Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Mumia "Brand" And The "Polakoff Photos" Debunked

A couple of days ago, in an interview, Michael Smerconish made the point that Mumia is now more or less a brand name. While in years past, it was Che Guerva’s image that helped to define what was "radical chic", now, to a lesser extent it is Mumia’s dread locked image that is arguably the most identifiable within the ideological confines of the far-left.

It is a phenomena that is interesting considering that Jamal’s imagery and mythology is marketed with all of the tactics employed by the most ardent of capitalists. By and large by people who claim to be one kind of socialist or another.

Almost as if on a schedule, Jamal supporters can be counted upon to routinely attach themselves to whatever the latest spin is, seemingly unaware of the fact that each new conspiracy theory invariably invalidates the previous one and a whole new conceptualization of the case must be cobbled together in order for the ever-changing narrative to be at least somewhat coherent.

There are however, a couple of things that have remained steady throughout this quarter century long, ideologically driven, scheme.

The first of which is the fact that Jamal has not offered a viable explanation as to what occurred on December 9, 1981. His affidavit, which contradicts that of his brother "I ain’t got nothing to do with it" Billy Cook, who has also not offered anything of substance and has never testified in a courtroom as to his version of events of that evening. Nor has Jamal ever mentioned how his weapon, with all rounds fired, ended up on the ground next to him instead of being in it’s hidden holster.

The second consistent theme is the fact that the arguments employed by Jamal supporters are in a state of infinite regression. As one theory after another falls apart in the face of facts, another is brought into fill the gap. It is very much like how a clothing line operates. Every season Ralph Lauren needs to bring in a new batch of designs in order to keep people interested and buying what he has to sell. However, in Jamal’s case it isn’t about clothes (although you can purchase a "Free Mumia" shirt) it is still largely about the personal gain of those involved. So while Polo audaciously sells shirts for $80 that were made for less than $4.00 in China, the Mumia machine constantly needs new theories as a means of keeping people in it’s ranks.
You could literally chart out on a time line the radical changes in the arguments presented by Jamal supporters, that until recently all had to have the same ending of Jamal the victim, Jamal as innocent victim, and Jamal the innocent victim of a racist frame-up.

However, as his support wanes, the movement is now embracing those who for years were considered literal heretics for even considering the idea that Jamal may have shot Officer Faulkner. Just a few years ago, someone like Dave Lindorff who writes in his book on the case that Jamal "maybe" shot Officer Faulkner would not be invited to speak at a press conference with Pam Africa at his side. Instead, he would have and was demonized, heckled, by members of the group that he admitted to me was in fact a "cult".

Now, we are starting to see the groundwork laid for the next act in the Jamal melodrama, that of Mumia as the shooter, but a justified shooter, as it was done in "self-defense". This of course would explain why Jamal slyly has maintained his "innocence", but has not in a quarter of a century gotten around to denying that he shot Officer Faulkner. That is, of course if you don’t count the 2001 affidavit, which I think is safe to say is not very credible considering it was so sloppy that it could not be corroborated by eyewitnesses nor his own brother’s affidavit and was little more than a prop in the "Beverly confession" that was so Jamal conspiracy theory in style at the dawn of the century.

But, before one gets around to conceding the obvious fact that Mumia shot Officer Faulkner, one must endure the latest fad in the Jamal cause, the "Polakoff photos", which I would argue is the least impressive of all of them all.

At least William Singletary and Arnold Beverly, proven liars that they were, attempted to provide exculpatory evidence. That is evidence that would, if proven, would have ended up with Jamal walking out of prison as a free man.

The same cannot be said for the "Polakoff photos". Pictures from the crime scene that I must first point out that were not first presented in this current context by Michael Schiffman, but by me. This is something that Schiffman will not publicly admit, but as I pointed out in a previous post, has lied about.

More importantly, there is absolutely nothing in those pictures that come close to exonerating Mumia.

I interviewed Pedro Polakoff for this blog and have written about his pictures and have taken the pro-Jamal interpretations of the photos and contrasted them with the trial transcripts and instead of discovering that the photos shed new light on the case, I found that for the most part they showed what was already known.

