A Running Man and: "The Framing Of Mumia Abu-Jamal
(Editor's note: Although this article was written by writer, Christian Peheim months before the release of "The Framing Of Mumia Abu-Jamal, it is a firm rebuttal of the book's premise. That is the falsity of Kenneth Freeman or anyone other than Jamal shooting Officer Faulkner. This post is the second dealing with the myths presented by the absurdity titled "The Framing Of Mumia Abu-Jamal". There will be more to come including the outright lies concerning Frank Rizzo's alleged threat against Mumia regarding media coverage as well as some new information I have obtained concerning Billy Cook.)
As always, Christian Peheim delivers a unique perspective on the Jamal case that is refreshing and well thought out. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, his positions are not ideologically driven, but based on investigations and common sense. Visit his site to see this article, complete with diagrams that illustrate his point)
During an interview, former Jamal attorney, Leonard Weinglass said “4 people at 4 different locations who did not know each other, reported seeing the shooter flee, and all had him going in the same direction.” Stewart Taylor Jr. wrote about 5 such eyewitnesses. Other commentators and authors made similar claims with different numbers of witnesses. According to these comments the fleeing man ran east on Locust and disappeared through Camac Street, which is close to the crime scene.
In various publications in total 7 persons have been named in order to support the theory of the running man. These persons were Dessie Hightower, Robert Chobert, Veronica Jones, Deborah Kordansky, William Singletary, William Harmon, and Marcus Cannon.
All witnesses were within a maximum distance of 120 meters (130 yards) from the crime scene at 13th and Locust (39° 56' 52.5''N and 75° 09' 44.5''W). A sufficiently good overview of that area can be taken from Google Earth. The location of witnesses can be based on their testimony, which was not always precise. Additionally, some of the witnesses moved within the relevant period of time.
Dessie Hightower was at the parking lot behind Club Whispers when he heard the shots. This is roughly 60 meters (70 yards) west of the crime scene at the north side of Locust. At the beginning he heard three consecutive shots and after a pause he heard two more. He went to the corner of the building and glanced at the scene where he saw a person running towards 12th street. He described the male as being 1.75-1.83m tall (5'9"-6'), wearing a black and red sweater, and having dread locks. Due to the hairstyle it could have been a woman. He said the person was about 4 car lengths in front of Daniel Faulkner’s police car.
Hightower said he glanced at the scene for a moment and put his head back behind the wall. In total he glanced a couple times before he saw the first police car arriving. Then he went towards 13th street. He estimated that he first looked at the crime scene some 15 seconds or less after he heard the last shot.
Hightower’s description of the running man fits quite well to Abu-Jamal since he had the same height, hairstyle and jacket. Referring to this description, ADA Charles Grant asked him at the PCRA hearing, “You didn't see two people wearing the same things looking like twins, did you?”
He saw him only for a moment and went back behind the wall. When he finally went towards the scene the running man has disappeared. This also would fit to Abu-Jamal who was sitting at the curb behind the cars. On the other hand, Hightower said that man was running towards 12th street and he was at a distance of four car lengths from Faulkner’s car. Abu-Jamal was walking about one car length in front of Faulkner’s car.
Robert Chobert had parked his taxicab on Locust Street about a car length behind Daniel Faulkner’s car. At this location he observed the last shots. According to inspector Giordano he first said the shooter ran away. In his first written statement he claimed the shooter ran 30 to 35 steps before sitting down at the curb. Subsequently he reduced the distance to 9 meters (30 feet) and 3 meters (10 feet). This completely wrong estimation casts doubts whether he really saw everything he testified to. If he really had 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’m sure he used his imagination.
When Abu-Jamal sat down at the curb he disappeared from Chobert’s field of vision. Maybe Chobert assumed that he ran away. However, it is also possible that Chobert saw a man running at a distance of 30 to 35 steps. Afterwards he connected all items of information and he assumed this running man was Abu-Jamal.
