Myths About Mumia
Those who support Mumia Abu-Jamal often allege that the bullet removed from Officer Faulkner’s brain was .44 caliber. Jamal’s gun — found on the ground next to him at the crime scene — was a .38 caliber revolver. Therefore, his supporters argue, Jamal couldn’t have fired the shot that killed Officer Faulkner.
When asked to provide proof to support this allegation, Jamal’s supporters point to a handwritten note made by Assistant Medical Examiner, Dr. Paul Hoyer. Dr. Hoyer’s note said, “shot 44 Cal”.
Dr. Hoyer testified at the 1995 PCRA Hearing and explained that his 1981 note merely reflected his speculation at what caliber the bullet might be, made when he first saw the wound and before he started the autopsy. The note was written on a piece of scrap paper, and was not a part of (and was never intended to be a part of) his professional findings.
Some of Jamal’s supporters, including his attorneys, have now altered this “.44 caliber” myth, and now argue that that there may be several fragments of the bullet “missing,” and that if these fragments were the correct size and weight, they would prove that the bullet was .44 caliber. They have never offered any evidence, of any kind, to support this theory.
Official ballistics tests done on the fatal bullet verify that Officer Faulkner was killed by a .38 caliber bullet, not a .44 caliber bullet. The fatal .38 slug was a Federal brand Special +P bullet with a hollow base (the hollow base in a +P bullet was distinctive to Federal ammunition at that time). It is the exact type (+P with a hollow base), brand (Federal), and caliber (.38) of bullet found in Jamal’s gun. Additionally, tests have proven that the bullet that killed Officer Faulkner was fired from a weapon with the same rifling characteristics as Jamal’s .38 Caliber revolver. Further, Jamal’s own ballistics expert, George Fassnacht, conceded in his 1995 PCRA testimony that the fatal bullet was not .44 caliber, and that it was most “likely” a .38. Although the D.A.’s officer offered in open court to let Jamal’s attorneys test the fatal bullet, they refused this offer, and have never offered any alternative test results to counter the above evidence. Dr. James Hoyer’s handwritten notation on a piece of scrap paper certainly does not constitute such evidence. Dr. Hoyer, a medical doctor who has had no formal ballistics training, has never claimed that he was able to determine the caliber of the bullet. He plainly testified in 1995 that what he wrote was a “guess.” Furthermore, Dr. Hoyer testified that, after writing this guess, he had measured the bullet with a standard ruler. Although he acknowledged that this was not the accepted scientific method by which to gage the caliber of a bullet, his rough measurement was consistent with the slug being .38 caliber, and not a .44. Finally, Dr. Hoyer testified that, at the time he made his .44 caliber guess — while looking at the horrendous wound to Officer Faulkner’s head — he was unaware that the killer had been using high-velocity +P ammunition. Had he known this, he would not have assumed that the slug was of an unusually large caliber.
So maybe the gun the police produced as evidence against Jamal was thrown there in order to frame him? No. The gun had been legally purchased by Jamal years prior to the shooting, and was registered in his name.
FACTS SUPPORTING OUR REBUTTAL
Despite the meaningless nature of Dr. Hoyer’s notation, those who support Jamal often argue that the jury should have heard about it at the 1982 trial anyway. But had the defense introduced Hoyer’s notation, there is no doubt that Hoyer would have been called to testify about it. What Jamal’s supporters hide is the fact that this is exactly what happened in 1995.
At the 1995 PCRA hearing, Dr. Hoyer appeared as a defense witness. Leonard Weinglass asked Doctor Hoyer about his “44 cal” notation:
Weinglass, “What is it doctor?”
Dr. Hoyer: “It’s a notation I made on a piece of paper that was normally, normally discarded.”
N. T. 8/9/95, 186
Dr. Hoyer readily admitted that he had no formal ballistics training.
Fisk: “Am I correct sir, that you’ve never had training in the field of ballistics and firearms identification?”
Hoyer: “I’ve never had formal training in that, that is correct.”