As the photos were presented on the "Today Show", Maureen Faulkner rhetorically asked the question as to why it took so long for the photos to come into play for Team Mumia. Michael Schiffman, in his usual shady kind of way offered the following disingenuous response:

"Indeed she has a point here. The reason it took so long is that the DA didn't want these photos, indeed didn't want to have anything to do with them and actually deep-sixed them. We can ask, why? Their authenticity is not in question as several of them appeared in the papers at the time. They didn't want them on account of what they might show, and investigation that was incredibly sloppy and manipulative. Their lack of interest - and the fact that they didn't inform the defense - alone might be reason for a new trial, as correctly pointed out by Linn Washington at the Dec. 4 press conference in Philadelphia."

Schiffman is not only disingenuous, but apparently can now read the minds of those at the District Attorney’s Office back in 1981 and offers an absurd spin about the pictures, while engaging in gross hyperbole in an effort to turn nothing into something. Nor does he actually get around to answering the question as he is caught up in his own mind-numbing platitudes.
Schiffman has no clue as to why the DA’s Office did not buy Polakoff’s photos. He is merely assuming what he ought to have to prove in order to fit his already fixed agenda. I would contend that it is very likely that in most cases, especially in the days before everyone had cell phone cameras, that the police relied more so on their own crime scene photos than from journalists or other sources.

The reason as to why the "Free Mumia" cause did not have the pictures until recently is that the photographer did not offer them to the defense until contacted by Michael Schiffman. And at the time of my interview with him, Polakoff had yet to have his calls returned by Jamal’s attorney nor had he been deposed for an affidavit. This being the case, I can only surmise that Jamal’s attorney realizes that the photos are useless in a legal setting, despite their propaganda value outside of the courtroom.

The trial transcripts which apparently puts Jamal supporters like Ed Asner to sleep, is where you go to find out that the photos are much ado about nothing. Simply put, there are not going to be to many journalists to bother scouring the thousands of pages of transcripts to investigate the photos, whereas the DA and any judge who were to review the photos certainly will.

Eventually, however, as more people take the time to really look at the pictures and juxtapose them against the trial testimony, diminishing returns for these celebrated photos will set in and Jamal supporters will be off scrambling for the next batch of "evidence" to use to propel them into the limelight, where they can again claim victory as they manage to dupe journalists who have a four pm deadline, while oblivious to the fact that they and their pictures would be laughed out a courtroom, just as they were with Singletary, Beverly, the ".44 caliber myth" and the dozen or so other ridiculous attempts to "Free Mumia". Brick by Brick Lie by Lie ought to be their new motto.

But, what of the pictures? I would be remiss to bring them up, deny their value, and than not address the supposed issues raised by them.

On "The Today Show" Matt Lauer presented the photo evidence this way:

"There are some photographs that have been released by supporters of Mumia, and they were taken by a freelancer named Pedro Polakoff. The supporters say that these photos show a policeman holding two guns in his bare hand, contradicting the officer's trial testimony that he had preserved ballistics evidence. Another shows you husband's hat on top of a car, and not on the sidewalk as it is in the official police photo of the crime scene. A third shows a blood-stained sidewalk where the shooting took place, but does not show any signs of the marks in the concrete that might have occurred if your husband had been shot from above as prosecutors contended. The defense attorney says that he can 'have a field day' with these photographs if a new trial..."

The Officer holding the two guns is Officer Forbes, he was one of the first Officers on the scene, the first image of relevance he observed was the grizzly sight of a mortally wounded, fellow Officer. At this point, it is important to note that there are only two officers on the scene, a dying cop, William Cook standing there, with Mumia on the ground, and two weapons also on the ground.

Officer Forbes testified as to the following in front of the jury:

"A. Yes, I did. After I picked up the revolvers I walked back and I held onto him until other arriving Police could frisk him.
Q. And he had no weapons, did he?
A. No, he didn't, none that I found.
Q. Now, Officer Forbes, did Mr. Cook say anything to you?
A. As I was approaching him he was looking in the direction of my partner Robert Shoemaker, and he said, "I ain't got nothing to do with this." And as I got closer to him he looked up at me and repeated the same thing, "I ain't got nothing to do with this."
Later on, he again mentions holding both weapons in one hand after securing Billy Cook and holstering his own weapon.
A. Before I picked up the guns, 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."

Forbes makes it clear in his testimony that he never touched the metal parts of the gun. Of course, on Schiffman’s website is the claim that Forbes is seen touching the metal parts of the gun and that there are other photos that further demonstrate this "fact". Yet, the picture on the site shows Forbes holding the weapon that is visible on the wooden grip as he testified.
But for the sake of argument let us assume Schiffman is correct and that Officer Forbes mishandled the weapons and destroyed finger prints.

