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Linn Washington Jr. on "The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal"
by Linn Washington Jr.
Friday Jun 27th, 2008 1:10 PM
Many Philadelphians rudely reject the premise meticulously detailed in the new book by veteran journalist J. Patrick O’Connor: police and prosecutors framed Mumia Abu-Jamal placing an innocent man on death row....

“From the beginning of this case, it was corrupt. It was a railroad job,” O’Connor said recently during a reading/book signing at a small venue on Baltimore Ave in West Philadelphia sponsored by the organization, Journalists for Abu-Jamal.

“I wrote the book to show not only that Mumia did not kill Officer Faulkner but to show how and why they framed Mumia,” said O’Connor who lived in the Philadelphia area at the time of the brutal December 1981 crime at the heart of this controversial case.
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NEW FRAME ON FRAMING BY POLICE

By Linn Washington Jr.

Many Philadelphians rudely reject the premise meticulously detailed in the new book by veteran journalist J. Patrick O’Connor: police and prosecutors framed Mumia Abu-Jamal placing an innocent man on death row.

O’Connor provides solid proof for his premise from the very place considered by those convinced of Abu-Jamal’s guilt as their holy-writ: the official transcripts of court proceedings in this case sparking outrage internationally.

O’Connor read the thousands of pages of transcripts from trial proceedings in 1982 and 1995 during the research phase for his easy-to-read book “The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal” (Lawrence Hill Books 2008).

Carefully citing trial proceedings, O’Connor’s book lists odious instances of wrongdoing by police and prosecutors – accomplished with judicial complicity.

“From the beginning of this case, it was corrupt. It was a railroad job,” O’Connor said recently during a reading/book signing at a small venue on Baltimore Ave in West Philadelphia sponsored by the organization, Journalists for Abu-Jamal.

“I wrote the book to show not only that Mumia did not kill Officer Faulkner but to show how and why they framed Mumia,” said O’Connor who lived in the Philadelphia area at the time of the brutal December 1981 crime at the heart of this controversial case.

In 1981, O’Connor, currently editor and publisher of Crime Magazine, worked as an associate editor of TV Guide then based in a suburb of Philadelphia.

Rude rejection in Philadelphia of ever mounting evidence of Abu-Jamal’s innocence is one reason why Philadelphia’s newspaper from dailies to weeklies have ignored O’Connor’s book despite lavishing coverage on the anti-Abu-Jamal book released late last year co-authored by the widow of Officer Faulkner.

“The reception for my book has been pretty good everywhere but in Philadelphia,” O’Connor said.

“The day after my book came out I came to Philadelphia and tried to talk with newspapers. I thought they would be interested in a book with a different angle,” O’Connor said.

Beyond rude stiff-arming of the Abu-Jamal case, one problem with news media coverage of police misconduct in Philadelphia and across America is the practice of treating instances of police abuse as isolated instances instead of events in a long pattern.

Police in Philadelphia, for example, recently raided the residence of a group of anti-brutality activists falsely detaining the activists, getting city housing inspectors to issue citations shuttering their home and trying to block them from entering City Hall to complain to City Council members about their mistreatment.

Philadelphia’s news media reported on this questionable raid, even criticizing police handling of the activists yet news coverage failed to place this curious episode within the context of other Philadelphia anti-abuse-activists staging regular protests citywide against continuing brutality and demanding federal investigation of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s seminal 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech contained criticism of “police brutality.” A 1950 petition to the United Nations charging the US government with genocide against blacks cited police brutality listing incidents of police killing blacks in Philadelphia among the evidence of genocide.

Author Pat O’Connor said he remembers listening regularly to Abu-Jamal’s memorable reporting on WHYY-FM while driving to work.

“I never heard reporting like he did. He has such a distinctive voice,” said O’Connor whose journalism career includes reporting for an international news service, editing a city magazine and owning an alternative weekly newspaper.

O’Connor’s initial interest in the Abu-Jamal case arose from what he considered the seeming incongruity of a journalist whose work he respected being arrested for murder.

“When I heard of his arrest, it didn’t seem right to me…but I bought the line because the papers in Philly had him convicted by the second day after his arrest,” O’Connor recalled during an interview last Thursday.

Philadelphians rudely rejecting the reality of easy-to-see, in-your-face injustice is not limited to the Abu-Jamal case.

Ironically, a prime example of a police-prosecutorial framing in Philadelphia sat a few feet from Pat O’Connor when he spoke in West Philly last week.

