(Michael Schiffman on the far right)
Being that I was on vacation this past week I thought it only fair to offer this space to another writer to use in my absence. Thankfully, Christian Peheim was right there to more than fill the void. Peheim, is a German who, like many people got involved in researching the Jamal case as an extension of his opposition to capital punishment.
But unlike many people across the Atlantic, Peheim actually did a thorough investigation of the case and discovered the truth about Mumia. He now offers his insights on his own German language website.
I asked Mr. Peheim if he could offer some of his analysis in English and he politely obliged, and what follows is his insightful work. The article he initially sent me included diagrams that helped make his point, but due to my limitations I am not able to re-print them here. That said, Peheim's points are well argued and deserve consideration from anyone interested in the case of murdered Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. -TA)
A short time ago I have been invited by Anthony Allen to translate an article from my own website
about the Faulkner murder case. Even though I always write German for my website, it took me only a few moments to accept that invitation. The translation is an abstract of my latest article dealing with a few of the arguments presented in Michael Schiffmann's pro-Jamal book "Race Against Death".
In his book Race Against Death Michael Schiffmann talks a lot about the racist, corrupt, und brutal police. Only a part of that book is related to the Faulkner murder case. Within these chapters he tries to convince the readers that Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent.
According to his investigation Abu-Jamal couldn't have fired the first shots towards Daniel Faulkner and it is physically and ballistically impossible that the final shots have been fired in accordance with testimony presented by eyewitnesses. Since eyewitnesses told the same story about the deadly shots they must have lied. Of course, all of this was part of a conspiracy.
However, if it wasn't Abu-Jamal another perpetrator has to be found.
Who was the murderer?
Schiffmann claims the killer was Kenneth Freeman, deceased 1985, and he came out of the Volkswagen.
When Schiffmann concludes Freeman was the killer he made at least one very important point. Many years ago Leonard Weinglass propagated the theory of the fleeing man. Schiffmann goes one step further. While there are a lot of ways for a fleeing man to disappear into the dark it is much more difficult for a phantom shooter to appear at the crime scene.
After reading "Race Against Death", it becomes clear that there is only one place from where the alternative killer could have come, namely the passenger seat of the Volkswagen. There are only two options, Abu-Jamal or Freeman. No third option is available and if Freeman cannot be the killer it definitely has to be Abu-Jamal. Therefore, its well worth to take a closer look at Schiffmann's arguments.
Schiffmann has some strange ideas about the credibility of witnesses. As an example, he thinks a part of Singletary's testimony is believable while I think its one big lie. Don't forget, Singletary heard Faulkner talking when the officer was already dead, saw a police helicopter that wasn't there, and asked a highway patrol officer "Jones, what's happening?" (he knew officer Jones). Years later the same Singletary claimed he has seen the entire crime.
Its natural that eyewitnesses are inaccurate, draw their own conclusions about their observations and sometimes have false memory, but Singletary exceeds all that by far. To call him somehow credible is simply wishful thinking.
According to Schiffmann, only prosecution witnesses tell fairy tales. There were five eyewitnesses who testified for the prosecution in 1982 and 1995. These were Michael Scanlan, Robert Chobert, Albert Magilton, Cynthia White, and Robert Harkins. (Harkins has been called by the defense but his testimony was in favor of the prosecution). Three of them gave their first statement within half an hour after the shooting (White at 4:15, Scanlan at 4:24, Chobert at 4:25, Faulkner has been killed at 3:52). Its simply impossible to explain these statements as part of a conspiracy. However, Schiffmann does so.
Let's take a look at these witnesses. Michael Scanlan stopped at the red light before 13th street. Schiffmann claims, Scanlan stopped at the left side of the street and, as a result, was not able to see the murder of Daniel Faulkner. The trial testimony only reveals that Scanlan turned left after the murder but not where he stopped his car. Scanlan had a restricted field of vision. His testimony was in accordance with that restriction.