First of all, the jury knew that their was no prints found on Jamal’s weapon. This tells us at least one thing and that if they wanted to "frame" Mumia, that the police were not doing a good job. How hard would it have been for Forbes to go over to a wounded Jamal and get his hand print on the weapon? Not very. Could not the ballistics technicians simply lie about obtaining prints? Certainly they could have if their goal was to "frame Mumia" as opposed to finding out who killed a fellow Officer

It is not argued that the revolver found next to Mumia was in fact his weapon, that he purchased, that he admitted to carrying that night, and for which he had a hidden holster for. Furthermore, nobody denies that the weapon had all of it’s rounds fired. Eyewitnesses have Jamal with the weapon in his hand, other witnesses actually see him shooting Officer Faulkner.
So what difference would it be if Forbes accidentally did smudge the gun? I would almost not be surprised had he not done so between the time that he picked them up to the time that he gave them to the Ballistics room for examination. The jury knew there was no fingerprints on the gun, yet they realized that they were basing their decision on the sum total of the evidence and not one tiny, and in this case, inconsequential detail.

What could possibly be Schiffman’s point, assuming his summation is correct? That somebody other than Mumia somehow got the gun away from Mumia, out of it’s concealed holster, fired all of the rounds contained therein, and than dropped the weapon a foot away from Mumia? It is a clearly incredible theory, but it almost seems like the direction that Schiffman is going with his line of reasoning.

Is it his contention that a smudged fingerprint should let an obvious killer walk free in the face of overwhelming evidence? Perhaps that is good enough for Schiffman, but it is not good enough for me and it clearly will not be good enough for the courts.

The next reference to the Polakoff photos has to do with Officer Faulkner’s hat and where it was located. Perhaps I am being flippant, but who cares? In the chaos that enveloped the scene of the crime it is perfectly acceptable to believe that Faulkner’s hat got shuffled around as police officers worked to detain and subdue a struggling Jamal and struggled to get Officer Faulkner into a vehicle so that he could be taken to a hospital.

The next issue raised by Matt Lauer has to do with the lack of "divots" visible in Polakoff’s picture.

Christian Peheim addressed this issue at length in a previous article and does so better than I could, so I think it worth it to quote him at length.

"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 taken by police. 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.

In essence, what we have is Schiffman viewing the entire crime scene thru the prism of the Polakoff pictures and his interpretation of them and he wants everyone else to do the same. His speculation concerning the "missing divots" is simply that, speculation.

It is an example of Schiffman setting up a" straw man" argument that is designed to limit people’s attention to only the evidence that he perceive is worth looking at.

That Maureen Faulkner would express disgust at the attempted use of these photos as an argument for Jamal’s innocence is completely understandable. It is a road she has been down numerous times, with pro-Jamal "activists" contriving evidence as a means of distraction and cheap publicity and even cheaper applause from Jamal supporters.

But the fact is that whatever the "Polakoff pictures" are, they are not the ticket out of jail for Mumia. They are the props in the latest in a long line of intentionally misleading stunts designed to turn attention away from the fact that there is nothing to be presented that points to anyone other than Jamal being the man who killed Officer Faulkner.


At 3:37 PM , Blogger Franny Ward said...

A well written and consise article. Remembering Danny is far more important than even discussing Mumia, his supporters, and their twisted truths.

RIP Danny.

At 9:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well that Lauer thing was a rock yall picked up and to throw at us and dropped on your own feet.

At 7:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tony, based on that diagram, I'm guessing that you also think the prosecution scenario was fraudulent?

At 7:30 PM , Blogger Tony Allen said...

To 229. I didn't see the Lauer thing, but I did see people who came to events to buy Maureen Faulkner's book while I was in Philly from seeing her on the show.

To "Anonymous"

The picture is from the website of Christian Peheim. I used it because I respect his analysis and views because they are thought out.

Do I think every aspect of the prosecution's case is as things were? I don't know. But the facts, as best we can tell demonstrate Jamal's guilt.

The prosecution case as offered by McGill is more believable than all of the various pro-Jamal conspiracies combined.

At 9:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that Peheim's theory: "It didn't happen like the prosecution says, but....Mumia still did it" ?

