By Michael Schiffmann
If you happen to live in Philadelphia, I’d like to suggest that you take a walk at the crime sce ne of one of the most famous murder cases of our time in which the African American journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted for the killing of Officer Daniel Faulkner, a member of the Philadelphia Police Department, at 4 AM on December 9, 1981.
The whole thing was declared an open and shut case at Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial and in fact it took a jury only 15 days to listen to the case, find the defendant guilty AND sentence him to death, but on closer inspection, some of the evidence heard by the jurors turns out not to have been what it then seemed. Looking even closer, next to none of the evidence turns out to be genuine.
The Official Murder Scenario
At the trial, the scenario of the prosecution was roughly this: for some reason, Faulkner had stopped Abu-Jamal’s brother Billy Cook’s VW who then parked at the curb in front of the building 1234 Locust, with Faulkner pulling up behind him. Both got out of their cars, marched towards the sidewalk between the VW and the police car when a quarrel arose.
Faulkner spreadeagled Cook on the hood of the police car and was about to handcuff him, but then Cook struck at the officer, which was when Faulkner started to beat him with a flashlight. At this point Abu-Jamal, who was moonlighting as a cabbie and happened to be nearby, ran across the street from the parking lot vis-à-vis 1234 Locust and shot Faulkner in the back.
Faulkner then turned around, stumbled on the sidewalk and, falling on his back, managed to draw his gun and to shoot Abu-Jamal in the chest. As Faulkner, who had lost his revolver in the process, lay prone on the pavement, Abu-Jamal stepped over him and fired several shots at point blank range, one of which hit the officer in the head and killed him instantaneously.
Two Very Serious Difficulties
How did the prosecution arrive at the above version of events? There were four witnesses at the trial who claimed to have been near the scene and to have seen the whole event or parts of it.
1) The prostitute Cynthia White said she stood at the southeastern corner of the intersection 13th and Locust and saw Abu-Jamal do the things described above. 2) Motorist Michael Scanlan said he was in the middle lane of Locust west of the intersection when he saw a man who he could not identify do the things to Faulkner that White also described. 3) Cab driver Robert Chobert claimed he had pulled up behind P.O. Faulkner’s squad car when he heard shots and saw Abu-Jamal firing away at the prone officer. 4) The pedestrian Albert Magilton said he was crossing Locust from south to north right in front of Scanlan when he saw Abu-Jamal run towards 1234 Locust, but he said he did not see the shooting.
At the crime scene, we see that White’s and Scanlan’s claim that Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner in the back while running from the parking lot is very difficult to sustain. The bullet that did indeed hit Faulkner in the back exited in one piece right above his throat and if the bullet came from the direction of the parking lot, it should have been found, in one piece, in, at, or on Locust 1234.
It was not.
There has never been an explanation for this simple fact. In a much longer article, I explore some theoretical possibilities, but they are unlikely in the extreme.
The second difficulty with the prosecution’s scenario is even worse, because it is beyond any possible repair. In order to understand this, all you have to do is go to the place a bit east of 1234 Locust where the dying Officer Faulkner was found by his arriving fellow cops, which today is marked by a plaque for the fallen officer.
Not only White and Scanlan, who claimed to have seen the whole sequence of events, but also Robert Chobert, who said he only saw the killing, claimed the perpetrator shot Faulkner by firing several shots, execution-style, while standing over him.
But Faulkner was hit only once, by a bullet that hit him beneath the socket of his left eye and basically blew his brains out. If that shot was part of a series of shots fired at point blank range in which all the other shots missed him – where are the traces of these shots? There would have had to have been either the bullets themselves, or enormous traces of them, in the sidewalk.
There exist multiple immediate post-shooting photos of the sidewalk area where Officer Faulkner came to lie, some of which were even inspected by a NASA photo specialist – but these bullets or any traces of them were simply not there.
A False Scenario that Is Massive Proof for a Frame-Up
While there is a slight possibility that the man coming from the parking lot, and that would mean, Abu-Jamal, might have shot Faulkner in the back (a possibility I explore elsewhere), there is no such thing in the case of White’s, Scanlan’s, and Chobert’s description of the crucial event of that tragic night, namely, of how Officer Faulkner was killed and died.
The description of these three witnesses is clearly and unequivocally false as what they all in an essentially identical fashion describe did not happen and cannot have happened. But that can only mean that these three witnesses lied, and since they – as far as we are aware of – didn’t know each other, someone else must have told them to do so. This was a frame-up.
Two Star Witnesses That No One Saw
It is clear from the above that the decisive, identical testimony by White, Scanlan, and Chobert must have been coached to converge on the desired version of Abu-Jamal being a merciless killer who fired away at a defenseless cop.
But it gets worse, if that is possible. Overwhelming evidence shows that two of these three witnesses, namely, Cynthia White and Robert Chobert, were not even where they claimed to have observed the death of P.O. Faulkner from.
The presence of Cynthia White, the only witness who claimed to have both seen all of the event and being able to identify the perpetrator, was unequivocally denied by ALL three other core prosecution witnesses – not only Robert Chobert, who might not have seen her because she was behind him, but also Michael Scanlan and Albert Magilton, who she was right in front of.
Furthermore, no one else, no witness for either the prosecution or the defense, saw her at the southeastern corner of 13th and Locust where she claimed to have been.
And Robert Chobert?
There was one witness who claimed to have seen his cab behind P.O. Faulkner’s police car. That witness was Cynthia White. For her, see above.
At the trial, Albert Magilton said there was no cab behind Officer Faulkner’s car. Michael Scanlan said the same thing, no cab behind Faulkner. No one else said they saw the cab.
And there is even documentary proof that it was indeed not there, namely, several photos by press photographer Pedro P. Polakoff who arrived at the scene ten minutes after the shooting that showed an empty space behind Faulkner’s police car where Chobert’s taxi should have been.
Polakoff himself has consistently said that the cab was not there even when he arrived and before he was able to take photos. And finally, there is a cop Philly journalist Dave Lindorff is in contact with and who was one of the first to arrive at the scene after Faulkner was killed.
That cop has over the years insisted that Cyntha White could not have seen the shooting because she was a half block away and that Robert Chobert didn’t see it either because he was NOT parked on Locust behind Officer Faulkner. Other evidence uncovered by Lindorff indicates he was parked north of the intersection on 13th Street, facing away from the crime scene.
So Why Don’t You Walk the Walk?
If you’re in Philadelphia, I think you should indeed check out this intersection 13th and Locust Street. There is a plaque now where Officer Faulkner died and where the Fraternal Order of Police regularly commemorates his death, claiming that it is clear that Abu Jamal “did it.”
But did he? Is he “guilty”?
Not if we take seriously the supposed legal pillar of the country, “innocent until proven guilty.” There is no valid eyewitness testimony showing that Abu-Jamal was the shooter. Rather, and inadvertently, this testimony proves that there was a frame-up to falsely portray him, not only as the shooter, but a particularly cold-blooded one at that.
That alone should be reason to throw Abu-Jamal’s conviction out and put those who deliberately framed him in the dock instead.
So why don’t you go to 13th and Locust with the facts presented here in mind and draw your own conclusions?
But be warned: these conclusions might impel you to have dangerous thoughts, which in turn might impel you to become active and demand that justice is done. It is not sure that any authorities, whether reactionary, centrist, or progressive, will like you for that.