Over two decades ago, Richard Kanegis endured a false arrest, flawed prosecution and unjust incarceration.
Police arrested Kanegis on August 8, 1978 shortly after a fatal shoot-out between police and MOVE that day, charging Kanegis with interfering with police while he worked as a peace-keeper with a Quaker group.

Prosecutors pushed the arrest case against Kanegis despite glaring discrepancies between court testimony of a policeman and that officer’s arrest report.

Kanegis’ refusal to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit lead to his imprisonment by a Philadelphia judge who ethically should not have presided over Kanegis’ case because this judge’s uncle was the judge whose improper involvement in the MOVE case contributed to that 1978 shootout.

In Philadelphia, rules are routinely broken in pursuit of an unjust result!

Kanegis won release from prison when his lawyers presented an award-winning documentary film about that 8/8/78 incident showing no wrong-doing against police by this peace-keeper.

Prosecutors rejected this film as evidence of Kanegis’ innocence, meanly proclaiming filmmakers edited out Kanegis’ criminal conduct – a charge the filmmakers denied in court.

That film, providing many contradictions of police-prosecutor claims, showed a black policeman arresting Kanegis. Prosecutors constantly presented a white officer in court as the one who arrested Kanegis.

Low-ball tactics by police, prosecutors and judges render Abu-Jamal’s conviction unjust, O’Connor contends in his book.

“The DA’s Office withheld evidence that a driver’s license application found in Faulkner’s shirt pocket shows someone else was at the crime scene,” O’Connor said during his presentation last week.

O’Connor contends Officer Faulkner’s killer was a man named Kenneth Freeman, the business partner and inseparable, life-long friend of Abu-Jamal’s brother. Officer Faulkner’s stopping of the brother’s car for an alleged traffic violation lead to the fatal shooting.

The owner of that license application told police hours after the fatal shooting that he loaned the document to Freeman.

Eyewitnesses told police Faulkner’s shooter fled, providing descriptions fitting Freeman.

“Prosecutor’s are supposed to release evidence of innocence,” O’Connor said citing legal rules.

Eyewitnesses told police that the passenger in the brother’s car shot Faulkner.

Even the prosecution’s prime witness at Abu-Jamal’s murder trial, a prostitute name Cynthia White, testified in a prior trial that there was a passenger in the brother’s car.

At Abu-Jamal’s trial, the prosecutor got White to change her prior testimony about the presence of the passenger, a tactic Pat O’Connor calls improperly deceiving the jury.

The suspicious death of Kenneth Freeman shortly after the 1985 MOVE bombing remains a mystery. O’Connor questions why Philadelphia authorities failed to fully investigate the death of Freeman who was found naked in a secluded area. Authorities closed the case on Freeman’s death as a routine heart attack.

Is the false arrest of Richard Kanegis and falsifying evidence in Abu-Jamal’s case items of a bygone era?

No according to a recent appeal filed on behalf of one of the three victims of that infamous 5/5/08 Philadelphia police beating captured by a TV news station helicopter. This appeal details rank improprieties by police, prosecutors and judges.

This appeal argues that dismissal of criminal charges against Pete Hopkins is “warranted because there is a clear showing of actual prejudice as Mr. Hopkins remains incarcerated while the police department and the district attorney’s office change and supplement the facts contained in the initial police report so as to turn it into something resembling a credible statement of probable cause.”

Philadelphia judges have repeatedly refused to provide Hopkins with a preliminary hearing during the required period of ten days after his 5/5 arrest, a gross violation of his constitutional rights charges Hopkins’ attorney, D. Scott Perrine, a former Philadelphia prosecutor.

Similar to the Abu-Jamal case, police in the Hopkins case are suddenly remembering facts that contradict their initial reports and police are producing evidence initial reports state did not exist.

Richard Kanegis feels Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial.

Prior to his brief imprisonment in 1984, Kanegis told a newspaper reporter now felt that “the courts are more concerned with expediency than fairness and justice. I used to think expediency was the exception rather than the rule. The exception is that it is so public.”

Kanegis agrees with the position of Amnesty International that expediency by judges has sabotaged justice in the Abu-Jamal case.

Pat O’Conner said he began thoroughly investigating the Abu-Jamal case after Amnesty International began releasing reports questioning the fairness of Abu-Jamal’s conviction.

Abu-Jamal’s imprisonment is “a clear cut case of monumental miscarriage of justice,” O’Connor said.
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Linn Washington Jr. is an award-winning columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune who has covered the Abu-Jamal case since December 1981.