons of stuff about his case, and an invitation to join us for a rally in Philadelphia. Among the people I approached, the teenagers were predominantly apathetic, but otherwise, people often asked, "why do you care?", because they were pleasantly surprised that this white guy would get so worked up about this cause. I was just proud to be involved in a fight against injustice.
Then there was this huge rally in Philly, which was timed to coincide with something about the case that I can't remember (appeal? review?). Others drove and I pitched in for gas. There were activists, students, people involved in the socialist cause, two young punk runaways who promised to protest in exchange for a free ride. I shouted my share of obsenities about Judge Sabo, waved signs and marched.
A few years later, a friend of mine called to tell me that he had seen a segment on ABC's 20/20 about the case, and he knew I'd be interested because the evidence seemed to point toward guilt. I found the transcript
on ABC's web site at the time. It's no longer available there, but that's where I read it. Let's take a look
(VO = voiceover).
SAM DONALDSON (VO) (...)First, ballistics. Jamal’s supporters say the bullet that killed Officer Faulkner was .44-caliber, not a .38, like the gun found at the scene. (...) SAM DONALDSON (VO) But ballistics tests were done and proved the bullet was fired by a .38-caliber revolver. The claim that the bullet was a .44 rests solely on a hasty note scribbled by a pathologist at the autopsy. However, the pathologist later testified that he had no expertise in ballistics, that he had only been guessing. But Weinglass refuses to believe that. (on camera) You don’t think it was a guess?
LEONARD WEINGLASS I don’t think he would guess.
SAM DONALDSON The police say that that slug has the lands and grooves consistent with being a .38 slug.
LEONARD WEINGLASS It does.
SAM DONALDSON But if it’s a .38, then your contention that it was a .44 is wrong.
LEONARD WEINGLASS Well, I think that issue is very much something that should be played out in front of a jury.
SAM DONALDSON (VO) But it had already been played out in front of a judge, when, three years ago, Weinglass’s own ballistics expert testified the fatal bullet was a .38.
The central fact that was used by Abu-Jamal to mount his P.R. campaign is a lie. Let me assure you that I was incredibly angry at all the time I had wasted on his behalf, because there's no way in hell I would have gotten involved if not for the purported mismatch between the bullets and the gun. Here's a bit more from Wikipedia
Official ballistics tests done on the fatal bullet verify that Officer Faulkner was killed by a .38 caliber bullet. The fatal .38 slug was a Federal brand Special +P bullet with a hollow base (the hollow base in a +P bullet was distinctive to Federal ammunition at that time), the exact type (+P with a hollow base), brand (Federal), and caliber (.38) of bullet found in Jamal's gun. These experts also testified that the bullet taken from Abu-Jamal had been fired from Officer Faulkner's service weapon.
The defense' ballistics expert, George Fassnacht, did not dispute the prosecution's findings.
Criticisms of the interview either avoid the subject of the bullets entirely or repeat the lie that the bullet(s) that killed the officer was/were .44 caliber:
We're adults, and we know when Bush, Rice and Snow (and Scotty before him) are dissembling (Cheney's just too good, and Rumsfeld, like Jacques Chirac, was so entertaining that we gave him a pass). Does the lawyer's reply to the question about the bullets make you think "his client is so innocent" or "hm, that's not what he would say if his client was innocent"?
Leonard Weinglass: That's very much of an open question and I told Donaldson that. The problem with that issue is this: They were able to put before the jury their expert who said this bullet was a 38-caliber bullet. Mumia's gun is a 38-caliber gun. But they couldn't match that bullet to his gun. It's just that the caliber was the same. But even that question was open and suspicious because the Doctor (M.D.) who removed the bullet from the officer's brain wrote down that it was a .44-caliber bullet. And the point I was making with Donaldson is the jury never heard that fact because Mumia's attorney never read the autopsy report and didn't know about that. This is something that a jury should hear. And the question of whether or not this bullet is .38 or .44 is actually beside the point because the jury never heard the countervailing evidence or testimony that it was a .44. But beyond that, and I went to great lengths to...
So the jury didn't hear the mistaken initial guess by the pathologist and that's important but the bullets matching is not important?
Obviously, there's more to the case (witnesses, the trial, a bloodthirsty judge, etc.), but to me, this point about the bullets is fundamental. We can protest against the death penalty and unfair trials, but let's not criticize liberals for thinking that it's nonsense to fight for the freedom of a man who appears, from the evidence available, to have killed a police officer.