Myths About Mumia
According to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s lawyers and supporters, several “eyewitnesses” saw somebody else shoot Officer Faulkner and then run off into the night.
In an article written by Jamal lawyer Leonard Weinglass, The Trial of Mumia Abu Jamal, Weinglass states:
“In all, four witnesses situated in four separate locations on the street, none of whom knew each other or Mumia, reported seeing the shooter flee, and all had him going in precisely the same direction.”
The four individuals that Weinglass regularly labels as “eyewitnesses” are: Deborah Kordansky, Robert Chobert, Veronica Jones and Desie Hightower. Each will be discussed later in this section.
In his book, “Race For Justice” Mr. Weinglass writes:
“Due to Commonwealth misconduct and the court’s rulings, the true facts of the case that Mr. Jamal was shot by Officer Faulkner as Mr. Jamal approached the scene, and that a third black man then shot Officer Faulkner and fled the scene were suppressed and not established”.
Weinglass’ theory that another man shot Faulkner and then ran from the scene is supported and promoted by lawyer Stuart Taylor in his article, “Guilty and Framed”. Taylor writes:
“The defense theory seems more plausible. Weinglass’ theory is, “At that moment, Officer Faulkner faced a life threatening situation. He had one suspect who allegedly struck him, bent over the hood of a car with another individual running towards him. He was alone. It was 4A.M. It was dark. The neighborhood was unsettling.”
Taylor goes on to state that Weinglass “believes” that Faulkner fired first, hitting Jamal in the chest. And then, another man, who had been driving with William Cook, exited Cook’s car and shot Faulkner in the back, then in the face, and ran away into the darkness before police arrived.
Stuart Taylor also writes:
“No fewer than five eyewitnesses have made statements at one time or another that support the defense theory that someone ran away from the scene. These accounts also raise at least a suspicion that police were so bent on nailing Jamal that they have shunned, or even suppressed, evidence supporting this defense theory. Taking the eyewitness testimony as a whole, it seems more likely than not, that somebody had been in Cook’s car with him and had run away before police arrived. It’s also at least conceivable that this mystery man killed Faulkner.”
In Weinglass’ public presentations, as well as in his writings, he states that Cook’s passenger, the “phantom shooter,” ran down Locust Street and entered a small alleyway before police arrived. As Taylor states, the basis for Weinglass’ theory is his allegation that the four individuals — each of whom Weinglass claims was an “eyewitness” and “on the street in different locations” — testified to seeing another man do the shooting and running away.
The “Commonwealth misconduct” referred to by Weinglass and Taylor are their allegations that, in order to get testimony detrimental to Mumia Abu-Jamal, Assistant District Attorney Joe McGill organized and agreed upon “deals” for legal leniency with two of his eyewitnesses (Cynthia White and Robert Chobert) in 1982. Weinglass alleges that these “deals” were not disclosed to the court or to Jamal’s attorney. Both Leonard Weinglass and Jamal’s original attorney, Anthony Jackson, argue that the District Attorneys Office and members of the Philadelphia Police Department conspired to keep these “deals” from Mr. Jackson in 1982. Additionally, Weinglass and Jamal’s supporters contend that there is clear evidence of police intimidation of witnesses who would have offered testimony favorable to Jamal. (For more information on the alleged coercion of witnesses, go to Myth #6).
Of the four supposedly exculpatory eyewitnesses, three are not eyewitnesses at all — they admit that they did not see the shooting, and did not see the shooting scene until well after the shooting was over. The other is an eyewitness for the prosecution, who has consistently said that Jamal was the killer.
Outside the courtroom, Jamal’s attorneys and supporters have offered numerous alternative scenarios of what “really happened” on December 9, 1981. It’s important to note that, to date, this theory (which we have labeled the “Running Man Myth”) is the one and only explanation ever presented by Jamal’s lawyers inside the courtroom that purports to show his innocence.
Despite the fact that Jamal’s lawyers have never produced any credible evidence to support the “Running Man Myth” in the courtroom, HBO chose to promote this sham in their 1996 docudrama, “Mumia Abu Jamal, A Case for Reasonable Doubt.” When the testimony of the four individuals the defense has labeled as “eyewitnesses” is reviewed, it becomes apparent that the “Running Man Myth” is quite simply, a hoax.
In reality, the record reflects that only one of the individuals that Leonard Weinglass has labeled an “eyewitnesses” has ever stated or testified that they actually witnessed the shooting. That individual, Robert Chobert, was a prosecution witness. In his original statement, which was given to police only 1/2 hour after the shooting, Chobert stated:
“I looked up and saw the black male start running towards 12th St. He didn’t get far, maybe thirty or thirty-five steps and then he fell.”
Robert Chobert Statement, 12-9-81
Further discrediting Weinglass’ fraud is the fact that Robert Chobert has consistently identified Mumia Abu Jamal as the killer, and did so both at the scene and in court, under oath.
The other three individuals alleged by Weinglass to have been “eyewitnesses” who were “on the street in different locations” when the fatal shot was fired, have each testified that they did not see the shooting, and indeed, that they were in locations that made it impossible — by their own admission — for them to see what happened. They have also stated that they have no idea whether the person(s) they later saw running were simply bystanders who were simply going (much like themselves) to see what happened.
The three individuals are:
1. Debra Kordansky
Ms. Kordansky stated that she was in her bedroom watching TV when the shooting occurred. In her original statement to police she said that she “didn’t go to her window until drawn there by the flashing lights of the police cars that had already arrived on the scene”. She also stated while looking out her window, she saw “someone run.” While being questioned by Leonard Weinglass at the 1995 PCRA hearing, Kordansky specifically stated that this person “was not the shooter” and that “they ran after police had already arrived”. (N.T. 8/3/95, 248-249)
2. Desie Hightower
Mr. Hightower stated that he was down the street, behind a building in a parking lot, getting into a car when the shooting occurred. When asked by police at the scene if he could identify Jamal as the shooter Hightower told them, “I couldn’t say, because I didn’t see the officer actually shot.” (N.T. 6/28/82, 28.131)
3. Veronica Jones
Ms. Jones has always stated that she was over 2 blocks away, around a corner and behind a building, when Officer Faulkner was shot. In 1996 she testified that she “waited for a few minutes” before looking around the corner to see what happened and that she then saw two men approach Officer Faulkner’s body. She further stated, “I was not there, I did not see him [the shooter].” (N.T. 10/1/96, 24)
Equally revealing is the fact that the actual testimony and signed statements of each alleged “eyewitness” is reviewed, they show that — directly contrary to lawyer Weinglass’s public statements — they each saw different people running at different times, in different directions.