Scanlan was able to see the upper part of William Cook and Daniel Faulkner in front of the police car as long as they were standing upright. He could see someone coming from the parking lot and he could see the south part of the sidewalk. Scanlan testified to the beginning of the shooting and to the fatal shot but he could not give any details of what happened between the time Abu-Jamal approached the scene and Faulkner fell to the ground. His testimony seems to be truthful and there is no reason for doubts. Additionally, his actions confirm that he actually saw the murder on the sidewalk. Without seeing what happened on the sidewalk he would not have been able to conclude that a policeman has been shot at the end of the shooting.
However, some 30 seconds after the murder he found police officers Wakshul and Trombetta and told them exactly that. Robert Chobert had approximately the same field of vision as Scanlan. He saw the fatal shot and than the shooter disappeared. According to inspector Giordano he first said the shooter ran away. In his first written statement he claimed the shooter ran 30-35 steps before sitting down at the curb. If he really would have seen Abu-Jamal sitting on the curb he never would have mentioned a distance of 30 to 35 steps because the difference is too obvious.
Therefore, I think someone told him Abu-Jamal has been found sitting at the curb and afterwards he used his imagination. Actually, his initial statement could describe two different situations. Maybe he assumed this distance without knowing any details. Maybe he really saw someone at this distance - a fleeing man - and connected both items of information. When he said he never lost sight of the shooter he was not truthful but I don't have any doubts that he at least saw the fatal shot (see below). He gave conflicting testimony regarding the size of the shooter and his clothing, as well. This conflicting testimony casts doubts about his ability to identify the shooter. Robert Chobert saw a person with dreadlocks shooting Daniel Faulkner at the ground and he saw that no other person was there. As I will show later, even that limited testimony is important.
Many supporters of Abu-Jamal like Schiffmann claim Chobert was not even at the crime scene. Chobert said he stopped his car at the corner about a car length behind the police car. At the corner he really would have been about a car length behind Faulkner's car. Cynthia White saw the cab when it arrived. William Harmon described the cars he saw at the crime scene after he was able to study the photos for several minutes. We do not know at what time that photos have been taken. On the other hand, George Michael Newman's statement says Robert Chobert told him at the phone that he stopped his cab at 13th street north of Locust. Why Chobert should have admitted perjury and why Weinglass should have ignored that important piece of evidence? Scanlan did not mention him, but his attention was already concentrated on the scuffle between Faulkner and William Cook when Chobert arrived.
A photo by Pedro Polakoff allegedly proves the absence of Robert Chobert. Again, we do not know at what time that photo has been taken. It looks like a car behind Faulkner's car just left the scene. There are some wooden barriers in the middle of the street where they do not make any sense except if they have been moved to there in order to enable a car behind the police car to move out. Additionally, the entire area is full of police cars but not the area behind Faulkner's car.
The strongest evidence for Chobert being behind Faulkner's car is his own statement. His completely wrong estimation of the distance (30-35 steps) proves that he did not see Abu-Jamal after the murder, but he told Giordano the shooter was a MOVE member (based on the hair style) and he would not have been able to make that statement without actually seeing Abu-Jamal.
Albert Magilton saw a man running from the parking lot, he heard shots while crossing the streets, went slowly to the sidewalk and saw Abu-Jamal sitting, Faulkner lying, and Cook standing. Since he didn't see the murder, Schiffmann accepts his testimony. However, he was closer to the scene then Hightower and he was there maybe a second after the last shot but he did not see any person fleeing the scene.
Cynthia White had the perfect place to watch the murder. However, her testimony regarding the shooting is a little bit blurred. Since she changed details of her testimony she has raised doubts. Most supporters of Abu-Jamal claim the police have produced some sort of "coached" testimony.
Therefore, I want to emphasize her first statement just 20 minutes after the murder. At that time the police officers could not coach her because they didn't know what happened. Besides, police interviewed her four times within two weeks. No conspiracy would require four interviews.
