The Crime Scene Photographs Of Pedro Polakoff
"pic of "Hans Bennett, "Journalist For Mumia"
(editors note: to grasp the full importance of this article visit Peheim's website which includes the Polakoff photos.)
The Crime Scene Photographs Of Pedro Polakoff
by Christian Peheim
copyright 2005-2007 all rights reserved
reprinted by permission of the author
Supporters of Abu-Jamal base several claims on the photos and on descriptions given by Pedro Polakoff. In September 2007, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal listed “7 key points” summarizing the photos’ importance. On 24 December 2007 Hans Bennett wrote an article about 21 FAQs regarding the Polakoff photos. In reality the number of claims is smaller. In various publications I have found 6 claims, which are based on photos and/or Polakoff’s statements.
-A moving hat
Even though I do not know the exact order of photos it seems to be quite clear that the hat was on top of the VW and moved to the ground in later photos. This indicates a manipulation of the crime scene since officer Roy Land testified in court to the location of the police hat. Maybe the hat was on top of the VW before police arrived. Maybe an officer placed it there and put it back on the ground where he found it. We don’t know. On the other hand I don’t want to overestimate the importance of that hat. It was not “crucial evidence.” Even in the case that the jury would have known that photos I doubt that a moving hat would have impressed them.
-Officer Forbes and the Guns
Officer Forbes holds the guns in his left hand (shown on two photos). Michael Schiffmann claims that there are other photos showing officer Forbes holding the guns in his right hand. Maybe he did, maybe not. These other photos are not available and all we have is Schiffmann’s word. Since I saw his manipulations and distortions within his book, published in German, "Race Against Death" I am not willing to take his word. To me he is not reliable. Additionally, any claim regarding the weapons is much more important than the hat. Therefore, I’m sure if such photos would exist they would have been published. The photos available are in accordance with Forbes’ trial testimony. At the trial officer Forbes testified as follows:
"After he [William Cook] took his hands out of his pockets and I looked back to see what my partner was doing, I observed the Charter Arms next to the Defendant. I went over to pick that up, and as I picked that up I saw right off to the left of that was Officer Faulkner's gun, so I picked that up also and I placed them both in my left hand, and then I walked back over and I held on to William Cook with my right hand to his left arm. ... ... because I picked both guns up with my right hand by the wooden grips and placed them in my left hand so as not to ruin any possible fingerprints." Officer Forbes, 19 June 1982, p. 162-163
That’s exactly what can be seen on the photos: James Forbes holding the weapons in his left hand, not touching the metal parts. All other claims by Abu-Jamal’s supporters have been taken out of thin air. If there is a photo showing Forbes touching the metal parts, it should be presented. A simple statement is not sufficient. In "Race Against Death" Schiffmann writes [based on Polakoff's photos] “Could it be he acted that way because it had been police officers who had taken Abu-Jamal’s gun out of its holster?” That statement is based on Forbes’ treatment of the guns. The statement is nonsense. If James Forbes objective had been to destroy any fingerprints he would have cleaned the guns. In reality, there where unidentifiable prints on the guns.
-Securing the crime scene
Polakoff allegedly called the crime scene “the most messed-up scene he ever saw.” Additionally, Hans Bennett mentions Linn Washington’s sworn declaration from May 2001 where Washington says the same. The photos do not support that assertion. Officers in uniform guard the scene, which is protected by wooden barriers. TV news reports show that the barriers and two police cars stayed there for hours. The evidence available casts doubts whether Washington’s declaration was truthful or not (see also the last paragraph of this page). At least the crime scene was secured. There are some persons inside of the barriers but without knowing who they are it is not possible to say whether they had legitimate reason to be there. Polakoff’s photos indicate that the Mobile Crime Detection unit arrived after Polakaff, but that's no reason to call the crime scene "messed-up."
-Robert Chobert’s Car
One photo shows the empty space behind Faulkner’s police car. That is the same spot where Chobert’s taxicab has been. Contrary to the claim by Hans Bennett this does not prove that Chobert was not there. The photos show a lot of police cars. The only area that obviously was empty is the area behind Faulkner’s car. Additionally, the same photo shows wooden barriers in the middle of the street. At this location the barriers do not make any sense. The entire situation makes sense only if a car left that space before. That is clearly in accordance with Chobert’s testimony. In his first written statement he said "Then I got back in my cab and I was getting ready to leave, but they had me blocked in." That’s exactly the situation which can be seen in Polakoff’s photo. A car has left that area and that car most likely was Robert Chobert’s taxicab.