Debra Kordansky stated that she waited to look upon the scene until she was drawn to her window by the flashing lights of police cars. She then saw a person running on the south side of Locust Street in a direction she couldn’t remember. This was after “police and news crews” had already arrived on the scene. (N.T. 8/3/95, 248-249)
Desie Hightower said he saw a single person, possibly a woman, running east on the south side of Locust Street before police arrived. (N.T. 6/28/82, 28.131)
Veronica Jones said she saw two black men “sort of jogging” across Locust Street (12/11/81 Statement)
Robert Chobert, of course, specifically stated that he saw Jamal shoot Faulkner. He said that Jamal ran, “but he didn’t get far, maybe thirty or thirty-five steps and then he fell.” (12/9/81 Statement)
Additionally, tests for primer lead residue on Officer Faulkner’s jacket verify that the person who shot him in the back did so from less than 2 feet away. Similar tests on Jamal’s jacket verify that he was shot by the officer from less than 2 feet away. Powder marks on Officer Faulkner’s face show that the fatal shot was fired from less than eighteen inches. The testimony of no less than 5 actual eyewitnesses — including Robert Harkins, a witness called by Jamal in 1995 — establishes that the only persons who were actually seen to be less than 2 feet away from Officer Faulkner were Mumia Abu-Jamal and his brother, William Cook.
Not one, single, solitary eyewitness has ever stated that they saw a third person exit Cook’s car. Is it really “plausible” — to use Stuart Taylor’s word — that each of the 5 eyewitnesses to the crime, who were situated no more than 60 feet from the shooting, all failed to see this supposed third person? Did he have the power to turn himself invisible?
Despite all of the testimony and physical evidence discrediting his theory, in his 1995 closing argument Leonard Weinglass again outlined the “Running Man Myth”. Having just heard the testimony of the four individuals listed above, Weinglass still tried to pass his “Running Man Myth” off as fact. To this day, he still insists that each was an “eyewitnesses” to the killing. This is Weinglass’ distortion of the testimony of the individuals shown above:
“… As soon as the police arrived that night, first thing he [Chobert] says to the police, the guy ran away. The guy ran away. Mr. Jamal is lying on the sidewalk, practically near his cab. But the guy ran away. He [Chobert] repeats it within an hour in a written statement in the Police Department saying the guy ran away 35 steps down the street on the south side going east on Locust. The same that Debbie Kordansky says, the same that Veronica Jones says, the same that Desie Hightower says. Four people. And then added to by Singletary as the fifth.”
N.T. 9/11/95, 59
The last witness Weinglass mentioned, William Singletary, was featured in the HBO broadcast. But even Weinglass described him in court as “not entirely accurate” (N.T. 8/11/95, 9-10); he now mentions Singletary, if at all, only in passing. Singletary’s 1995 testimony described events that simply could not have happened. For example, he described the already dead officer speaking, calling for his children (he had no children), and even firing his weapon. Singletary described a shooting in which the victim was not shot in the back, even though he was. He described Jamal being beaten virtually to death and having his skull fractured, even though Jamal’s own treating physician testified that there were no signs of any beating. Singletary was the only witness to see an orbiting helicopter shining its light on the scene (the helicopter did not exist), the only witness who claimed to see police captains and lieutenants who appeared and disappeared, and the only witness to see Jamal dressed as an Arab(!) Mr. Singletary claimed he told all of this to a mysterious “Detective Green,” who tortured him by repeatedly forcing him to write down his account, which “Green” would then tear up or throw away and make him start over. “Green” also supposedly threatened to have Singletary “beaten up” and his business “destroyed” (N.T. 8/11/95, 9-279).
In 1995 the prosecution called two witnesses, Officer Vernon Jones and Detective Edward Quinn. Officer Jones knew and was friendly with Singletary, and encountered him at the shooting scene on December 9, 1981. Singletary walked up to Officer Jones and asked him what happened. Jones said that a police officer had been shot. Singletary replied, “I heard some shots but I thought they were firecrackers. Then that’s when I started seeing all those police cars” (N.T. 8/14/95, 20-21; see 8/11/95, 224). Officer Jones asked Singletary if he had seen the shooting. Singletary said “no” (N.T. 8/14/95, 21). Detective Edward Quinn testified that he interviewed William Singletary at the homicide unit in the police administration building. (“Green” was supposedly black; Detective Quinn is white). He typed Mr. Singletary’s statement — Singletary did not write anything down and was not asked to do so. No other detective questioned Singletary (N.T. 8/14/95, 48-52). The typewritten statement signed by Mr. Singletary indicated that he was interviewed by Detective Quinn. In his signed statement to Detective Quinn Singletary again said that he did not see the shooting. He added however, that after the shooting he could see three figures: the victim officer and two other men, one of whom was sitting on the curb. The latter individual had “dray locks” and green pants (N.T. 8/14/95, 52-57). This information, especially the description of one man sitting on the curb, was (as already explained) corroborative of other witnesses who testified to Jamal’s guilt.
FACTS SUPPORTING OUR REBUTTAL
Please read the information below slowly and carefully. It’s critical to understand the distinction between the four individuals Jamal’s attorneys label as “eyewitnesses” and the five actual eyewitnesses to the shooting.
When espousing the “Running Man Myth”, Jamal’s supporters simply ignore the fact that five actual eyewitnesses to the shooting — each deemed credible by the court — have offered extensive and consistent testimony stating that they witnessed the following sequence of events regarding the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner on December 9th, 1981.
Michael Scanlan, Robert Chobert, Cynthia White, Robert Harkins and Albert Magilton stated, in whole or in part, that they saw the man who murdered 0fficer Faulkner run from the parking lot across the street, the same lot Jamal’s empty taxi cab was found in. The murderer then shot Officer Faulkner in the back from close range. Faulkner then fell to the ground and the killer stood over him, fired several more times, bent down, put his gun inches from Officer Faulkner’s face and fired the fatal shot. The killer then staggered a short distance and collapsed on the curb. Moments later, two of the eyewitnesses saw the shooter apprehended by police and placed in a police van.
To counter the devastating amount of actual eyewitness testimony delivered against their client by the “credible” eyewitnesses, it was necessary for Jamal’s lawyers — labeled “The Scheme Team” by local Philadelphia media — to cast doubt on the prosecution’s scenario of what actually happened on December 9th.
To accomplish this, the “Scheme Team” has manufactured an alternative scenario about a third man at the crime scene. Though easily refuted, this “Running Man” theory has become the lynch pin of Jamal’s case both inside and outside the courtroom.
