Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mumia Abu-Jamal Loses Bid for Hearing

From Hans Bennett/Sis. Fatirah:
This is NOT the decision from the 3rd Circuit Court. It is a separate appeal with the State Supreme Court.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's highest appeals court has rejected a request by convicted killer Mumia Abu-Jamal (moo-MEE'-ah AH'-boo jah-MAHL') for a hearing into his claims that witnesses in his case perjured themselves.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a unanimous ruling saying the former Black Panther and radio reporter waited too long to file a post-conviction appeal in the matter.

Abu-Jamal was convicted of shooting to death Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. A federal judge in 2001 overturned Abu-Jamal's death sentence but upheld his conviction.

His case has attracted international notoriety. A separate appeal in the case, regarding claims of racial bias and faulty jury instructions, is pending before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

---FROM: Associated Press, Tues, Feb. 19

For background on this appeal, see these 2 previous articles from Betsy Piette:

Michael Schiffmann:

PA Supreme Court rejects Mumia Abu-Jamal's PCRA appeal
--Critics say the ruling is unjust
By Hans Bennett (

On Tuesday, February 19, in a ruling unrelated to the pending US Third Circuit Court decision, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal of a 2005 ruling by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe, which denied Abu-Jamal's Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition, on grounds that it was not "timely." (See reports by The Associated Press and Philadelphia Inquirer.)

This recent PCRA petition was based on affidavits by two witnesses that did not testify at the original 1982 trial: Yvette Williams and Kenneth Pate. Yvette Williams states that key prosecution witness Cynthia White told her that she had been coerced by police into giving false testimony against Abu-Jamal. Defense witnesses Veronica Jones and Pamela Jenkins have given similar accounts of Cynthia White's coerced testimony against Abu-Jamal. As Amnesty International has documented, White's alleged eye-witness account was altered, as each subsequent account given to police further served to support the prosecution scenario used to convict Abu-Jamal. Kenneth Pate says that prosecution witness Priscilla Durham confided to him that she had also lied in court when she stated that she's heard Abu-Jamal confess at the hospital. Even before Pate's affidavit, Durham's account was very suspicious.

The alleged "hospital confession," where Abu-Jamal reportedly declared, "I shot the motherf***er and I hope the motherf***er dies," was first officially reported to police over two months later, by hospital guards Priscilla Durham and James LeGrand (Feb. 9, 1982), P.O. Gary Wakshul (Feb.11), P.O. Gary Bell (Feb.25), and P.O. Thomas M. Bray (March 1). Only 2 of these five witnesses were called by the DA: Gary Bell (Faulkner's partner and "best friend") and Priscilla Durham.

At trial, Gary Bell testified that the 2 month lapse resulted from him being so upset over the death of Faulkner. Priscilla Durham testified, and added for the first time, that she had reported the confession to her supervisor the next day. Neither her supervisor, nor the alleged handwritten statement were presented in court. The DA sent an officer to the hospital, returning
with a suspicious typed version. Sabo accepted the paper (not signed) despite both Durham's disavowal, and the defense's protest that authorship and authenticity were unproven.

For more on Kenneth Pate and Yvette Williams, please see German author Michael Schiffmann's 2005 analysis of Judge Pamela Dembe's ruling.

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