The theory of the missing divots is already a few years old and not even Bennett, Schiffmann and others use Polakoff’s photos to support this claim. Hans Bennett gave a slide show about Polakoff’s photos (available at Google Videos) where he made such a claim. However, he used the police photo as supporting evidence. Polakoff’s photos show that area from a rather big distance and cannot be used to find out whether there is a divot or not. Bennett simply assumes that there have to be large divots and chunks of cement. Schiffmann says the same and writes about a conversation with an expert. However, there is no clear expert statement about the size of this alleged divot. Additionally, the number of divots is not clear. Scanlan said he saw two shots after Daniel Faulkner fell to the ground (he saw the gunfire). Harkins first declaration indicates the same. Since the gun shot traces close to the entrance door of Locust 1234 clearly show 2 or 3 shots at that location, there have been only 2 or 3 bullets left in Abu-Jamal’s gun.
One shot entered Faulkner’s head. As a result, only one or maybe two shots missed the officer. The sidewalk consists of old concrete and such concrete surfaces have a considerable strength. Depending on the angle of impact and other circumstances a divot could be to small to be detectable at the given resolution. There is no evidence to dismiss that possibility. Even if there is a divot it could be hidden under the bloodstain. Therefore, the police photo cannot be used to call the prosecution witnesses liars. (For a more detailed discussion see the comment located at the last third of this page.) In reality, the missing-divots-issue is already old and the defense was never able to prove its assertions. The Polakoff photos are only used to make the same claims again but they do not offer anything new to support that claim.
-Earliest theory about the crime
According to Hans Bennett, Polakoff said, “all the officers present expressed the firm conviction that Abu-Jamal had been the passenger in Billy Cook’s VW and had fired and killed Faulkner by a single shot fired from the passenger seat of the car.” That’s a very interesting statement which should support the theory that Kenneth Freeman was the real murderer. Actually, it is based on hearsay only, but it still has an impact on the alleged conspiracy by the police. It shows that the officers at the crime scene did not know what happened. Therefore, they were not able to tell the witnesses White, Scanlan, Magilton, and Chobert what they should say. However, within less than an hour these eyewitnesses gave their first statements to the police and three of them talked about a man running from the parking lot (they never said he emerged from his car). They also talked about more than one shot and no one said that a shot has been fired from the passenger seat of the VW (that's not even possible). If the police officers at the scene were not aware about these facts, they were not able to influence the statements by eyewitnesses. As a result, a conspiracy that necessarily had to start within minutes after the shooting, can be ruled out. Since this alleged earliest theory is based on hearsay only, it cannot be used as evidence in court but it is a prime example of the arguments made up by Bennett and others. They use hearsay to support their claims but have nothing to offer. They cannot even come up with consistent arguments.
The best characterization of their shaky evidence comes from Robert Bryan. He talked about his “field day in court” but did not do anything to use those photos in court. Immediately after discovering the photos he should have went to court in order to keep up with the time frame for newly discovered evidence. He did not do so because he knows very well that there is nothing behind these photos. (editors note: when I interviewed Polakoff, he told me that he had contacted Robert Bryan, but that the Jamal attorney had not even returned his calls.)
The photos support the following statements:
Daniel Faulkner’s hat has been moved before the Mobile Crime Detection Unit arrived at the scene.
Officer James Forbes testified truthfully about the guns.
Robert Chobert’s testimony about the location of his taxicab is supported by at least one photo.
Police has guarded the crime scene even before the Mobile Crime Detection Unit arrived.
The limited knowledge of police at the scene rules out any conspiracy.
The Polakoff photos are just the latest so-called exculpatory evidence that does not exonerate Abu-Jamal at all.
Years ago we heard about Singletary listening to a dead man, Harmon making up an incredible story, and a caliber .44 bullet that did not exist. Later, Jenkins saw a ghost and Arnold Beverly claimed to be the shooter. Finally, the (conveniently) deceased Kenneth Freeman resurfaced as murderer. Every now and than some new items of evidence appear. In reality nothing ever changed.