Monday, July 30, 2007

Ward Churchill Get's His

(Editors Note: Churchill, aside from being a first-class fraud is also an apologist for MOVE and Mumia.)

Ward Churchill Flunks The First Amendment

The University of Colorado finally bit the bullet and fired Professor Ward Churchill. However, the university took great pains to make it clear that its action was not the result of Churchill’s controversial essay that referred to the 9/11 victims as “little Eichmanns” and praised the terrorists who killed them. Rather, the university’s Board of Regents decided that he had to go because of alleged academic fraud. In the words of University of Colorado President Hank Brown, there was “a pattern of serious, deliberate and repeated research misconduct that fell below minimum standards of professional integrity.”

Since the University of Colorado is a public university, it is subject to the First Amendment’s protection of the right of free speech against interference by the government. As an employee of this public institution, Churchill was entitled to the benefit of this constitutional protection.

Accordingly, Churchill has filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming that his dismissal violated his First Amendment rights because he was fired for simply expressing controversial views on matters of public concern. He will undoubtedly rely on a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases which have concluded that the threat of dismissal from public employment is a potent means of inhibiting speech, particularly in areas relating to discussion of government policy. The test that the Supreme Court has used in such cases is to balance the interests of the employee as a citizen, in commenting on matters of public concern, against the interest of the State as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees and preventing disruption of its normal operations.

The irony of Churchill’s case is that he is seeking the protection of the same First Amendment that the Islamic extremists, with whom he sympathizes, are sworn to destroy. But the great thing about the United States - the country Churchill despises and wants “off the planet” and “[O]ut of existence altogether” – is that Churchill will be given his day in court to assert his First Amendment claims.

For its part, the university is trying to avoid the whole First Amendment issue. The Board of Regents is banking on the fact that it has built a solid case for its action based on credible findings regarding Churchill’s alleged academic fraud. This independently valid reason for Churchill’s firing should render the First Amendment issue moot, according to the university. If the university has its way, Churchill’s case will turn on whether he was accorded due process during the proceedings leading up to the decision to fire him, the reliability of the findings against him and whether the university can contractually fire a tenured professor for the reasons stated.

However, the university’s defense, based on Churchill’s alleged academic dishonesty and incompetence, obscures the more fundamental issue at stake in this controversy. Even if Churchill can prove that the university’s real motivation for firing him was its concern over what Churchill said and that all the rest were just convenient excuses, the First Amendment does not provide Churchill with the protection that he is seeking in his particular circumstances.

In his essay entitled Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens, Churchill compared certain civilian workers at the World Trade Center who were murdered on 9/11 to the notorious Nazi, Adolf Eichmann, and said that the ultimate “penalty” that they paid with their lives was the most effective punishment he knew of for their “participation” in enabling the sins of American imperialism:

“Well, really. Let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire – the "mighty engine of profit" to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to "ignorance" – a derivative, after all, of the word "ignore" – counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it.” (Emphasis added)

Had Churchill simply engaged in strident verbal attacks on American foreign policy and its consequences, his words would be protected by the First Amendment - no matter how offensive and irresponsible such attacks may be. The essence of the First Amendment is to protect the vigorous exchange of ideas, particularly on public policy matters, irrespective of how crudely those ideas are expressed.

Had Churchill engaged in over-the-top political rhetoric aimed at public officials, who take the risk of being subject to vicious ad hominem attacks when they decide to enter the public arena, he also would have a very strong case for First Amendment protection. The Supreme Court, in its landmark case Times v. Sullivan, reaffirmed the “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

But Churchill chose to defame private citizens going about their lawful business activities by falsely labeling these 9/11 victims as “little Eichmanns”. Though not naming any of the victims individually, he specifically targeted the readily identifiable subset of financial service workers who lost their lives that day. The damage to their surviving family members is incalculable. This pain is illustrated in the following excerpt from an open letter that a brother of a 9/11 victim addressed to Churchill, which was otherwise fairly sympathetic to Churchill’s perspectives:

“My brother Chris was a 1985 graduate of the University of Colorado, the father of three young children and a compassionate, respectful and generous man. He stood in defense of our environment, volunteered his time and money in support of human rights, and gave unselfishly to help disadvantaged, vulnerable members of our society. He spoke openly against unjust government policies, and followed a private ethic of compassion. Chris was also a U.S. government Treasury bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, and therefore by your definition was a ‘little Eichmann.’ At 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, you claim that my beautiful brother Chris, a "technocrat" in your words, received his "befitting penalty." While Chris rarely used a cell phone in his work (much less self-importantly brayed into one), he did make one call that fateful day. At about 8:30 that morning, Chris bantered back and forth with his 4-year-old daughter to get her to say that she loved him — she was the last of his family to talk with him. Mr. Churchill, what I want you to see is the human face behind the rhetoric. Human beings are not symbols, and your essay's dehumanization of the victims of 9/11 reduces them to mere symbols — drones in a capitalist machine...

