Mumia Abu Jamal: America’s Most Famous Political Prisoner

Mumia Abu Jamal

Eliot Grossman (2002)

Film Review

This excellent 2002 documentary provides a comprehensive summary of the frame-up of America’s most important political prisoner African American journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal. Mumia’s unlawful arrest and imprisonment continues to be protested by tens of thousands of activists around the world.

The presenter is Mumia’s new attorney Eliot Grossman, who headed the defense team that replaced his prior defense team in 2001.

Mumia, who was moonlighting as a cab driver, is accused of shooting patrol officer Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981. The latter had just pulled over Mumia’s brother Billy Cook and was allegedly in the process of beating him up. Gunshots ensured, with Faulkner ending up dead and Mumia receiving near fatal wounds.

Following hospitalization and lengthy recovery, Mumia was tried for first degree murder and sentenced to death.

Mumia’s legal team successfully overturned his death sentence in 2001 – based on the trial judge’s faulty jury instructions.

Overturning the conviction itself has been even more difficult, even though a professional hit man came forward in 1999 and issued both a written affidavit and videotaped confession that high level cops in the Philadelphia police hired him and a colleague to murder Faulkner. According to Arnold Beverly’s confession, higher ups in the department hated Faulkner for his efforts to expose a police extortion and protection racket. In the years following Faulkner’s murder, the FBI would convict 31 Philadelphia cops for their participation in this scheme.

In his summary, Grossman describes numerous instances of judicial misconduct and defense incompetence that formed the basis of Mumia’s many appeals. Examples of judicial and prosecutorial¬† misconduct include

  • Judge Sabo denial of Mumia’s five requests for eyewitnesses to identify him from a police line-up
  • Sabo’s denial of Mumia’s constitutional right to defend himself.
  • the prosecution’s use of peremptory challenges to dismiss black jurors from the jury (which the Supreme Court would rule unconstitutional in 2016 – see Scotus New Trial Finds Racial Bias Jury Selection)

According to Grossman, Mumia’s original defense team fell down mainly due to their failure to interview Mumia’s brother Billy Cook or Kenneth Freeman (a passenger in Cook’s care) as eyewitnesses; their failure to challenge the virtually nonexistent ballistic evidence and their failure to challenge key eyewitness prostitute Cynthia White. At Billy Cook’s trial (for “interfering” with a police officer), White testified that Freeman was a passenger in Cook’s car. Under police pressure, she perjured herself at Mumia’s trial by maintaining Cook had been alone.

The video can’t be embedded for copyright reasons but can be viewed free at Mumia Abu Jamal