The defense’s formula for deception is quite simple and very clear to anyone with access to the court transcripts (which are posted in their entirety on our web site at danielfaulkner.com) and the statements made to police immediately after the shooting. The foundation for this ploy is a sly half-truth. True, several people, though not witnesses to the shooting, have actually stated they saw somebody running. Aside from Singletary and his physically impossible story, however, none of them has said that the “somebody” was the shooter, or that the somebody “running” was running “away.”
To fill in the holes in their bogus but attractive story of a phantom shooter, Jamal’s lawyers throw in a little sinister speculation and innuendo; they refer to their “belief” that some of the prosecution’s witnesses “might have been susceptible to police coercion or intimidation,” and say that the prosecution “appears to have” benefited from false testimony. (For more information on the alleged coercion of witnesses go to Myth #6.)
Knowing they would rarely be challenged outside the courtroom, Jamal’s current attorneys preach this lie to anti-Death Penalty advocates and college students on campuses all over the country. The story is then repeated and elaborated upon by countless “journalists” and various fringe groups supporting Jamal. (HBO bought into the Running Man Myth without ever contacting the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office or reviewing the trial transcripts to verify its factual validity. Amnesty International USA, a noted opponent of the Death Penalty, produced a detailed “report” on the case that was riddled with factual inaccuracies and outright error. AIUSA also never contacted our organization or the District Attorney’s office. A detailed rebuttal to the AIUSA report is posted on our web site.)
When the trial transcripts and the original statements given to police are reviewed in context, they clearly reveal that not one of Weinglass’ alleged “eyewitnesses” has actually said what he and Jamal’s supporters claim they said.
The lies behind the bogus “Running Man Myth” are beginning to be exposed. In a recent book written by Jamal lawyer Dan Williams, it is revealed that Jamal’s lawyers knew all along that two of the alleged “eyewitnesses” produced by them at the 1995 PCRA hearing to support the Running Man Myth, (William Singletary and Robert Harmon) never actually saw the shooting. Williams reveals in his book that these two witnesses — who told mutually contradictory stories — were admittedly presented by the “Scheme Team” against his advice in order to create a smoke-screen that would allow the media to announce that there were actual eyewitnesses who had seen a “phantom shooter”. (Apparently, Williams was ethically satisfied with merely advising against presenting evidence he knew to be false; he had no problem with going ahead and presenting it in court when his colleagues disagreed with his recommendation).
In order to promote the “Running Man Myth” the defense also had to come up with an explanation for why four people — none of whom had an ax to grind with Jamal — would supposedly lie about what they had seen. To accomplish this a two-pronged approach was employed. To discredit White and Chobert, a case was fabricated to allege that police had worked with the District Attorney to coerce and intimidate them into giving favorable testimony against Jamal. To attack Michael Scanlan, who did not identify Jamal in court but described actions consistent with what others saw Jamal doing, Jamal’s lawyers were content to simply twist his testimony or disregard it altogether. The defense ignores Scanlan’s detailed description of the shooter which matches that of Jamal, and instead focuses on several minor errors made by Scanlan regarding details about things like Jamal’s height and hair-style – things not often remembered explicitly by witnesses who have just seen another person murdered. Then they too allege that Scanlan was “confused” about what he had seen. Jamal’s lawyers pretend that they can dismiss the fourth eyewitness, Albert Magilton, because, though he had seen the entire scene unfold before him, he had admittedly not seen the fatal shot fired.
This sham strategy was severely damaged by the testimony of one of Jamal’s own witnesses at the 1995 PCRA hearing, Robert Harkins. Announced as someone who supposedly had failed to pick Jamal out of a photo array, Mr. Harkins complained that Jamal’s lawyers had twisted his words, and proceeded to testify to seeing the shooter act in a manner identical to that described by the prosecution’s allegedly “confused” and “coerced” eyewitnesses at trial.
ALLEGED “EYEWITNESS” #1
The first individual that the defense has labeled as an “eyewitness” is Veronica Jones. She was a 21-year-old prostitute working the neighborhood around 13th and Locust that morning.
Ms. Jones testified as a defense witness at the 1982 trial and again in a 1996 supplemental PCRA hearing, which was convened specifically to hear her new testimony.
Jones own repeated and admitted lies about the case, as well as her personal background, cast doubt on her credibility as a witness. Evidence produced by the prosecution verified that, in addition to her numerous aliases, Veronica Jones has used several false social security numbers and that she is a two-time felon, convicted of welfare fraud, and a weapons violation. At the time she testified in 1996, Jones had a pending warrant for her arrest, having been charged with passing a bad check in New Jersey. Additionally, Jones has repeatedly stated that she was a heavy drug user and a self-admitted alcoholic throughout the 1980’s.
The prosecution also produced information at the 1996 PCRA hearing indicating that Veronica Jones was very likely paid by someone to give her newest testimony. At this same hearing, the Assistant District Attorney managed to catch Jones in several lies as she testified about her 1981 arrest and pending trial for armed robbery.
But most important, is the fact that Veronica Jones has changed her story regarding what she saw that morning no less than four times since 1981. Yet, throughout the numerous revisions to her story, Jones has always placed herself around a corner from the shooting, behind a building, nearly 2 blocks from the scene. Jones has steadfastly stated that she did not see the shooting of Officer Daniel Faulkner. And in direct contradiction to Leonard Weinglass’ dishonest portrayal of her testimony, Veronica Jones has never stated that she saw the shooter run away from the scene before police arrived.
NOTE: Jamal’s attorneys argue that police coerced and intimidated Veronica Jones into giving false testimony against Mumia Abu-Jamal. For more information on the alleged coercion of Veronica Jones go to Myth #6 and the 1998 Supreme Court ruling.
VERONICA JONES’ INITIAL STATEMENT TO POLICE
Veronica Jones gave her initial statement to police less than a week after the killing. The interview was conducted at her mother’s home at 9:45 PM on 12-15-81. Jones reviewed this statement for accuracy then signed each page. The portion of her statement pertaining to the shooting is listed below.
Question: Veronica, will you go in your own words and tell me what you know about the shooting death of Officer Daniel Faulkner?
Answer: I was in a little restaurant called Rocky’s it’s on Chancellor Street. We were drinking beer. We came out of the restaurant and went down the alley towards 12th St. We joked around on the corner for a while. We walked around the high-speed line and she [Candy] started back around the corner to Locust St. As I was walking away from the high-speed line entrance I heard firing, I heard three shots. I looked down Locust St. towards Johnny Dee’s and I saw a policeman fall down. After I saw the policeman fall I saw two black guys walk across Locust Street and then they started sort of jogging. The next thing I saw was a wagon coming. There was one other black guy standing by the entrance of the speed line by Johnny Dee’s.
Question: Did you see a Volkswagen parked on Locust Street that night?