We would like you to use your right to speak and your privileged position to be clear on our brother's death so that we can better understand your message. Are you capable of rejecting the language of hate and engaging in real constructive dialog to explore realistic solutions to our real world problems, without pitting one group of victims against another? Mr. Churchill, my family is not ensconced in an ivory tower. We do not have the luxury that you have of pontificating at arm's length on the causes behind the events of 9/11. The reality of that day has been cemented in my family's life forever. Was our loss justified? Did it right any wrongs that have been committed in this world? We await your clarification.

We all are still waiting. Defamation of private individuals in the malicious manner practiced by Churchill is not protected by the First Amendment.

To add further insult to injury, Churchill told an interviewer in 2004 that “[O]ne of the things I’ve suggested is that it may be that more 9/11s are necessary.”

Churchill went even further than this with incendiary statements that could be considered public incitements to commit violence against our military.

On June 23, 2005 in Portland, Oregon Churchill was reported to have told a conscientious objection forum that a soldier who opposed the Iraq war would have “a much more impactful effect” by “fragging an officer” than conscientiously objecting to combat.

Fragging means to kill, wound, or assault a superior with a fragmentation grenade. To emphasize his point, Churchill asked his audience this rhetorical question: “Would you render the same level of support to someone who hadn't conscientiously objected, but rather instead rolled a grenade under their line officer in order to neutralize the combat capacity of their unit?”

When asked by a member of the audience about the officers' families, Churchill again used his Adolf Eichmann comparison by responding, "[h]ow do you feel about Adolf Eichmann's family?"

The taxpayers of Colorado contribute $200 million in taxes annually to the University of Colorado. Federal agencies provide about $640 million annually in research funding. Yet here we have the spectacle of a public employee of the university, paid nearly $100,000 a year from American taxpayer dollars, publicly exhorting an audience to consider supporting the killing or maiming of an American military officer with a grenade in order to neutralize the combat capacity of his unit.

Churchill will argue that no matter how offensive his speech, the First Amendment is designed expressly for the purpose of protecting his right to say it, and that faculty members especially must be able to speak and write unpopular views because their role is to stimulate free and open debate on cutting edge, controversial issues. He is right up to a point. Courts have granted more leeway to professors to say offensive things than they have accorded to administrators, on the theory that unrestrained exchange of ideas lies at the core of academic freedom.

However, there are outer limits. The University of Colorado should not have to tolerate speech which can reasonably be expected to cause serious disruptions of its normal operations. For example, there is an active ROTC program on campus. The university would have a legitimate concern that Churchill’s incitements to kill or maim military officers could threaten the peaceful functioning of this program and lead to further disruptions on campus.

Academic freedom must be accompanied by academic responsibility. Professor Churchill’s defamatory and incitement speech failed the test of First Amendment protection. He deserved to be fired on this basis alone. Of course, if the allegations against Churchill regarding plagiarism and other acts of misconduct turn out to be true, his firing is a no-brainer.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Schiffman's Mumia Myths Deconstructed

(Michael Schiffman on the far right)

(Editors Note,
The full article including some excellent diagrams has been posted on Peheim's website in English. Everyone should see this site and compare it to that of Schiffmans
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".

Schiffmann's "Who-dunnit"

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.

Eyewitness Testimony

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 ( 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

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

When Things Fall Apart

(Pic of cop-killer Janet Africa)

"Ona MOVE! This is an alert to all of our supporters..."

Since coming around MOVE back around late ‘95 I have seen plenty of "alerts" sent out into cyberspace by the cult chronicling some kind of purported abuse by this entity of that one.

Hell, I even authored some of them.

As I write this, there is one pertaining to Janet Africa, one of the "MOVE 9". It appears that the guards aren’t showing her the respect that she deserves, or rather think she deserves.

As you might know, MOVE doesn’t have to abide by anyone’s rules but MOVE’s. And those rules can change at any time according to the whim of a particular MOVE member as they see fit.

These are the grand delusions that the dead god, John Africa poisoned the minds of his followers with before he took the easy way out visa vi "suicide-by-cop", back in 1985.

You can murder a police officer, be convicted of doing so, be imprisoned, but still get to call the shots (no pun intended).

There is no driving need to delve into the latest complaint by MOVE members as it can be filed away into the box of a thousand other grievance that basically are extensions of the psychic wounds inflicted upon those who have given up their self-respect and replaced it with the servile mentality of absolutism.