Within the first statement she told more or less accurately what happened before the murder. Than she describes the murder with a few words only. She said the killer came from the parking lot and shot four or five times. The officer fell to the ground, she started screaming and the shooter was sitting at the curb ("was sitting" not "sat down"). I doubt that she really saw the entire murder. Otherwise her account should resemble Harkins' testimony. Maybe she went for cover behind the corner after she saw the first shots. Maybe she saw the shooter standing over Faulkner and killing him at close range, maybe not. Whatever she did, she clearly saw Abu-Jamal coming from the parking lot and shooting at Daniel Faulkner. Later on she saw the same man sitting at the curb and she was able to identify him in court.
When Robert Harkins saw the crime scene Abu-Jamal and Faulkner already have been on the sidewalk. According to his testimony they looked like they were wrestling. Than the police officer fell to the ground, the shooter stood over him and fired a few shots at close range, and finally the shooter went to the curb and sat down. Harkins saw the crime scene for a few seconds only. When he drove towards 12th street the entire sidewalk was within his field of vision. Schiffmann didn't mention Harkins in his book.
How Abu-Jamal Approached The Crime Scene
One important piece of Schiffmann's evidence pointing towards Abu-Jamal's innocence is a sketch of the area around the crime scene. According to "Race Against Death", it illustrates why Abu-Jamal could not have fired the first shots. With the sketch (and a few other arguments) he wants to show that a fragment of a bullet coming from Abu-Jamal's gun and hitting an object at the scene could not have ended in the vestibule of Locust 1234.
Since the pole of the no-parking sign is the only obvious obstacle in that area the bullet most likely has hit that pole before going through the glass panel of the entrance door. Please note that the German and English version of the book contain different sketches. The sketch in the German version is limited to the area around Locust 1234. The conclusions are the same. Both versions are available from Schiffmann’s website.
Whenever a bullet hits an obstacle it will change the direction. If the obstacle has been hit under a flat angle the bullet often will stay intact and change the direction only slightly. If a bullet hits an object under a bigger angle it is more likely that this bullet will splinter and the smaller fragments will take completely different directions. The fragment inside the vestibule of Locust 1234 had a weight of approximately a quarter of a complete bullet. It is not impossible but rather unlikely for that big a fragment to deviate at a right angle or more from the original trajectory.
The Shots Towards Locust 1234
In order to establish the angle between the original trajectory of the bullet and the trajectory of the fragment after hitting the pole, Schiffmann shows the approximate trajectory of that fragment in the vestibule of Locust 1234. The hole in the door was somewhere in the upper right portion of the glass. The fragment was located 2.08m south of the entrance and 2.03m east of the west wall (6' 10'' and 6' 8'').
For illustration purposes the distorted sketch shows a starting point (hole in the door) and another point where the fragment has been found - at least it looks like that. I have doubts regarding the size of the vestibule of Locust 1234. According to "Race Against Death", it has to be more than 8 meters (26 ft) wide and it includes the window right of the entrance door. Even though that window belongs to the same property it does not necessarily belong to the vestibule.
It is obvious that the fragment should be placed at approximately the same distance from the entrance and the west wall (bottom and right). The distorted sketch clearly doesn't do so. There the distances are roughly 2.8m and 1.6m (9' 2'' and 5' 3''). The width of door is roughly half the room size. This means it is the door including the plaster reveal.
As a result, the cross marking the hole in the door is already outside the door. The pole, which has been marked by a rather thick "dot" is too far left. The corrected sketch at the right side contains a dot where the fragment has been found. The actual door size has been marked with two small lines. The precise location of the hole in the door is not known but clearly differs from the original sketch. The pole's location had to be moved a bit, as well. The shape of the pole in that sketch results from the fact that it is visibly bent towards east.The alleged trajectory of the fragment doesn't even come close to the pole.