Answer: I saw a green Volkswagen go around the block a couple of times that night before the shooting. It was driven by a black guy.
Question: Did you see who shot the police officer?
Question: Did you see anyone with a gun?
Veronica Jones Statement, 12-15-81
VERONICA JONES’ 1982 TESTIMONY
At the 1982 trial, Veronica Jones reluctantly appeared as a defense witness. While being cross-examined, Jones admitted several times to having been drinking heavily and smoking marijuana immediately prior to the shooting in 1981.
Jones: “Like I say I’d been drinking …”
N.T. 6/29/82, 114
When asked by the prosecutor how much marijuana she had smoked that day she stated:
Jones: “I wasn’t counting when they passed it.”
N.T. 6/29/82, 155
In reference to what she was doing immediately before shooting, Jones further stated:
Jones: “If you smoke marijuana all day by the end of the day, you be tired and you don’t really be high.”
ADA McGill: “Were you in fact smoking marijuana all day?”
Jones: “On and off.”
ADA McGill: “So over the entire day [before the shooting] on and off you were smoking marijuana?”
N.T. 6/29/82, 156
In her trial testimony — as in her 12-15-81 written statement — Jones again confirmed that she was not an eyewitness to the shooting as Jamal’s attorneys contend. While looking at a diagram of the area, Assistant District Attorney Joe McGill asked Jones where she had been standing when she heard the first shots fired. Jones replied:
“I can’t say I was directly on the corner, but if the Speedline is here, I was like a little behind the building that was on the corner.”
N.T. 6/29/82, 98
Jones own 1982 testimony positions her around the corner from the shooting, behind a building, where 12th Street and Locust Street bisect each other: over 100 yards from the actual shooting.
When asked what she did after hearing the final shot fired, she replied:
“I just came around the corner and looked.”
N.T. 6/29/82, 98
On direct examination, when asked by Jamal’s attorney, Anthony Jackson, what she saw when she looked around the corner, Jones stated:
Jones: “All I seen was two men and a policeman. I seen a policeman on the ground and — what else can I say? I was kind of intoxicated. They knew that.”
Jackson: “Who knew that?”
Jones: “The policeman that I talked to. When they came to my house.”
Jackson: “Now do you recall being interviewed by the police on December 15th, 1981?”
Jackson: “Do you remember talking to either Detective Bennett or Detective Harmon?”
Jones: “It was three detectives at my house.”
Jackson: “Now are you telling us today that you didn’t see the men move at all?”
Jones: “I didn’t say I seen anyone running.”
(Jones reviews her written statement.)
Jones: “That’s my signature, but the way they have [written] the statement I did not say this, because I do not know anyone by the name of Candy.”
N.T. 6/29/82, 99-102
Anthony Jackson pointed out to Jones that she had signed each page of her statement. Ms. Jones then proceeded to claim that she “signed five blank pages”!
Jackson then specifically asks Jones — his own witness — about the two men who, in her original statement, she said started “sort of jogging,” after the shooting.
Jackson: “By the way, so I understand you clearly you are saying that you never saw two men walk across Locust Street, or jog?
Jones: “No, I didn’t.”
Jackson: “When you saw the two men at Locust Street — did you see the two men on Locust Street?”
Jones: “There was two men where the policeman was at. A man by the soda machine. A soda machine on 13th Street. Almost, you know, near the Speedline entrance.”
N.T. 6/29/82, 109-110
Veronica Jones was then asked how close these two men had come to the fallen Officer Faulkner — who had died instantly from his head wound.
Jackson: “How close did the two men who jogged across Locust Street get to the fallen officer?”
Jones: “Not close enough. Maybe two or three steps away.”
N.T. 6/29/82, 112
To further cloud the waters, Jones admitted to Jackson that she was “high” while she gave her statement to police on December 15, 1981.
“Jackson: “By the way, on I guess it was the 15th of December where you intoxicated when the detectives interviewed you?”
Jones: “I was high.”
Jackson: “You were high?”
Jackson: “How high?”
Jones: “How high?”
Jones: “Say half a nickel bag high.”
Jackson: “How high that is I don’t really know. I mean you knew what you were saying?”
Jones: “I wanted to know how they knew where I lived.”
Jackson: “That was your primary concern?”
Jackson: “Aside from wanting to know that the question is, did you know what you were saying to them?”
Jones: “According to this right here, it is a bunch of bull.”
Jackson: “Again, did you know what you were saying to them?”
Jones: “Somewhat, yes.”
N.T. 6/29/82, 122-3
If one reads Veronica Jones twisted 1982 testimony in its entirety, (Due to space considerations, it cannot be displayed here, though it can bee seen on our web site.) it is clear that she was not only confused about what she had seen, she was also confused by many of the questions asked of her by Anthony Jackson, prosecutor Joe McGill and the three detectives who questioned her on December 15, 1981.
Her convoluted and half-baked answers, either by accident or by design, tend to run in circles. Her confusion begs the question: did she ever understand and provide clear and honest answers to any of the questions that were asked of her, either in her statement, or in her testimony?
The contention that she signed five blank pages seems patently ridiculous. She was admittedly “half a nickel bag high,” both when she looked around the corner at the crime scene, and while she gave her statement to police. It is also clear that Jones didn’t care to cooperate with either the defense or the prosecution. Instead apparently wanting to get off the witness stand as quickly as possible. At one point, when Mr. Jackson asks her about the person she called “Candy” in her statement, Jones replies:
“Let me put it this way, I’m a hooker, I don’t know nobody’s name.”
Veronica Jones’ account only became less credible when she resurfaced 14 years later.
VERONICA JONES’ 1996 PCRA TESTIMONY
The Pennsylvania appeal process allows each convicted defendant one Post Conviction Collateral Relief (PCRA) proceeding. In the summer of 1995, Jamal received the first of what would ultimately become three separate PCRA hearings. The 1995 hearing lasted nearly 7 weeks and received extensive media attention, both nationally and, more extensively, in the local Philadelphia area. Despite this massive and continuous coverage, Veronica Jones — who was living across the river from Philadelphia in Camden New Jersey — claimed that she had not heard about Jamal’s 1995 PCRA hearing.
Jamal’s attorneys petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to grant Jamal an unusual second PCRA hearing. In 1996, the Supreme Court agreed to a second PCRA hearing in order to afford Jamal the opportunity to present the testimony of a “newly found witness” that he and his attorneys alleged was unknown to them in 1995. This “newly found witness” was none other than Veronica Jones.