Not only are MOVE members and their close supporters condemned to immiserate their own little "community" with their nihilism and vulgar platitudes, but they also suffer under the delusion that the rest of the world is in need of their contagion.

Because of their lack of judgement and inability to make proper choices, we in society who did not go out and kill a police officer must pay obeisance and bow before the alter of their sacred "rights"?

I don’t think so.

People in jail do indeed have rights. And those rights should be defended as vigorously as are any others in our country. Because of the very insulated nature of jails I would argue that we need pay much more attention than we do presently, but in the case of MOVE, they are the ones causing the problems and are not innocent victims of some persecution.

A cursory glance at MOVE’s history will demonstrate that the group initiates confrontations to attempt to make this point or that point.

I have personally been present in visiting rooms when MOVE members, after being told something they didn’t like "put information" on prison staff. And just so there is no question of what it means to "put information" on someone, it essentially entails a profanity laden tirade extolling the virtues of John Africa while heaping contempt upon whomever has the misfortune of being the representative of the "system" at that particular moment in time.

It is a show of attempted verbal bullying that for MOVE is the only means of releasing the frustration of nearly three decades of life wasted. Instead of taking ownership for their personal failings and confronting the brutish realities of the four walls that bind them, they project all of that hatred and self-loathing outward and onto whomever is around them.

At this point I should remind readers that many of these MOVE members entered jail barely in

their twenties. This fact, coupled with the realization that obedience to a "high demand group" arrests the mental development of cult members, it is clear that the MOVE people in prison today are emotionally the same bunch of spoiled brats that went into jail back in 1978.

Nobody should expect them to take responsibility for their actions. For over three decades they have been armoring themselves against just that kind of maturity and have instead focused upon blaming all of their failures on everything and everybody else. That is, after all, one of the appeals of cults, is that you are seemingly allowed to circumvent your failures by using those on the outside of yourself, your group, as an all too convenient scape-goat.

From my vantage point, as an ex-MOVE devotee, I see the walls that imprison the MOVE members in jail to be not so much an impediment to them as are the mental barricades that they have made a conscious choice to hide in.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Petition: "No To Parole For The MOVE 9"

(P.O. James Ramp)

Soon, preliminary parole proceedings are set to begin for the eight surviving MOVE members who were convicted of murdering Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp.

For it’s part, the MOVE cult has initiated a world-wide campaign designed to pressure the parole board into releasing the convicted cop-killers.

And despite the fact that the judge who presided over the trial of killers of James Ramp called the idea of rehabilitation of these violent cultists "absurd", there is a real possibility that they could be paroled.

Although the idea that these un-repentant killers could be set free seems insane, it is not without precedent.

In fact, one MOVE member who was tried separately from the others has already been paroled.
Consuella Africa is free to walk the streets of Philadelphia where she has helped to recruit new adherents of the sect and gleefully participated in the terror campaign waged against John Gilbride and his family that ended in his death.

In order to counter MOVE’s efforts I have started a petition of my own and am encouraging people to contact the parole board to remind them of the terror that MOVE has wrought in the past and continue to do so today.

Follow the following link to the petition site:

So what have MOVE members in prison done to show their repentance evidence of rehabilitation? I offer a few examples.

-Back in 1981 a MOVE inspired riot led to 27 injuries at Holmesburg prison-MOVE members either initiated or participated in numerous other violent confrontations with prison authorities on numerous occasions that also led to various injuries to guards and prisoners.

-MOVE members engaged in disruptive "hunger strikes" as a means of protests.

-MOVE members have repeatedly been sent to "administrative segregation for numerous infractions of prison policies and have taken a general counter-productive approach towards their incarceration. As I write these words, a female MOVE prisoner has been sent to the "hole" for violations of prison policy.

-In typical MOVE fashion, MOVE members have taken no responsibility for the actions that they took on August 8, 1978 and instead insist on a revisionist and laughable scenario of that day that leaves them as the victims.

From prison, the cultists have acted as recruiters for the cult and have had their writings published in numerous "radical" journals as they advocate John Africa’s brand of "revolution".
More assiduously, they did what they could from prison to support MOVE’s terroristic campaign against John Gilbride and his family.

In letters from MOVE members in prison, the attitude towards John's murder was one of barely muted, albeit obvious, happiness. Debbie Africa had this to say about John's death in a letter from December of 2002, just a couple of months after the murder:

"The situation concerning our sister, Alberta and Zack is resolved. We want to thank any and all of you who helped in the situation with Alberta and Zack....Y'all are the greatest."

