How ABC’s 20/20 Framed Mumia Abu Jamal for Execution in 2001

Framing an Execution: ABC News and the Case of Mumia Abu Jamal

Sut Jhally and Danny Glover (2001)

Film Review

This 2001 documentary concerns the hatchet job ABC did in their 20/20 feature on Mumia Abu Jamal. In the late nineties, a number of Hollywood celebrities, including Whoopi Goldberg, Ed Asner and Mike Farrell, brought substantial mainstream media attention to Mumia’s 30+ year battle to win a new trial. In 1999 the West Coast longshoremen’s  union shut down ports from San Diego to Canada to support a new trial for the embattled activist.

When Framing an Execution was first released in 2001, Mumia was still on death row. In 2011, the death sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment.

The intro to ABC 2001 20/20 feature on Mumia is shockingly bloodthirsty in its contention that only the immediate execution of a Black man (already on death row for 20 years) could possibly bring peace of mind to the grieving widow of slain Philadelphia cop Daniel Faulkner.

The 20/20 program also deliberately omits and/or distorts crucial defense evidence. It also carefully edits statements by Ed Asner, Mike Farrel and Mumia’s attorney Leonard Weinglass to make them seem uninformed, irrational and deliberately evasive.

Evidence had already emerged in appellate hearings that the police coerced seven witnesses who saw someone other than Mumia shoot Faulkner to change their testimony. They also dropped three outstanding charges against the  prosecution’s star witness, prostitute Cynthia White, to reward her for incriminating Mumia in the murder.

The other main weaknesses in Mumia’s conviction are the absence of ballistics evidence (there is no evidence showing Mumia fired a gun at the scene nor that the bullet that killed Faulkner came from his gun) and the alleged confession he made while recovering from critical gunshot wounds. The doctor who attended him continuously in the emergency room and intensive care maintains maintains he was barely conscious and didn’t speak at all during this entire period.

Framing an Execution was filmed a few months before Arnold Beverley confessed, via video (below) and sworn affidavit to being hired, with a friend, to murder Faulkner. According to Beverley, the Mob hired them to kill Faulkner due to his crusading efforts to root out police corruption.

In April this year, Mumia finally won  the right to have his appeal reheard in the Philadelphia Supreme Court.

In July, he won the right to continue his lawsuit against prison authorities for denying him antiviral treatment for his hepatitis C.

In September the prosecutor’s office “miraculously” discovered a box of suppressed evidence related to police witness tampering in a janitor’s closet.

 

 

 

 

 

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