The 1996 supplemental PCRA hearing was convened specifically to hear the fourth, and newest, version of what Veronica Jones claimed to have seen. With great fanfare, Leonard Weinglass billed Jones to the media as the “eyewitness” that would prove Jamal’s innocence. To this day, Weinglass and Jamal’s supporters allege that Jones “recanted her original 1982 testimony.” In actuality, the transcripts clearly show that Veronica Jones changed just one minor portion of her extensive 1982 testimony. The change, not surprisingly, favored Jamal’s brand-new “Running Man” theory.
When she testified in 1996, a lachrymose Veronica Jones was never actually permitted by Jamal’s lawyers to re-tell her version of events the morning of the murder. Instead, Leonard Weinglass carefully led Jones to vaguely admit that she had been “untruthful” about one portion of her lengthy 1982 testimony. In so doing, Jones admitted that she was “untruthful” when she told Anthony Jackson that the two men she had seen, “just stood there”. By agreeing with Weinglass’ leading questions, Jones conveyed to the court that, contrary to her 1982 testimony, she had actually seen the two men, “run from the scene.”
Weinglass: “And do you recall in what respect the testimony that you gave was untruthful?”
Jones: “I told them that I didn’t see two men leave the, umm, scene.”
Weinglass: “And, Miss Jones, in fact did you see two people run from the scene?”
Jones: “Yes, I did.”
N.T. 10/1/96, 21
This change, however, was consistent with Jones original statement (albeit that she had given that statement while “half a nickel bag high”). It has been twisted by Jamal’s attorneys to allege that Jones witnessed the shooting and saw the real killer run from the scene, just as several other alleged “eyewitnesses” had. But of course, Jones never actually said that.
Compliant and agreeable when examined by Mr. Weinglass, Jones became evasive when questioned by the prosecution. When asked about her signatures on the bottom of each page of her 1981 statement, Jones again admitted to lying on the stand by stating, in a roundabout way, that she had in fact reviewed and signed each page of her 1981 statement after the interviewing officers recorded what she said.
ADA Fisk: “Are those your signatures?”
Ms. Jones: “They are my signatures.”
ADA Fisk: “And did you place your signature on each of those pages after these words were written?”
Ms. Jones: “Evidently: They’re there.”
ADA Fisk: “My question is, did you place your signature –“
Ms. Jones: “Yes, ma’am I did.”
ADA Fisk: “Prior to placing your signature on those pages, Miss Jones, did you review these pages, did you read them to make sure they were accurate?”
Ms. Jones: “I don’t recall if I reviewed them or not, I don’t recall.
ADA Fisk: “So, you didn’t know whether you were signing as a witness to the Kennedy killing–“
N.T. 10/1/96, 77
In her signed 12/15/81 statement to police, Jones — who admitted that she had been “drinking and smoking marijuana all day” prior to the shooting and that she had looked at the crime scene up an unlit street from a distance of over 100 yards away — said:
“After I saw the policeman fall down, I saw two black guys walk across Locust Street and then they started sort of jogging.”
Veronica Jones Statement, 12-15-81
Then, in her 1982 testimony, Jones stated that she had seen two men near the fallen body of Officer Faulkner and that these two unidentified men “just stood there.”
Now in 1996, Veronica Jones changed one small detail of her extensive and confusing 1982 testimony, and stated that these two men had not “just stood there.” Instead she agreed with the words provided for her by Jamal’s attorney, Leonard Weinglass, and stated that the two men “ran from the scene.”
No other substantive portion of Jones 1982 testimony was changed at the 1996 PCRA hearing.
DID VERONICA JONES SEE
TWO MEN RUN FROM THE SCENE?
It is entirely possible that Veronica Jones saw two men “run” or “jog” to or from the crime scene that morning some minutes after the shooting was over. As stated by most of the witnesses, there were several different people running around the crime scene after the shooting stopped. Jones has always admitted that she waited “a few minutes” before looking around the corner to see what had happened. There is no doubt that from Jones position — which was admittedly over 2 city blocks away — she would have seen no less than 6 other witnesses (if you count the questionable defense witnesses) standing within 60 feet of the crime scene. (Please refer to the map of the crime scene on our web site.)
It is far more likely that the two men seen by the admittedly-intoxicated Veronica Jones were Desie Hightower and Robert Pigford (Each of whom will be discussed later in this section), who ran across Locust Street to the scene after hearing the shots. In their signed statements both Hightower and Pigford said that they were entering Pigford’s car, which was parked in a lot located behind a bar about 200 feet to the north west of 13th and Locust. When the first shot was fired, Pigford and Hightower were roughly the same distance away from the shooting as Jones, on the opposite side of 13th Street from Jones. (Refer to attached map.) Both Hightower and Pigford stated that when they heard the first shots fired they sought cover behind a wall in the parking lot. They waited there “for the shooting to stop for a short time,” before looking around the wall, and then they ran over to the scene.
In his statement that was given to police at 5:20 AM, Pigford stated:
“When I didn’t hear any more shots, I ran from the wall and ran over to where the police officer was.”
Robert Pigford Statement, 12-9-81
In his statement, which was given to police at 5:10 AM, Hightower stated:
“When I first heard the shots I ran, then I looked and I seen the cop on the ground after the officers got there.”
Desie Hightower Statement, 12-9-81
While testifying as a defense witness, Hightower repeated this statement.
Anthony Jackson: “After hearing the shots, you came back too. I guess, to what would be Locust Street, facing east on Locust Street?”
Hightower: “Yes, east on Locust on the corner of the Whispers Club.”
N.T. 6/28/82, 28.125
After they ran to the scene, Hightower and Pigford (who are both black) would have been standing in the exact spot, at precisely the same instant that Veronica Jones saw the “two black men walk across Locust Street, then start sort of jogging.” But Veronica Jones did not claim to have seen the “real killer,” as Leonard Weinglass conveniently states. It appears that if Veronica Jones saw anyone, she saw Desie Hightower and Robert Pigford.
Additionally, 13th and Locust was an area of downtown Philadelphia that housed several after-hours clubs that were frequented by an assortment of prostitutes, drug dealers and other individuals who might have had any number of reasons to run away when police arrived after the shooting. This is confirmed by the considerable number of eyewitnesses to the crime. There is no doubt that there were several people present and who saw the shooting occur. Their accounts, however, unanimously point to Jamal as the gunman.
ANOTHER TWIST TO THE VERONICA JONES STORY
When attempting to grasp the importance (or lack thereof) of Veronica Jones to this case, it must be understood that Veronica Jones has never offered any testimony that incriminated or exonerated Jamal in any way. The only pertinent testimony Jones offered at the original trial in 1982 was to say that minutes after the shooting stopped she saw two unidentified men “kinda jogging”. At the 1996 PCRA hearing, after repeated prompting from Weinglass, Jones changed her testimony and said that she saw the two men “run from the scene”. It may seem odd that Jones would thus change her story after 14 years of silence. However, at the 1996 hearing some light was shed on Jones motivation for doing so.