In April of that year, Chuck Africa went even further with his candor regarding John's demise:

"Well, anyways it all worked out (the custody case). The folks out there really didn't believe the city would attack. Later I saw the psychology behind what happened & how it was handled. The city just couldn't afford to be aggressive becuz of May 13th and people were too aware of what was going on then? Do you understand what I am saying? It was really unlikely that things would turn out like they did. But, I was so relieved that things worked out. I don't need no more of my family killed, hurt, or imprisoned, as well as my friends and supporters."

To release the "MOVE 9" from jail would be to embrace madness. It is a shame that John Africa has rotted out the brains of the "MOVE 9" and turned them into maniacal killers, but to release them upon society would only serve to make our world that much more of a dangerous place. A reading of the above statements concerning John Gilbride’s murder only further demonstrates the maniacal contempt for life that MOVE has displayed.

Let those of us who know the truth work to ensure that these criminals remain behind bars where they belong.

While it is important to remember the crimes of the MOVE members, I think it also crucial that the victims of the cult’s violence also be remembered for their sacrifice. Here is a list of MOVE’s victims from the 1978 "confrontation".

Wounded Police Officer James Ramp (killed by a bullet fired from .223 caliber rifle linked conclusively to a weapon taken from MOVE HQ. This weapon was purchased by MOVE member Phil Africa.)

Lieutenant William H. Krause (gunshot wounds to the abdomen and right arm)

Officer Thomas Hesson (gunshot wounds to the chest)

Officer Charles Stewart (gunshot wounds to the right shoulder, leg, and head)

Officer Harry Mackel (bullet shots to the buttocks)

Officers Giest and Hurst (smoke inhalation)

Wounded Firefighters

John Walsh (bullet wounds to neck and head)

Robert Snead (shotgun pellet wounds to the face)

Dennis O'Neil (shotgun pellet wounds to the left arm)

Robert Lentine (shotgun pellet wounds to the face)

Two other firefighters sustained minor injuries

Of course, MOVE contends they did nothing but huddle in the basement of their house as the police attempted to "kill them". MOVE members claim to not only not fire a shot, but also claim to not even have any firearms. The facts say differently.

This list of bullet wounds to the firemen and police officers is relevant for, if one is to believe MOVE's conspiratorial theory of events, all of these men would have had to have been shot by their own comrades. They would also have had to have been shot by at least two different types of weapons, both shotgun and rifle.Let’s assume for a moment that MOVE’s theory is correct, that the police shot one of their own officers in order to railroad and convict MOVE members. If this were true, it would be a conspiracy that would literally involve hundreds of people. It would have to include the police themselves, officers who would literally turn their guns on their own friends and co-workers. Remember, it was not just Ramp who was shot, other officers were gravely wounded and could have lost their lives in the incident.

Firefighters would also have had to be in on the plan, as well. A number of them testified in court that they saw MOVE members with guns, as well as being fired upon by MOVE members through the floor of MOVE headquarters. Other firefighters were on the deluge hoses directing water into the MOVE basement when they were struck by the MOVE gunfire, gunfire that could only have come from the basement.

The media and other observers would also have to be involved in the conspiracy to frame MOVE. With only a couple of exceptions, the reporters on the scene clearly indicated that the gun fire came from MOVE’s basement and came first.

Facts About the Case of the "MOVE 9"

-More than 2,000 rounds of ammunition was removed from the MOVE Basement, as were eleven "operable" weapons.

-When Police and negotiators, Walter Palmer and a Catholic Priest, implored MOVE members to at least let the children go, the response was "Why don’t you take gasoline and set fire to us?"

-MOVE’s own children would tell investigators that "all" of the MOVE adults had weapons and that MOVE members opened fire "cause cops ain’t wanna shoot."

Please sign the "No To Parole For The MOVE 9" petition and also contact the parole board at the following:

Board of Probation and Parole1101 South Front StSuite 5200Harrisburg, PA 17104


Saturday, July 14, 2007

MOVE Celebrates The Murder Of James Ramp With Pollution Parade

(pic of MOVE's God John Africa a.k.a Vincent Lephart)

MOVE’s "activities" typically entail bullhorn amplified, profanity-laden, harangues, that most certainly constitute noise pollution.

Usually, the cult picks some street in downtown Philadelphia to set themselves up at and scream and holler at perplexed pedestrians who, for the most part could care less about the rabble and their semi-intelligible, always profane, "message".

This August, in celebration of the death of James Ramp, MOVE has decided to double up on the pollution factor and instead of just defiling a street corner, they intend to drive around and inflict their atavistic delusions upon a number of hapless neighborhoods throughout the city.