Veronica Jones was at the northwest corner of 12th and Locust some 120 meters (130 yards) east of the crime scene. She offered three different accounts of her testimony. In her first statement given to police officers on 15 December 1981 she talked about “two black males walking across Locust Street and then they started sort of jogging.” Later the officer doing the interview asked her how close did the two black males who jogged across Locust Street get to the fallen officer. Her answer as reported was “not close enough, maybe two or three steps away.” This clearly indicates that these two males walked towards officer Faulkner.
At the trial she surprised Anthony Jackson by telling him that she did not make that statement. She only remembered two black males who stood there and did not move. Additionally, she testified that she was intoxicated when she did that interview. She said she was “half a nickel bag high,”.
At the PCRA hearing in 1996 she came up with a third version. She insisted that she told the police in 1981 she saw two men running away.
It’s not possible to find out what she really saw. Her distance from the crime scene was rather big. Therefore, her ability to watch the scene was very restricted. According to her testimony she waited some time before she peeked around the corner of Locust and 12th Street. At that time the shooting was already over. Then she saw two persons crossing Locust Street. These persons could have been Dessie Hightower and Robert Pickford. Even if her testimony at the PCRA hearing was correct she could not have seen the same man that Dessie Hightower claimed he has seen because his “running man” ran eastwards on the south side of Locust Street.
In 1981 she lived at the St. James house at 13th and Walnut Street (north of Locust). From her apartment she could overlook the crime scene because she lived at the 10th floor. The distance between her apartment and Locust Street was about 90 meters (100 yards). Her testimony was as follows:
"Well, I told them the sequence of events. First hearing the gunshots. Then hearing sirens. Going to my window. Looking out seeing police cars and vans. And then seeing someone running."
Deborah Kordansky, 3 August 1995, p. 241&249
During her testimony she insisted that she heard the sirens before she went to the window, and she did not know in which direction the person was running. In total, her testimony does not indicate that she saw someone fleeing the scene.
(Editor's Note: I doubt anyone was up to anything good at that time of the morning in Center City Philadelphia. At the sound of gunshots, police sirens, etc...I have no doubt that there were plenty of people who were in a big hurry to get out of Dodge)
William Singletary was one of the most important witnesses in 1995. He claimed he has seen the entire shooting while standing at the corner of Locust und 13th street, which was some 30 meters (35 yards) west of the crime scene. According to his testimony a black male emerged from William Cook’s VW, shot officer Faulkner and disappeared towards 12th street. Later he made a handwritten report but the detective did not accept that report and threw it away. Singletary claimed that he has been threatened and finally he gave in to the threats and wrote down what the detective wanted him to write. Since that time he has been harassed by the police and was forced to leave Philadelphia.
Even though his testimony sounds like evidence of a police conspiracy, his story is simply unbelievable. He saw a helicopter above the crime scene, which was not there, he said Abu-Jamal wore green trousers like Arabs, and he reported Daniel Faulkner spoke after he has been shot in the face. At that time, however, Daniel Faulkner was dead or close to death, either way, it was impossible for him to have spoken.
According to Singletary, Abu-Jamal went to Faulkner and asked him whether he could help him. At that time Faulkner’s gun discharged and hit Abu-Jamal in the chest. The lawyers later claimed these events are supported by the testimony of Dr. Hayes. At the same time they used Dr. Hayes’ testimony to refute the theory that Faulkner could have shot Abu-Jamal when he was on the ground. Judge Yohn offered the following commentary on this issue in his ruling:
"It is unreasonable and frivolous for the same counsel in the same case representing the same petitioner and seeking the same relief to suggest first that Hayes’ testimony permits a finding that the shooter shot up toward Jamal and then later to argue, without acknowledging the prior statement, a shot directed upwards is impossible."