Again, Schiffmann's sketch has been carefully fabricated to mislead the readers. Anyway, these fabrications are not the real problems. The location of the fragment does not show the trajectory inside the room. It could have hit a wall or any other object inside the vestibule before coming to a rest. The doted line shows one possible trajectory but there are many others. In fact it is not possible to say anything regarding the trajectory by looking at the location of the fragment, not even whether it came from left or right. Therefore, the room size is not important at all.
Was Faulkner Shot From The Sidewalk?
"Race Against Death" draws the conclusion that the first shots did not come from Abu-Jamal but from the sidewalk at the south side of Locust Street. At first, Faulkner shot Abu-Jamal and than Freeman shot Faulkner from behind. This conclusion seems to be reinforced by the fact that Faulkner's police tie has been found at the intersection. The metal clip of the tie had blood type 0 and lead residue on it, which proves that it has been hit by a bullet. At the trial Roy Land indicated the tie fell to the ground when Daniel Faulkner has been carried to a car. Schiffmann thinks the tie has been carried along with the bullet after Freeman shot Faulkner in the back. Maybe the tie could have been carried away by the force of the impact but there is no way to explain that enormous distance. It has been found 18 to 20 meters (20 to 22 yards) away from the crime scene. Since the tie is light but rather big it would have fallen to the ground close to the police car but not at the intersection. Schiffmann's conclusion regarding the tie is pure nonsense. Anyway, there is still the question whether the first shot could have come from the sidewalk. We do not have much evidence to determine the direction of the first shots. The best indicator is the complete bullet at the west (right) side of the entrance door. It obviously did not hit an obstacle.The Missing Divots
The last part of the drama consisted of 2 or 3 shots fired at close range, one of them killing the officer instantly. Schiffmann says, that description is "physically and ballistically impossible" because no divots generated by the missing shots can be seen at the photos. Since White, Scanlan and Chobert gave similar testimony all three of them were lying and the testimony has been fabricated by the police. The author of "Race Against Death" likes to use strong but empty words together with insults and defamatory allegations. In reality the missing divots are by far not the "nail in the coffin" of the prosecution's case. Let's take a look at his arguments.
Witnesses testified to some shots at Daniel Faulkner after he fell to the ground. Scanlan said there were two or three shots and he could remember seeing two flashes. Since evidence of two or three shots has been found at the entrance of Locust 1234 that number fits quite well to Abu-Jamal's Charter Arms revolver with 5 spent shells. As a result, at least one missing shot has to be explained. An alternative scenario has to fulfill a few prerequisites in order to be used as evidence which outweighs the testimony given by eyewitnesses:
The crucial area of the crime scene has to be covered by photos.
The groove has to be clearly bigger than any common irregularity of the concrete surface.
Photos of the crime scene have to be sufficiently detailed in order to distinguish between gun shot traces and the natural grainy surface of concrete.
There must be no evidence that Daniel Faulkner has been shot when lying on the ground.
Maybe the reason for the last point is not obvious. Let's assume the following scenario:
During the scuffle at the pavement Daniel Faulkner fell to the ground and the shooter fired at a small angle downward at the officer. That first shoot hit the ground at a certain distance and got lost somewhere towards 12th street.
Afterwards, the second shot killed Daniel Faulkner and the shooter went away. This scenario would not require any grooves in the sidewalk and it would be close to the testimony. As a result it could not be used to contradict the eyewitnesses.
Schiffmann gave a scenario which takes care of that problem. He writes that the first shot killed Faulkner while he was standing. Afterwards Faulkner fell on his knee (his left knee was injured) before falling to the ground and the shooter lowered the gun for a second shot. The second shot went through the collar of the jacket and disappeared towards 12th street. This scenario includes a clear time problem.
There is a considerable distance between head and collar and in order to fire a bullet at the collar the shooter requires some time to realize that his victim is falling down and to aim again. However, Daniel Faulkner would have fallen to the back (due to the impact), he would have collapsed immediately and he would have been lying on the ground within a fraction of a second. At the time the shooter was able to shoot at the collar Daniel Faulkner already would have been on the ground. Therefore, that shot would have hit the pavement and would have left gunshot traces. This scenario contradicts itself.