According to a message at the New York Free Mumia website:

"We intend to do everything possible to insure that they are in fact paroled, so this Aug. 11th we are doing a car caravan through Philadelphia neighborhoods. We want to inform people of the current status of The MOVE 9 and gather support to pressure the parole board to release innocent MOVE people. We want as many cars and people as possible. If you want to participate but don't have a car, contact us at 215 387-4107 and we will try to get you into one of the participating cars.

We will assemble at 45th & Kingsessing Ave. at 12:00pm, August 11 in Philly"

The "parole" they are talking about has to do with the imprisoned MOVE members who are still imprisoned for the murder of Officer James Ramp. Next August the "MOVE 9" will be eligible for parole and MOVE apparently thinks that driving around Philadelphia will somehow convince the parole board that their members are worthy of release.

What I find interesting about all of this is that MOVE has continuously presented itself as a vanguard of environmentalism. The group’s propagandists make much of their purported support of extremist environmental groups like the Earth Liberation Front and the MOVE prisoners are themselves listed in many a journal and website as prisoners of the war against the environment.

The "back to nature" cult claims to adhere to the teachings of John Africa, who taught that cars, planes, and all things manufactured by man are "evil" and that it should be MOVE’s position to set the example of how to live without such impediments to the world.

Yet, here they are asking people to drive around in their cars, spewing toxins into the atmosphere, wasting gas, in the August heat, as if the city does not have enough smog and pollution to begin with.

This is just yet another example of the kind of rank hypocrisy that MOVE represents.

A cult that abuses animals, terrorized their neighbors, keeps it’s children illiterate and barely pubescent girls pregnant.

The group is responsible for the killings of James Ramp, it’s chief supporter Mumia Abu-Jamal murdered Daniel Faulkner, and there is the cloud of suspicion that hangs over the group concerning the death of John Gilbride.

And now of course, the cult can be known for it’s indifference to the environment.

But than again, there is nothing new about MOVE’s pollution.

On Osage Avenue the cult literally tortured it’s neighbors with it’s vile practices.

"They could go on for hours on that loudspeaker system of theirs," recalled Marguerite Walker, of 6217 Osage. "Sometimes they would start at 3 in the afternoon and they would stay on there until 1 o'clock at night. Different times they would come on. But you know, with that kind of thing you are tense all the time. You are just always wondering when it is going to come on. "So you never relax."But, for the residents of Osage Avenue, the bullhorn assault was only the beginning.

There were also the barrels of raw meat that MOVE members fed their dogs and the smell of cat urine that hung in the air.The foul stink of what residents believed to be human excrement and unwashed bodies filled the summer air, making children and adults physically sick.An omnipresent stench rose up from the MOVE house, seeping through screen doors and forcing people inside. The MOVE people kept dozens of cats and dogs, but never cared much about controlling them. One day, Osage Avenue resident, Bennett Walker was working in the back of his house when he remembered "noticing this smell."

"So I looked around, and then there were all these dead kittens. They were covered with flies. I had to go and throw them out."

In the spring, another Osage Avenue resident, Pearl Watkins enjoyed drying her wash on a clothesline - she liked the fresh air and sunshine on the clothing. But she feared the flies that fed on the garbage and waste at the MOVE house. So she was forced to hang her clothes to dry in the basement.Inez Nichols of 6228 Osage remembered the flies as well. "I couldn't open my screen door because for some reason, not the small flies, but those big, green flies - when I opened the door, it seemed like there was a swarm of them that said, 'We're coming in.' So I went around with a fly swatter - banging, banging, banging."

"How did it smell?" asked Shirleen Benson of the odor that clung to the neighborhood. "How does filth smell? It has an odor of its own. Something rotten or dead."

Other MOVE neighbors reportedly had to turn on their stoves to clear out armies of roaches before they could cook their families dinner at night.

As if the stink, and infestations, and bullhorn harangues were not enough of an assault on civility, MOVE would also singled out certain neighbors for particularly brutal treatment. There would also be ominous threats of violence on the part of MOVE members against children. Maugerite Walker would tell reporters that: "On the loudspeaker, Conrad (Africa) used to shout that he was a rapist. He would get on there and say that he used to go into people's houses through their skylights and rape young virgins."

As the war on their own community waged on, MOVE brandished firearms terrifying children and convincing adults that MOVE had no intention of living peaceably.

So for MOVE, pollution of everything around them nothing new.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Death Of Self

(Fred and Ramona at Islamic radio station in the UK)

"To those observing such authoritarian groups from the outside, it appears that members give up their power to the leader. But most disciples did not have very much personal power to begin with. What in fact has been given up is their power and self-determination. Since for many their previous choices did not bring them what they wanted, giving up self-determination does not at first seem like much of a loss"

-The Guru Papers

Follow the following link
to the audio of a speech given by Ramona Africa that is followed up by MOVE "supporter" Fred Riley and you will hear a very clear-cut example of the kind of mental impairment that several years under MOVE’s influence will cause.