Judge Yohn, 18 December 2001, p. 42
Singletary’s entire testimony was without any credibility. Not even Weinglass and and his co-counsel Dan Williams believed his story. Weinglass said, “We believe his recollection today is not entirely accurate” while Williams called it a disaster. He was so incredible that ADA Arlene Fisk offered officers and police cars to bring him to court. Daniel Williams assumed she wanted to embarrass the defense with this witness.
Highway patrol officer Vernon Jones who knew Singletary gave the most believable account of Singletary’s observations. Singletary approached Jones at the crime scene and asked him, “Jones, what’s happening?” Then Jones asked him whether he has seen anything and Singletary replied “No.”
William Harmon was a well know scam artist. He became so infamous throughout the city for dropping bad checks that his picture was sent to every bank in the Philadelphia area.
William Harmon testified at the PCRA hearing that he was in the parking lot at the north side of Locust together with Abu-Jamal when they heard a loud argument between a police officer and another person. Then they heard a shot, the officer fell to the ground, and the other man ran east on Locust Street. After they heard the first shot Abu-Jamal started running towards the scene. When Abu-Jamal was on the sidewalk the officer on the ground shot at him and he fell to the ground, as well. A car with two black males inside pulled up beside the police car, the passenger got out of the car and shot the wounded officer with a single shot. Finally, this car pulled back and disappeared towards south on 13th Street.
Harmon did not testify at the original trial in 1982 because he has promised his mother to not get involved with this.
Harmon’s testimony was pure nonsense. He didn’t see William Cook standing at the sidewalk but he saw the man discuss with officer Faulkner run away. He didn’t see other people on the street but he saw a car with two black males, which no one else saw. Abu-Jamal’s lawyers got the same impression because Harmon did not even appear in their various petitions.
Another of Jamal's ever-changing stable of lawyers, Rachel Wolkenstein, had introduced Marcus Cannon during the PCRA hearing in 1997 but due to an objection by the District Attorney he was not allowed to testify. Therefore, we know only a portion of his alleged testimony and it never has been subject to a cross-examination.
According to Wolkenstein he was in Club Whispers on 9 December 1981 and upon leaving that club and walking north on 13th Street he passed two men, one of them appeared to be like a bum. As Cannon proceeded north on 13th Street he heard shots, he saw a flash of light, he turned and looked back towards 13th and Locust Street. As he turned back he saw a black male running very fast east on Locust Street.
He continued and claims to have seen two men suddenly stand up and pull out weapons and proceed very quickly to the corner of 13th and Locust Street. He was frightened and he immediately turned and continued up 13th Street towards Walnut.
His declaration has not been published and Abu-Jamal’s lawyers never again tried to put him on the stand. In contrast to the testimony of Veronica Jones and Pamela Jenkins they did not go to the Supreme Court in order to force judge Sabo to hear his testimony. Obviously, Cannon was not important enough or he was not reliable. However, his alleged testimony has been used in some publications and in petitions made by Eliot Grossman, another ex-Jamal lawyer.
In his sworn declaration William Cook claimed Kenneth Freeman was with him in the Volkswagen. When he went back to his car, Freeman was still in the passenger seat but when he looked again a few seconds later, the passenger door was open and Freeman was gone.
It’s more than unlikely that Faulkner would have allowed Cook to go back into the VW. Only a suicidal officer would have done so because in this situation he could not have seen Cook’s hands. Even though the entire declaration is doubtful, it provides the alleged identity of the “fleeing man.”
Albert Magilton saw Abu-Jamal starting to cross the street but turned away because he himself intended to cross the street at the traffic light at 13th and Locust. At this location he was about 30 meters (35 yards) west of the crime scene. After he has heard the first shots he turned around, proceeded to the sidewalk on the south side of Locust Street and looked at the crime scene. When he got to the pavement he saw the police officer lying on the ground, Abu-Jamal sitting on the curb and William Cook standing close to the wall.
He reached the pavement only a second or a few seconds after the last shot but he did not see anyone fleeing the scene.