Evidence presented by the prosecution in September of 1996 verified that Veronica Jones first meet with Mumia Abu-Jamal’s well-financed attorneys in the spring of 1996. At the 1996 PCRA hearing, the prosecution verified that Jones and a person she described as her “man” had, for two years, failed to pay the rent on the apartment where they cohabitated. Soon after her first meeting with Jamal’s attorneys, Jones and her friend began making regular rent payments totaling several thousand dollars. These payments continued to be made in various amounts up to the day of Jones 1996 testimony. Not only were Jones and her male friend suddenly able to begin making the rent payments after being delinquent for nearly two years, they were able to pay their back rent as well.
When asked by Assistant DA Arlene Fisk to explain this unusual situation, Jones said her boyfriend had received some “life insurance money.” An alternative answer to Ms. Fisk’s question was offered by one of Jamal’s supporters from the back of the courtroom, when she taunted police who were sitting across from her in the gallery by stating, “We got money coming in bucketful’s and Veronica is gonna be taken care of.” By 1996, Mumia Abu-Jamal and his attorneys had amassed a considerable war chest to mount Jamal’s defense. Additionally, Jamal is supported by various organizations that have used his case to build large bank accounts. Though there is no direct proof that Jones was paid for her testimony, the fact that her financial situation dramatically improved just as she was being announced by Weinglass as a “dramatic new witness” is difficult to accept as sheer coincidence. This is especially true in that, after meeting with Jamal’s lawyers in 1996, Jones’ recollection of events 14 years earlier dramatically changed.
After Jones had talked to Jamal’s lawyers, 14 years after the fact, she remembered that unidentifiable police officers had tried to pressure her to falsely incriminate Jamal. Prior to 1996, Veronica Jones had never made any allegations of police intimidation to anyone — not even her own lawyer, the Public Defender who was representing her in her pending armed robbery case in 1982.
CONCLUSION REGARDING VERONICA JONES
The 1982 testimony of Veronica Jones was not orchestrated by the police or the prosecution. If anything, it was influenced by her own, admitted state of drug-induced intoxication. She was called as a defense witness by Jamal’s counsel. Her story — which to this day, remains consistent only in that she still denies looking at the crime scene until several minutes after the shooting was over — was never of any real significance to either side. In short, Jones’ 1982 and 1996 versions are equally meaningless. Such was the finding of the Supreme Court when they reviewed the record in 1998.
ALLEGED “EYEWITNESS” #2
The second individual misleadingly labeled an “eyewitness” by the defense is Debra Kordansky.
Prior to the 1982 trial, Anthony Jackson interviewed Kordansky by telephone. At that time, Kordansky told him that she did not want to testify for the defense because she had recently fallen in a bicycling accident and sustained considerable facial injuries. She also told Mr. Jackson that she had at one time, “been raped by a black man and was uncomfortable around black men,” as a result of this attack. Most importantly, according to Mr. Jackson, Debra Kordansky told him that she “had not seen anything that would be helpful to his case”.
According to her original statement to police and her 1995 testimony, Debra Kordansky was in her apartment, down the street, sitting in her bedroom watching TV when the shooting occurred. Kordansky has never placed herself “on the street” as Weinglass dishonestly pronounces.
DEBRA KORDANSKY’S ORIGINAL STATEMENT
In her original statement given to a Detective Morton at 4:56 AM on 12-9-81, approximately an hour after the shooting, Kordansky stated:
“I was watching TV and I heard about five gunshots some time between 3:45 and 4AM. The gunshots seemed to be in succession. I thought that it was fireworks. I didn’t look out the window at first. I heard sirens a short time later. I saw about ten squad cars and two vans at 13th and Locust. I saw a man running on the south side of Locust Street.”
Debra Kordansky Statement, 12/9/81, 4:56 AM
From this statement it is crystal clear that Debra Kordansky was not an eyewitness to the shooting, and that the man she saw running was not the killer. (Unless the defense would have us believe that the “real killer” stayed around until after the police arrived at the scene.)
DEBRA KORDANSKY’S 1995 PCRA TESTIMONY
In 1995, Leonard Weinglass called Debra Kordansky as a defense witness. He immediately began to accuse her of being a racist (based on her statement to Anthony Jackson that she was uncomfortable with black men after having been raped by a black man), and seemed to believe that he could bully her into making statements that would aid in his “Running Man” ruse. However, Kordansky testified that although she saw a man “running,” she had never said that he was running “away,” and that she did not see this man until after the police had already arrived. Weinglass tried and failed to put words in the mouth of the witness:
Weinglass: “It would help the police, would it not, and make sense that it would help the police, by saying, in effect, you saw someone running away who was probably the shooter and you were telling the police right then and there the shooter ran away?”
Kordansky: “I didn’t say away.”
Weinglass: “You saw him running?”
Kordansky: “I saw someone running.”
Weinglass: “…you were directing them [the police] that the shooter ran away, and as a good citizen you are telling the police, you were directing that the shooter ran away, and as a good citizen, you are telling them I saw him run away and you ought to try to catch him. Isn’t that why you told the police that?”
Kordansky: “No, I think the runner was part of the flow of the whole situation. There was a man killed, there’s panic. Someone was running, maybe two people are running, maybe three people are running, you know. There’s police, there’s news crews, Et. Cetera.”
N.T. 8/3/95, 248-249
JAMAL’S LAWYERS MISSTATE THE RECORD AGAIN
In her 1995 testimony, which was given a month before the defense presented their closing argument, Debra Kordansky sends a clear message to Weinglass that “several minutes after the shooting stopped” she saw “a man (not the shooter) running” in a direction she couldn’t remember “after police and news crews had already arrived”. Debra Kordansky’s own testimony directly refutes Leonard Weinglass’ notion that she saw the “real shooter” run away, going east on the south side of Locust Street. Yet, Weinglass and Jamal’s supporters insist that she stated otherwise. In their 1995 closing argument, the defense ignored her actual statements and characterized Debra Kordansky’s testimony as follows:
“She [Ms. Kordansky] came in here and testified that in fact she had seen somebody run away. Run away down Locust Street going east on the south side of the street.”
N.T. 9/11/95, 31
The plain fact that Ms. Kordansky had simply never said this made absolutely no impression on the “scheme team.”