In this instance, what is not important is the remarks by Ramona Africa. She gives her well-rehearsed speech to the British audience that she has been using for the past decade or so, complete with some added references to MOVE’s purported concern for animals. A play to the crowd by a certified player who will spout off anything for some cheap applause.

If you can get past Ramona’s pandering inducements to Fred’s portion of the speech, you will be rewarded with what sounds like a rambling child, but is instead a grown man in his thirties.
I was around MOVE when Fred joined up with the group. He was than the quintessential "searcher". The kind of person that cults like MOVE so readily prey upon and who end up often being the most dedicated. Fred came to MOVE without much to lose. A drifter of sorts, in need of a bath, and leaving behind a trail of broken relationships, Fred embraced MOVE with a creepy enthusiasm.

Remembering back to when Fred first came around MOVE, I recall one very specific when he quite literally crawled up to Ramona Africa and put his head in her lap like a little lost puppy.
For his dedication and subordination of self, he was rewarded with a MOVE "wife". Fred was given responsibilities within the group and went from a complete "nobody" to "somebody" in a short period of time.

In his speech, Fred re-counts his life "on the farm", where he admittedly abused animals. Just what form that abuse took is left to the imagination. But as a current acolyte of MOVE Fred is still mis-treating animals, it is just that now he believes that God is on his side in doing so.
He makes numerous self-pitying references to how the "system" has failed him and how MOVE has been his saving grace. For Fred, the monolithic system, is by definition, everything outside of MOVE. He doesn’t spell that out in his semi-coherent and intellectually deficient rant, but it is an inherent aspect of MOVE’s "theology".

Fred’s apparent anti-intellectualism is not cause for reproach in a group such as MOVE, but instead is something that is to be rewarded. The abandonment of mental and ironic faculties are the price to be paid for the illusion of security and "love" within the confines of the group.
While in general society being a mental cripple can make like excruciatingly difficult, in MOVE it is something that greases the wheels of the cult’s machinery and makes one’s life within that much easier. The less one thinks and the more one cedes life’s choices to the group’s leaders, the greater the supposed rewards.

But if you stick around long enough and you open your eyes you find that the "love" given to you by your MOVE family is dependant upon your laying prostrate at the feet of the group’s leaders.
It is hard to tell if Fred realizes that fact yet. One thing you learn in MOVE is to be a good actor. To the outside world you are expected to mouth the lies of those around you with a smile and re-count the multitude of ways that MOVE has enriched your life. But what goes on inside the member of an authoritarian sect is often quite different from the false edifice that is projected on the outside.

The constant destruction and re-building of one’s sense of self by the group dynamics and MOVE’s psychologically destructive "meetings"leave the mind recoiling with fear. You never know when the rug is going to be pulled out from under you, what the next order will be, when your loyalty will be questioned, when you will be asked to do something that you find morally reprehensible, but feel powerless to resist. It is a terrible state of affairs and can seem in-escapable.

But escape is what is necessary to regain your sense of dignity. It is a hard road, but one that must be traveled if you are to be free.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Another Mumia Supporter...Another Lie

(Herr Furher Abu-Jamal)
For the past couple of years, Michael Schiffman of Germany, and a self-professed reporter, has been goose-stepping his way to the top of the "Free Mumia" food-chain.

He has written a book on Jamal’s case and has traveled extensively throughout Europe stumping for Mumia and was in Philadelphia back in May for Jamal’s recent court hearing.

I have written some on this blog about Schiffman’s distortions of the truth in his fallacious assertions in the past and more recently on his self-serving and generally inaccurate interpretations of the crime scene photos taken by Pedro Polakoff, whom I recently interviewed for this website.

To be blunt, I have found Schiffman to be intentionally misleading with regards to his advocacy on behalf of Jamal, his motivations clearly tainted by his political allegiances and personal gain.
His "stunning new evidence" that was neither, was ignored by the media, which has apparently finally grown weary of the long train of pro-Mumia stunts that his supporters have been pulling for the better part of 25 years.

Recently, it occurred to me that I had yet more evidence of Schiffman’s lack of respect for the truth.

I have found that inveterate liars who grow accustomed to mouthing the big lies acquire some kind of sick addiction to the act and find themselves lying about just about everything, even when there is no apparent point in doing so (on a personal note, I once had a personal relationship with someone who had this problem and can attest to it’s infuriating nature.)