There is no good photo which shows the area around Daniel Faulkner's head. The best photo ever published is a crime scene photo (figure 10) showing the entire blood stain near Locust 1232 (between Volkswagen and Ford Galaxy). None of the published photos by Pedro Polakoff offers a better view of that area. Actually, the quality of Polakoff's photos is not impressive. The digital copies which are available show impurities and some reflections which may have been generated by drops on the lens, and they have been scanned from old paper print-outs with visible cracks.
Such photo's quality depends on factors like type of film, depth, angle, lighting, or the quality of the camera. Negative for the picture quality are the considerable depth, the flat angle, and decreasing light towards the back. On the other hand, the picture most likely has been taken by an experienced person with a high quality camera. However, the photo is not free of impurities. The distance from the blood stain is rather big and most likely it is not the trace of a shot. Additionally, the pavement is a typical concrete floor with dark and light stains.
Another problem is the size of the blood stain. A big area around Daniel Faulkner's head was covered with blood. That is the same area where a bullet most likely would have hit the sidewalk. A groove under the blood would require a rather big size to be visible. A small groove would have been filled with blood and could not be seen anymore. How big a groove could be expected? A final answer can be obtained by tests only. The result depends on many factors and it would not be a clear result but a wide range of possible results. No one ever asked for tests like this. Without that tests we can base our estimation on the other projectiles from the crime scene.
Crucial factors are the concrete's strength and resistance against abrasion, the projectile's strength and the angle of impact. We cannot find out how deep the groove would be but we can make a rough estimation whether the groove could be too small to be visible on the photo. The first complete projectile has been found in the plaster beside the door. Due to its deformation it could not be used to determine the gun but it still was one piece and did not splinter. The plaster was not broken out because otherwise the projectile would not have stayed there.
The second projectile was found in the head of Daniel Faulkner. It entered the head at the front but could not break the back side of the skull. This projectile too was severely deformed but did not splinter (maybe except for a small fragment 10 by 3 by 2 millimeter). Compared to the plaster beside the door and to human bones the concrete of the pavement is much harder. Concrete surfaces of sidewalks or streets show a very high resistance against mechanical abrasion, especially if the concrete is old. Cement hardens fast during the first days and weeks but that process continues at a lower pace for many years. Typical strength of concrete starts at 20 MPa (around 2500psi) but is considerable higher if concrete is already a few years old. Strength of plaster is only a fraction of this value. At the same time the surface becomes harder due to constant use. Foot traffic removes the softer parts of the surface and after some time the gravel (natural stones) embedded within the cement matrix becomes visible. This effect is responsible for the hard surface and the grainy appearance of concrete pavements.
Crime scene photos show that the pavement was already old. How big an effect could be expected on the sidewalk? Most likely no concrete chunks would have been broken out. This did not even happen to the much weaker plaster beside the door. We cannot determine how big the groove would be. The hole in the plaster can be used as upper limit, but we don't have a lower limit. We only know that it would be clearly smaller then the hole in the plaster but not how much smaller.
It is at least possible for that groove to be hidden under the blood stain or to be undetectable at the given resolution. There is no evidence to rule out that small a groove. Schiffmann's assumptions about divots and concrete chunks have no basis. He writes about his conversation with an expert but cannot give details.
Years ago Jamal's defense used similar arguments and did not provide clear expert testimony. There simply isn't sufficient evidence to call the prosecution witnesses liars. After the deadly bullet has entered Daniel Faulkner's head the high pressure blew out some blood. The blood stain reveals that he has received the deadly shot when he was lying on the ground. Photos reveal a straight line of blood with a length of some 50cm (20 inches). It could not have left the victim's body due to normal blood pressure because it clearly goes upwards while all the other blood goes down to the curb. That line of blood has been generated when Daniel Faulkner was on the ground and someone shot him.