THE DEFENSE ATTACKS
DEBRA KORDANSKY’S CREDIBILITY
When Ms. Kordansky failed to support his “Running Man Myth,” Mr. Weinglass found appropriate to attack her — his own witness — as a supposed liar and racist. Hardly appropriate conduct toward an “eyewitness” who supposedly confirms Jamal’s innocence:
Weinglass: “But in April of 1982, more than 13 years ago, you told the police who interviewed you why you couldn’t remember it, and you said I have prejudice that affects my memory against and for police and black people. Is that right?”
Kordansky: “Can I tell you something else about my character? Because you seem to want to defame my character in implying that I would conspire to not reveal evidence because of prejudice. I was raped and I did have some problems, I felt discomfort with black people – with black men. But my honesty and my sense of what was true would preclude that. I would never lie and conspire. I don’t know this man (indicating the Defendant) I just wouldn’t do it.”
N.T. 8/3/95, 243-44
In their factually flawed and inaccurate docudrama, “A Case for Reasonable Doubt,” HBO-TV incorrectly tries to use Debra Kordansky’s statement to corroborate the testimony given by Desie Hightower, alleged eyewitness #3. As noted below, the two versions simply do not match up.
THE DEFENSE PLOY
Outside the courtroom Kordansky receives from Jamal’s lawyers the same treatment as many other witnesses. Her testimony is completely ignored. In its place, Jamal’s attorneys and supporters extract a few key words from her written statement to police (“I saw a man running.”) which are twisted to enhance the distorted picture of the phantom shooter story.
To this day, in his public presentations Weinglass refers to Ms. Kordansky as “Debbie” — as if they were old friends — and alleges that Kordansky stated she was an “eyewitness” to the shooting and that she saw another man shot Officer Faulkner and that this supposed shooter ran away. Leonard Weinglass persists in his lie despite knowing that Debra Kordansky has stated in her testimony that she was in her bedroom watching TV when the shooting occurred, that she never saw the shooting, and that she simply saw a man running long after the police and news crews had already arrived.
ALLEGED “EYEWITNESS” #3
The third individual labeled an “eyewitness” by Jamal’s attorneys is Dessie Hightower. Mr. Hightower states that he knew Mumia Abu-Jamal prior to the killing. Hightower gave a written statement to police immediately after the shooting and testified as a defense witness at the 1982 trial. In his written statement and his 1982 testimony, Hightower stated that at the time of the shooting he was located down the street over 60 yards away, behind a building in a parking lot, getting into a car with his friend, Robert Pigford. According to both his statement and his testimony, Hightower was initially unaware that what he heard were gunshots, saying to Pigford, “I think it’s firecrackers.” (N.T. 6/28/82, 28.122) He has always maintained that he never saw Officer Faulkner shot and that he has no idea what happened.
DESIE HIGHTOWER’S INITIAL STATEMENT
Desie Hightower gave his original statement to police the morning of the shooting at 5:10 AM, just an hour after the shooting. These are pertinent excerpts from Hightower’s statement to police.
Question: Mr. Hightower, will you go on in your own words and tell me what you know concerning the shooting of Officer Faulkner in the 1200 block of Locust Street a short while ago?
Answer: We, Robert Pigford and myself, were going to the club Whispers, to see if was still open. It was closed when we got there, around 3:35 AM. I turned the corner on 13th Street and I got to the parking lot entrance and I heard four or five shots go off. I went back around and peeked around the corner. I seen a blue Volkswagen with one black male sitting in it, possibly Jamaican. I seen a male run away wearing a red and black sweater. There was another male standing over the Police Officer, and he looked like he was in shock. I don’t believe he was the male that shot the Officer cause he just stood there. When I heard the gunshots I first ran, then I looked back and I seen the cop on the ground after the Officers got there. I did see the guy that ran and he looked Jamaican too. There was a guy in the blue Volkswagen and when the Police got there, they pulled him out and struck him and threw him in a wagon. The guy is in here now, he’s the one who was standing over the cop after he was shot. When the police got there that guy just backed off and stood against the wall. They, the police, took custody of him too. But I know he was not the guy who shot the cop.
Question: “The guy that you saw run off, did you see a gun in his hand?”
Answer: “No, I just seen him running.”
Question: “Which way did he go?”
Answer: “He ran down Locust Street, where the hotel is.”
Question: “Did you see the Officer pull his own gun?”
Answer: “No, he didn’t have time Officer. It was like a blind side hit. He was pulling this guy out of the car, that’s the last thing I seen. Evidently, he was so intent on this guy that he didn’t see the other guy run up.
Question: “Did you see the guy who shot the cop again?”
Answer: “No, I didn’t. I don’t even know if they got him or not.”
Question: “Do you think you will be able to identify the male you saw run off if you see him again?”
Answer: “I just seen the back of him. He had on dark colored pants and a red and black sweater, that’s all I seen. He was about 5’11” or 6′. The guy who was driving the car had to know him cause I don’t think he would just run over and shoot the cop. The guy that they brought in, in handcuffs, was just walking by. He was just like standing there in shock. I think he had to be just walking by.”
Desie Hightower Statement, 12-9-81, 5:10 AM
Later in his statement Desie Hightower identified the “guy who was just standing there” as William Cook.
It is clear from his statement, that Desie Hightower was not “on the street” and that he did not “see the real shooter run east on the south side of Locust Street to where an alleyway bisects Locust Street,” as Weinglass states in his writing and at his public presentations. In fact, Desie Hightower specifically states that he does not know who shot Officer Faulkner. Like Veronica Jones and Debra Kordansky, Desie Hightower simply states that he saw an unidentified man running after the police were already present.
WHAT DID DESIE HIGHTOWER’S
FRIEND ROBERT PIGFORD SEE?
As stated by Mr. Hightower, he was in the parking lot with his friend Robert Pigford when they heard shots fired. Pigford also gave a statement to police on the morning of the shooting. However, Robert Pigford was not called by either side to testify at the 1982 trial.
Robert Pigford gave his statement to Detective Raleigh Wicher at 5:20 AM, just 1 1/2 hours after the shooting. This is an excerpt from that statement pertinent to where Mr. Pigford was located and what he saw.
Question: “Where were you at the time of the shooting?”