Take for instance, the finding of the Polakoff photos by Schiffman.

During a 2006 "interview" with fellow "journalist" Hans Bennett, Schiffman claimed the following about the discovery of the pictures:

"Guess where I found the pictures – it was on the website of former 100% MOVE adherent turned 100% MOVE hater Anthony Allen who posted them in the context of one of his endless rants against the "unrepentant cop killer" Mumia Abu-Jamal."

It is safe to say that Schiffman is not a fan of mine.

So, with that statement from Schiffman concerning the photos, I was surprised to hear from Pedro Polakoff something completely different. In an email from Polakoff, I was told that

"Actually Michael found the photos in the archives of the Philadelphia Daily News & Inquirer where they had been published originally and also found them on my photo site where I had published them".

I have no reason to believe that Polakoff would lie about such a thing, and given Schiffman’s shady nature and pattern of deception, I have every reason to believe that he purposely misled Polakoff. As it was, Schiffman kept his extremist political ideology a secret from Polakoff until he was finished obtaining the information and photos that he wanted from Pedro. This according to Mr. Polakoff. Had Schiffman been straight with Polakoff about where he first saw the photos, he ran the risk that Polakoff could have ran across my earlier writings concerning Schiffman’s pro-Jamal slant. This would have alerted Polakoff that Schiffman had a clear agenda and it certainly wasn’t getting to the bottom of the Jamal case.

Taken by itself, this clear example of Schiffman’s duplicitous nature doesn’t mean a whole lot. But as someone who is attempting to obtain a book deal here in the United States that has as a subject, what is arguably the most controversial death-penalty case in the world, Schiffman should be held to a standard of high-mindedness and intellectual honesty.

If he displays a clear bias, a looseness with the facts, a penchant for deception, and a proven disregard for truth, than I think it can easily be argued that he is not one that should be taken with any degree of seriousness.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Death Row Reversals

Harrison "Marty" Graham was sent to death row in 1988 for strangling seven women, whose corpses he kept beneath piles of trash in his North Philadelphia apartment. In 2003, a state trial-court judge threw out the sentence, and Graham now is serving life.

Kenneth Ford was condemned to die after a jury found him guilty in 1991 of killing two women with a 10-inch Bowie knife in a West Philadelphia candy store. In 2002, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the sentence, and Ford now is serving life.

Joseph Szuchon lived with his girlfriend in the city until she broke up with him and moved to Erie. In 1981, he fatally shot her there in a cornfield. In 2001, a federal appeals court threw out his death sentence, and Szuchon now is serving life.

In just the last seven years in Pennsylvania, an estimated 50 inmates who were facing execution have gotten new leases on life behind bars, as federal and state judges overturn death sentences at a rate that is buoying opponents of capital punishment and infuriating prosecutors.

Departures from Pennsylvania's death row - with 225 residents, the fourth largest behind California, Florida and Texas - have roughly equaled arrivals since 2000, and could soon eclipse them.

The appeals pipeline is clogged with condemned inmates fighting for life without parole, at the very least. Also since 2000, about 75 of them have scored significant interim victories - new sentencing hearings or retrials - typically after courts found serious legal errors in the way their original cases were tried.

Eyes around the world have been focused on one in particular: Mumia Abu-Jamal, on death row for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

A federal judge concluded in 2001 that Abu-Jamal should get a new sentencing hearing, a decision that was quickly appealed. He awaits a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where the case was argued in May.

Meanwhile, well out of the public spotlight, state and federal judges have been ruling in favor of other Pennsylvania death-row inmates, including three in just the last two weeks. A convicted murderer from Bucks County got his death sentence changed to life in prison; one from Washington County was granted a retrial; and one from Philadelphia won a new sentencing hearing.

The reversals since 2000 have come from a range of courts. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued about 20 percent of them. About 50 percent were overturned by state trial judges during the next level of review. And federal judges handed down about 30 percent of the reversals.
Despite the size of Pennsylvania's death row, executions have been extremely rare since the penalty was reinstated in 1978: three "volunteers" who gave up their appeals and asked to die.

Before them, the last execution was in 1962, when Elmo Smith was put to death for a Montgomery County rape and murder.

Now, prosecutors are complaining, the wave of reversals has turned capital punishment in the state into even more of an expensive charade.

"There is no death penalty in Pennsylvania," said Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. Four death sentences from the county have been thrown out in the last seven years.

State Supreme Court Justice Ronald D. Castille, who often has voted to uphold death sentences, joined his fellow jurists in overturning one just this week. He said that the long appeals process and the reversals have meant that the death-penalty statute is not enforced. "It's only on the books," said the former Philadelphia district attorney.