Schiffmann claims that Faulkner has been shot while he was standing. To support this claim he used a statement by Pedro Polakoff and one by a medical doctor named Dr. DeForest who in 1999 tentatively thought Faulkner was standing when he was shot.
I simply don't trust experts who tentatively think something because such experts usually - not tentatively - say whatever they get paid for. If an expert has something to say he shall do so in a clear form.
Interestingly, on 23 January 1999 Weinglass announced a ballistics expert with the same name who discovered critical new evidence that suggests the bullet that killed Faulkner was switched. All this happened 8 years ago but no clear sworn statement by an expert has been produced so far.
Abu-Jamal's Trail of Blood
We know from Scanlan, Chobert, and Harkins that only 3 persons were at the crime scene when Daniel Faulkner has been killed - Faulkner, Cook, and the shooter. Supporters of Abu-Jamal could claim that he directly went to the curb beside the Volkswagen and Freeman took his gun and killed Faulkner. Scanlan and Chobert could not see the side of the Volkswagen and Chobert's identification is doubtful. White's testimony is confusing and Harkins could be explained away. Is there any evidence that Abu-Jamal was the one person observed by Scanlan and Chobert?
Roy Land from the Mobile Crime Detection Unit collected blood samples at two different locations which are marked above. Since only two persons were bleeding at the crime scene (I do not count Arnold Beverly) it is simple to determine the blood types without having a DNA-test. Blood type 0 came from Daniel Faulkner (it has been found at the back of his tie) and blood type A came from Abu-Jamal (it has been found on his clothing).
The approximate limit of Chobert's and Scanlan's field of vision shows clearly that Abu-Jamal was the person they have seen shooting at the prone officer. Even if Freeman really has been in the VW he never entered their field of vision. The shooter was Mumia Abu-Jamal
When Officer Faulkner was on the pavement, Abu-Jamal could see him from head to toes. There was no room for misunderstandings. He could see that Daniel Faulkner was unarmed. Unmoved by that fact he aimed at Faulkner's head and pulled the trigger.
Schiffmann concludes if Abu-Jamal really fired the deadly shot (despite all of his fabricated evidence) the murder charges should be dropped. Since Faulkner fired the first shot without reason (according to Schiffmann), Abu-Jamal acted in self-defense. I did not make this up to destroy his reputation. He really wrote this. Killing an unarmed police officer is self-defense???
Mr. Schiffmann, this is sick. (Interestingly, the last sentence containing the word "self-defense" appears in the English but not in the German version.) District Attorney McGill asked: "Isn't it ironic that Daniel Faulkner after stopping someone in the normal course of his duties was killed by a bullet that he could not put in his own gun, because it was too highly powered?"
As for Schiffmann, he prefers to blame a police officer with a spotless record for his own death because he was "...shot not in the line of duty, but while engaged in an ordinary act of police brutality." (Schiffmann in a paper regarding William Cook.)
Two Final Questions
Why both brothers should have remained silent after Freeman died in 1985?
No one is that loyal to a dead friend.
Schiffmann's argument is pure nonsense. Why Schiffmann continues to convince people of Abu-Jamal's innocence? I have no idea. Maybe he saw himself as a master detective.
On a pro-Mumia website (freedom-now.de) two reviewers criticized that portion of the book.
One called it a major mistake and wrote about Schiffmann's "shaky evidence." The other reviewer simply asks Schiffmann "Did it really happen in this way?"
I can answer that question: "No, it did not." Without that chapter "Race Against Death" still would be an American bashing piece of propaganda full of insults and defamatory allegations, but the lies would not be that obvious.
Conspiracy theories need mystery and suspicion but have no need for details. When Schiffmann tries to "find the real killer" he has to give details and he fails terribly.
All his carefully fabricated and distorted "evidence" does not help him. Even supporters of Abu-Jamal are aware of that.
Yes, there are many lies in that book and most German readers do not buy into these lies.
Christian Peheim July 2007