Fisk: “And am I correct that in 1981 you were by no means an expert in that field?”
Hoyer: “That is correct.”
Fisk: “Would I be correct that any statement by you as to the caliber of any projectile would merely be a lay guess and not that, not the valuation of an expert in the field of ballistics?”
WHAT DID THE BALLISTICS REPORTS
REVEAL ABOUT THE GUN AND BULLET?
In the 1982 trial, the prosecution Firearms Examiner, Anthony Paul, was asked if the bullet removed from Officer Faulkner’s brain was consistent with having been fired from a Charter Arms .38 caliber revolver (the type of gun owned by Jamal and found next to him at the scene). Paul states that it is.
Paul: “It’s possible to say that it [the bullet which killed Officer Faulkner] was fired from a revolver with that type of rifling, with the Charter Arms type of rifling.”
N.T. 6/23/82, 6.110
Later at trial, defense attorney Anthony Jackson asks Anthony Paul if the general rifling characteristics etched of the bullet removed from Officer Faulkner’s brain matched the pattern found in the barrel of Jamal’s gun. Mr. Paul states that they clearly do match Jamal’s gun.
“The general characteristics being part of the eight lands and grooves and a right hand direction of twist, you have a part of that [bullet] still exposed with sufficient quantity to be able to say that a firearm rifled with eight lands and grooves with a right hand direction of twist discharged that projectile.”
N.T. 6/23/82, 6.168
Anthony Paul goes on to state that there are many .38 caliber handguns with eight lands and grooves and a right hand twist, and that the fatal bullet was so deformed that it could not be scientifically matched to Jamal’s gun to the exclusion of all other firearms. However, he stresses the fact that there was one, and only one, gun with all of these characteristics at the crime scene — the gun owned by Mumia Abu-Jamal. This is the same gun that was registered in Jamal’s name and that was found next to him at the crime scene less than a minute after the shooting. By any rational standard, these facts show that the fatal bullet was fired from Jamal’s gun.
In addition to matching the general rifling characteristics of the gun used to kill Officer Faulkner, Jamal’s five-shot Charter Arms handgun contained five spent casings from hollow-base .38 caliber high velocity Special +P ammunition. Of the shells found in Jamal’s gun, all were +P ammunition, (4 were Federal brand and 1 Remington). In 1981, Federal was the only brand of +P ammunition that had a hollow base. Additionally, Anthony Paul acknowledged that the +P bullet was a type of ammunition that was rarely seen in 1981. Anthony Paul commented that the +P is a unique bullet, with an extra heavy load of gunpowder. It so devastates its target that police departments are restricted from using it.
This extensive ballistics evidence clearly ties Jamal’s gun to the murder. But his attorneys and supporters simply ignore this evidence, hide it, or act as if it doesn’t exist.
MAYBE THE GUN ON THE
GROUND NEXT TO JAMAL WASN’T HIS?
Anyone who doubts that the gun found next to Jamal was actually his gun should have a look at the trial evidence. The gun was purchased by Mumia Abu-Jamal and registered in his name. A storeowner, Joseph Kohn, testified in 1982 and stated that he sold Jamal this exact gun on July 17, 1979. (Two years before Jamal became a cab driver.) He produced a purchase receipt with Jamal’s signature on it and a serial number that matched Jamal’s gun. Additionally, Jamal was wearing an empty shoulder holster when he was apprehended. Even Jamal’s own lawyers admit that he was carrying a gun that morning — though they have never explained what he intended to do with it, other than murder Officer Faulkner.
SURELY THE DEFENSE HAS PRODUCED
ALTERNATIVE BALLISTICS INFORMATION?