Death row is all too real, countered Jules Epstein, a Widener University law professor who represents inmates appealing their cases. "There clearly is a death penalty in Pennsylvania," he said. "People get sentenced to death. People sit on death row. And the real reason people haven't been executed yet is because of tremendous problems within the system."

Courts nationwide are becoming more cautious in capital cases, according to Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit research group in Washington. "They're starting to review cases with a more realistic eye about what could be lurking underneath," he said. In Texas, which has executed more prisoners than any other state, four death sentences were reversed just this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In New Jersey, the state Supreme Court famously reversed death sentences before a execution moratorium was declared in 2005; its death row is down to eight inmates.

Some of the newfound caution, Dieter said, can be attributed to an attitude shift about the death penalty, stemming largely from the exonerations of at least 75 death-row inmates nationwide since 1993. In Pennsylvania, Nicholas Yarris won his freedom in 2004 when DNA tests cleared him of a Delaware County rape and murder - after 22 years on death row.

Most Americans still support the death penalty, according to a Pew Research Center poll released this month, but that majority has shrunk from 78 percent to 64 percent since 1996. Increasingly, Dieter added, there is support for life without parole as an alternative.

Some sentences have been thrown out because U.S. Supreme Court rulings demand it. At least seven inmates on Pennsylvania's death row, including Marty Graham, were spared when the justices barred the execution of the mentally retarded in 2002. Several others who committed their crimes as juveniles escaped the death penalty after the high court in 2005 abolished it for offenders under 18.

However, the bulk of the reversals have turned on legal errors in the original trials, and most of them were in Philadelphia cases dating to the 1980s and early 1990s. In Kenneth Ford's case, the flaw was "ineffective assistance of counsel" - his lawyer acknowledged that he "dropped the ball" in failing to present mental-illness evidence that might have led the jury to opt for life. In Joseph Szuchon's, a prospective juror had been unfairly dismissed.

Abu-Jamal has argued that African Americans were systematically excluded from his jury, which was made up of 10 whites and two blacks. He also has contended that the trial judge, Common Pleas Court Judge Alfred Sabo, was biased against him and gave misleading jury instructions.

Sabo, who has since died, had a controversial record in capital cases, presiding over trials that ended in 32 death sentences. So far, 24 have been reversed.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner, who was chief defender in Philadelphia from 1975 to 1990 and now presides over homicide cases, said that city cases from the 1980s have been reversed for good reason.

The court system, he said, "frequently trampled all over the rights of defendants."
Those facing the death penalty often got lawyers hand-picked by judges, who frequently selected friends who didn't necessarily know much about death-penalty law.

Lerner said there also were a few aggressive homicide prosecutors who were not concerned about defendants' rights - just getting convictions.

The result: Defendants landed on death row.

Since then, more stringent training requirements have been put in place for defense lawyers, Lerner said, and the quality of representation in capital trials has improved. And he now gives high marks to homicide prosecutors.

"The court's a lot different, too," Lerner said. "By and large, the judges who have been trying homicide cases for the last eight to 10 years . . . are far more concerned about fair trials."
Changes in the law have made it harder for death sentences to survive "hyper-technical" judicial scrutiny, said Deputy Philadelphia District Attorney Ronald Eisenberg. He added that he also believes courts are "uncomfortable" with the death penalty.

"The higher rate of reversal here," he said, "has to be the attitude of judges."

A review of reversals in Pennsylvania cases shows they were ordered by judges of varying social philosophies.

For example: Antuan Bronshtein was sent to death row in 1994 for the murder of a Montgomery County jeweler. In 2005, a Third Circuit panel ordered a new sentencing hearing; one of the members was Samuel A. Alito Jr., now part of the conservative bloc on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reversals by an ideological array of judges show that "the problems with the death penalty in Pennsylvania are systemic, endemic and pervasive," said Robert B. Dunham, a federal defender who is part of a special unit known statewide for winning appeals for death-row inmates. By his count, judges have granted new trials or sentencing hearings to 200 condemned prisoners in the state since 1978, with the majority handed down just since 2000.

So will there ever be an execution in Pennsylvania?

Lawyers who follow capital cases say that Alfred K. Albrecht, convicted of setting the 1979 fire

that killed his wife, daughter and mother in Bucks County, is at risk. The Third Circuit, one of the last appellate stops for death-row inmates, ruled against him earlier this year.

If Abu-Jamal loses in the Third Circuit, he, too, will be in jeopardy.

But so far, said Castor, the Montgomery County district attorney, the courts are sending a loud message to those on Pennsylvania's death row: "If you hang in there long enough, you're eventually going to win."

Contact staff writer Emilie Lounsberry at 215-854-4828 or

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