I am confused because the prosecution says Faulkner was shot and killed in the same spot... and that he didn't travel one car length, as suggested in that diagram.

At 9:43 PM , Blogger Tony Allen said...

Christian is more than able to answer such questions himself.

On his website are more of his writings and diagrams and I believe on his site is his email address so that you could contact him directly.

At 10:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, I'm really fascinated by that diagram. You put it up on your site. What do YOU think of it?

It is a theory I have never encountered.

At 10:24 PM , Blogger Tony Allen said...

I don't think it is a "theory".

It is slightly different than the diagram presented at

That being the case, I can only presume that Peheim's diagram comes out of how he interprets the evidence. Evidence that he, the jury, appelate judges, and myself agree points to Jamal as being the murderer of Officer Faulkner.

I am guessing you are a Jamal supporter fishing for some kind of contradiction to seize upon as a means of showing Jamal's innocence, but the bottom line is that wherever Faulkner's body ended up, Jamal killed him.

I don't mind answering questions.

However, since I am answering yours, why don't you answer mine.

What is your point with all of this?

At 10:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point is that I have never seen someone from the "Mumia is guilty" camp argue that the prosecution's scenario was wrong.

I am very interested by this, since it is a significant new development

You see the point right? To say that Faulkner was first shot in front of his police car, and then was finally killed a full car length down, in front of Billy Cook's VW...

this is fascinating, and fundamentally different from the prosecution scenario that says Faulkner was shot in the back, and then as he spun around and fell to the ground, he shot Mumia and then Mumia gave the final shot to the head. In this scenario, Faulkner clearly did not travel an entire car-length.

In the past I have only seen the official prosecution theory challenged by the "Mumia is not guilty" camp.

If your diagram is correct, it is a historic break from past "theories" (for lack of a better word).

If you think the actual scenario is so fundamentally different from that presented at the 82 trial, do you think Mumia should be re-tried? Or otherwise, what are the implications of this historic shift in ballistics analysis?

At 11:10 PM , Blogger Tony Allen said...

First of all, the diagram, assuming it is correct does not contradict the fundemental prosecution contention that Jamal is guilty.

The fact that Jamal was found with his own weapon, with all rounds fired, a hidden shoulder holster on his person, with a bullet from Officer Faulkner's gun makes it rather clear what happened.

Their is nothing "significant" about this diagram with regards to the case. It is grossly disingenuous to presume that a diagram labled 26 years after the crime was committed alters anything.

Your hyperbolic spin is incredibly insulting to the intelligence of anyone who is even marginally familiar with the case.

Are you seriously going to attempt to use the diagram, which represents the opinion of one person as a cause for a new trial?

If so, than you are either pahetically desperate or fail to understand even the most elementary concepts of the judicial system.

The fact remains that witnesses describe Jamal's approach to the scene of the crime, describe his shooting of Officer Faulkner, his confession, etc...

The ballistics conclude beyond any doubt that the bullets that killed Officer Faulkner came from a .38 caliber, the same type of gun that Jamal was carrying.

Again, it is not "my diagram", it is Christian Peheim's diagram. And to say that it is "historic" is pretty much insane.

I understand that you feel this need to try and defend Mumia, but when he won't even explain himself how his weapon came to be where it was, you have a tremendous hurtle to overcome.

Let it go. You will feel better.

There are people far more deserving of your support. People who may actually be innocent

At 4:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for answering late but I was on a business trip

The sketch at the Daniel Faulkner site is not entirely correct. Daniel Faulkner’s head was in the area close to the front of the VW some 2 meters (7 feet) from the curb. A crime scene photo by the police shows the big blood stain in that area. The shooting started between VW and police car (according to witnesses; on Polakoff’s photos a trail of blood can be seen along that way). William Cook’s statement that it started behind the VW is simply not true.

However, this is the original theory of the prosecution. At the trial McGill has been showing crime scene photos and the jury was well aware of the fact where the shooting started and ended. The trial transcripts may give a wrong impression without these photos. At the beginning Abu-Jamal shot from the street and he killed Daniel Faulkner a few meters away from that location. You only have to read the trial transcripts carefully.

If you have doubts you can go to Schiffmann’s site (a true defender of Abu-Jamal) who has available a PDF-file of the English version of Race Against death which shows basically the same situation. An article by Hans Bennett shows the same sketch.


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