It sounds absurd. But to date, Jamal’s ballistics expert George Fassnacht — the same ballistics expert Jamal had at the 1982 trial — has refused to even look at the bullet that killed Officer Faulkner, much less run tests on it himself. There is no doubt that if the bullet was not .38 caliber, as Jamal’s supporters so vigorously proclaim, it would have been a simple matter for Jamal’s ballistics expert to verify this. But that, of course, would require Jamal’s expert to at least look at the physical evidence. Yet when offered the opportunity to do exactly that at the 1995 PCRA hearing, Jamal’s expert flatly refused to look at the bullet, and Jamal’s lawyers stood by and said nothing. Jamal’s refusal to test the bullet gives us all the insight we could ever need into the validity of his ballistics claims.
In July 1995, Assistant District Attorney Joey Grant asked Fassnacht:
Grant: “Well, you have opined that since you didn’t have a chance to look at the evidence, test the evidence [in 1981], all you did was read a report. Well, we [now] have what you didn’t have in 1981. Would you be willing to try a hand at it now?”
Fassnacht: “Would I be willing to reexamine this evidence? No, I wouldn’t”
N.T. 8/2/95, 150
Further exposing the myth that the fatal bullet was .44 caliber is the fact that George Fassnacht has never stated that he believes the bullet is .44 caliber. Instead, while testifying in 1995, Fassnacht actually agreed with the prosecutions findings.
ADA Grant: “In any event, no matter whether that explains it or not, you know from your own expertise that this is in no way close to being a .44 caliber bullet, don’t you?”
Mr. Fassnacht replies, “Yes.”
N.T. 8/2/95, 158
Fassnacht again repeated his belief that the bullet was not .44 caliber when he was cross examined by the Assistant DA Grant and asked the following:
ADA Grant: “Considering what you read, [the ballistics reports], you must admit to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that a .44 caliber that [bullet] was not?”
N.T. 8/2/95, 160
THE MYTH, EXPOSED, LIVES ON
The 1995 hearing completely refuted the .44 caliber myth. Yet outside the courtroom, lawyer Leonard Weinglass continued to use this .44 caliber Myth to drum up public support for a convicted killer. Despite the fact that his allegation that the bullet was .44 caliber was contradicted by his own ballistics expert, Weinglass still shamelessly repeats this myth at his public presentations on the alleged “facts of the case.”
JAMAL’S LAWYER GETS CAUGHT
After a four month investigation of the facts of this case, the ABC News program 20/20 aired a broadcast that looked into this and other myths offered up by Jamal’s lawyers as evidence of his alleged innocence. While being interviewed by Sam Donaldson, Leonard Weinglass’s sham regarding the caliber of the fatal bullet was captured on film for all to see. Cornered by Donaldson, Weinglass was forced on nationwide television to publicly back away from his .44 caliber claim — though he continues to say the opposite, to this day, in his off-camera lectures.
SAM DONALDSON: The police say that that slug has the lands and grooves consistent with being a .38 slug.
LEONARD WEINGLASS: It does.
SAM DONALDSON: But if it’s a .38, then your contention that it was a .44 is wrong.
LEONARD WEINGLASS: Well, I think that issue is very much something that should be played out in front of a jury.
THE NEW DEFENSE BULLET THEORY
Because the testimony of their own ballistics expert publicly refuted the idea that the fatal bullet was .44 caliber, the defense has now added a new spin on the .44 caliber theory. They now claim that there may be a “fragment” or even multiple fragments of the fatal bullet that are supposedly “missing.” Though they have never offered any evidence to prove this in court, they claim that if this supposedly missing fragment just happened to be the right size, it would verify that the bullet was .44 caliber.
But the new myth continues to be plagued by the problems of the old one — as so often happens when the truth intrudes on fantasy. Like the old myth, the new one directly conflicts with all of the ballistics tests, as well as the expert testimony from both the defense and the prosecution.
Further, it is plainly dishonest for Jamal to claim that something is “missing” when he never looked for it. Since Jamal’s expert refused to examine the physical evidence, his lawyers are simply lying when they pretend to know that part of it is “missing.”
THE CALIBER OF THE BULLET
Officer Faulkner was killed by a .38 caliber bullet from Jamal’s .38 caliber gun.
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