Robert Harkins was an eyewitness to the shooting but did not testify at the trial. He passed the crime scene in his car going east on Locust. At the PCRA hearing in 1995 he said that the shooter shot at the officer on the ground, walked a few steps and sat down at the curb. Some thirty seconds later officers Shoemaker and Forbes arrived at the crime scene and found Abu-Jamal sitting at the curb close to the front of the Volkswagen. Harkins did not see a person running from the scene.
Michael Scanlan and Robert Chobert
Both, Scanlan and Chobert, watched the murder from their cars. Due to their locations they only could see the south side of the sidewalk (close to the building) but not the curb on the north side. Both of them saw the shooter standing over Daniel Faulkner and shooting at him. At this time only Daniel Faulkner, the shooter and William Cook where within their field of vision. They clearly testified that no one else was there.
Roy Land from the Mobile Crime Detection Unit collected blood samples at two different locations. Both locations where at the south side of the sidewalk close to the building. Since only two persons were bleeding at the crime scene (I do not count Arnold Beverly and by all available accounts William Cooks cut in the ear could not have generated the clearly visible trail of blood) it is simple to determine the blood types without having a DNA-test. Blood type O came from Daniel Faulkner (it has been found at the back of his tie and on his t-shirt) and blood type A came from Abu-Jamal (it has been found on his clothing and 2 vials of blood have been taken). Please note that Rachel Wolkenstein’s statement that Cook, Abu-Jamal, and Faulkner all had type A blood contradicts the trial record (26 June 1982, p. 28 and 30).
The approximate limit of Chobert's and Scanlan's field of vision is somewhere in the center of the sidewalk. Therefore, both were able to see the shooter who left blood stains at the south side of the sidewalk. The curb on the north side of the sidewalk and the passenger door of William Cook’s VW was not within their field of vision.
According to the blood samples this shooter was Abu-Jamal. Even if Freeman really has been in the VW he never entered Scanlan’s and Chobert’s field of vision. The shooter was Mumia Abu-Jamal, which is confirmed by Harkins who testified that the shooter sat down on the curb.
All That Remains (And Of Most Importance)
The evidence for a running man is very weak. Veronica Jones saw 2 men crossing the street, Deborah Kordansky looked at the scene a long time after the shooting, Singletary and Harmon told mutually contradicting fairy tales, and Marcus Cannon never testified.
Even though Robert Chobert could have seen a running man it is rather unlikely. He said that he saw that running man before he got out of the car but from inside the car his ability to see anything was limited. From his point of view, he saw the shooter disappearing but could not see how far he went.
Dessie Hightower’s observation was inconclusive, as well. He only glanced at the scene a couple of times and afterwards that person was not visible anymore. His description of the running person fits quite well to Abu-Jamal. The running person according to his testimony had the same height, clothes, and hairstyle as Abu-Jamal. Only the distance from the police car was about four car lengths instead of one car length. In total, it’s quite possible that he saw Abu-Jamal walking from the scene and made a wrong estimation regarding the distance.
Albert Magilton watched the crime scene earlier than Hightower and he was much closer to Abu-Jamal and Faulkner but he did not see anyone running.
Robert Harkins passed the crime scene and could see Abu-Jamal sitting down on the curb. Within this period of time he did not see another person on the sidewalk.
The entire evidence renders the theory of a running man very unlikely. Even in the unlikely case that Kenneth Freeman has been there it is completely impossible that he was the shooter. Eyewitness accounts provided by Scanlan, White, and Magilton together with the gun shot traces around the entrance of Locust 1234 prove beyond any doubt that Abu-Jamal fired the first shots from the street (see also Abu-Jamal's Gun and The Shots Towards Locust 1234). The blood traces together with the accounts given by Scanlan, Chobert, and Harkins prove that Abu-Jamal fired the last shots, as well.
Copyright © 2005-2008 Christian Peheim