Answer: “I was on Locust Street and I was going to the club Whispers. It was about 3:30 AM. I went to the door and tried the door but I couldn’t get in. That is when I looked and saw the cop car pulling over a blue Volkswagen. I didn’t pay it any attention at the time. I remember seeing the cop get out of his car and approach the Volkswagen. After he approached the Volkswagen I didn’t pay it much attention after that. I started going toward my car. My car was parked in the parking lot in the back of Whispers and on the side of the other club. The other club is Sizzlers. I was with my friend Desie Hightower. Both of us went back and I got in my car and turned on the ignition. Then I heard three shots at first. Then about four seconds after that I heard another one. Then about two seconds later I heard another shot. I got out of my car when I heard the three shots. Desie asked me what was that? Both of us went to the wall of the parking lot on the Locust Street side. I got to the wall first. I looked over the wall and I seen the police officer’s car. The lights were still flashing just like when he first pulled up. When I didn’t hear any more shots I ran from the wall and ran over to where the police officer was. I was right across the street from it all. I didn’t see the officer at first. He must have been lying on the ground and the car was blocking him. All I saw was the guy that police brought in here in handcuffs and wearing a big scarf, knitted hat that hangs over his hair and down the back. This guy [William Cook] was standing over the police officer. He looked like he was concerned and was trying to help. Then a police officer pulled up coming up a one-way street, Locust Street, from 12th. He yelled for everybody to get away from the police officer. He yelled this a few times. Then the guy that was bent over the police officer got up and stayed right there. Then other police officers came from all over. They put the police officer in the back of the wagon and rushed him to the hospital.
After that I noticed this other guy lying on the ground and the police was around him and was hitting him with black jacks. Then they drug him to a wagon and put him in the back and kept him in the wagon. Then they brought this white guy with the trench coat on to the wagon and let him look inside. They let us all look inside. Then they closed the door and told us not to go anywhere that they needed us.
Robert Pigford Statement, 12-9-81, 5:20 AM
Robert Pigford’s statement clearly supports the location that Desie Hightower placed them in. They were in a parking lot, behind a building, entering Pigford’s car. They were not, “on the street” as Weinglass claims. Nor did they see “the real shooter run away.”
DESIE HIGHTOWER’S 1982 TESTIMONY
Desie Hightower was called as a defense witness in 1982. When asked where he was when the shooting started Mr. Hightower stated:
“I was in the parking lot. It’s an old wall there at the parking lot, and I was looking around the wall.”
N.T. 6/28/82, 28.127
When asked to describe what he had seen Mr. Hightower stated:
“We were in the parking lot [around the corner] getting into the car. I heard a series of three consecutive gunshots, then a pause, and one. All together I guess, it was five bullets.”
N.T. 6/28/82, 28.122
Having stated that he and Mr. Pigford didn’t have a direct line of vision to the crime scene, because they had sought cover behind a wall when the shooting started and that they remained there until the shooting stopped, Assistant DA Joe McGill asked what they did after they realized shots were fired. Hightower testified:
“The fifth round went off, I looked around the corner to see if I seen anything happening.”
N.T. 6/28/82, 28.122
Then prosecutor McGill asks Hightower if he saw anyone run form the scene.
McGill: “Before the police officers arrived did you see anyone leaving the scene?”
Hightower: “I had seen somebody with a red and black sweater on. It was so – it was a very brief – I’d say I glanced for maybe a second or two.”
N.T. 6/28/82, 28.125
Hightower was asked about the person he saw running and he states that it could have been a woman.
“The first [person] was going in the opposite direction from where the incident happened at. It was apparently the friend had realized, it could have been a woman with braids in her hair. I really didn’t pay that [person] much attention. The person looked to be about the height of five nine, five ten, somewhere around there.”
N.T. 6/28/82, 28.125
While testifying in 1982 Desie Hightower stated that police at the scene asked him to look at Mumia Abu-Jamal as he lay in the police van and they asked if he could identify Jamal as the person who shot Faulkner.
Hightower: “[They asked], Is this the one who shot the officer?”
Hightower: “I couldn’t say, because I didn’t see the officer actually shot.”
N.T. 6/28/82, 28.131
THE PIGFORD, HIGHTOWER, JONES CONNECTION
So, having waited for some time after the shooting stopped before looking around the corner towards the crime scene, Desie Hightower states that for a split second, he saw the back of “somebody” who was running from the general area of the shooting. Mr. Hightower never claimed that this person was involved in the crime in any way. None of the eyewitnesses saw the gunman run away — they all saw him sit down on the curb, which is where Jamal was sitting when the police arrived.
Furthermore, that if the person that Desie Hightower claims to have seen running went — as Weinglass writes — “east on the south side of Locust Street to where an alleyway bisects Locust,” then that person would have run directly into Veronica Jones.
Ms. Jones said that, like Hightower and Pigford, she too waited for several minutes after the final shots were fired, and then turned the corner and looked up Locust Street from east to west — i.e., back at the location in which Hightower and Pigford place themselves. Therefore, she should have been face-to-face with the running person that Hightower claimed to have seen. But throughout all of her revised statements, Veronica Jones never claimed that she saw anyone running towards her.
DESIE HIGHTOWER’S RUNNING FIGURE
DESCRIBES MUMIA ABU-JAMAL
Something else is interesting about Mr. Hightower’s account — something that Leonard Weinglass and Stuart Taylor don’t reveal. Desie Hightower’s description of the person that he saw running, a “black man with dark colored pants, red and black sweater, 5’11, and dreadlocks,” was an exact composite of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Jamal did run from the scene — that is, he tried to. As Mr. Chobert said, “he didn’t get far.” He ran a few steps and had to sit down on the curb as the gunshot wound to the chest from Officer Faulkner’s gun took effect. Hightower, from his vantage point on the northwest corner of 13th and Locust, was looking over the top of the three cars parked along the south side of Locust Street, including Officer Faulkner’s patrol car which still had its dome lights flashing. Hightower was in a position from which he could have seen Jamal begin to flee, but failed to see that he then sat down on the sidewalk. Three of the eyewitnesses to the shooting, who kept the gunman in sight (Chobert, White and Harkins, each to be discussed later in this section) testified that the gunman ran a short distance from the scene, going east on the south side of Locust Street, before he fell.
Ultimately, all of this only further undermines Hightower’s credibility. The reason is that Hightower, by his own account, did not look at the scene in time to see Jamal try to flee. According to him, his first post-shooting view of the scene occurred only after additional police vehicles had arrived.
DESSIE HIGHTOWER WAS NOT AN EYEWITNESS
In 1995, Assistant District Attorney Joey Grant questioned Robert Greer, Jamal’s investigator, about a tape-recorded interview he had conducted with Desie Hightower prior to the 1982 trial, at a time when the events surrounding the shooting would have been fresh in his mind. In that taped interview Hightower said that he saw a person running only after several police vehicles had already arrived:
ADA Grant: “Wait a minute. The crime scene is almost at the midpoint directly between 12th and 13th [streets]?
Greer: “Almost, yes.”
Grant: “And he [the person Mr. Hightower saw running] is not even at 13th yet?”
Grant: “So he [the person Hightower saw running] is more than half-a-block away [from the crime scene]?”
Greer: “All right.”
Grant: “All right. [In Mr. Hightower’s statement to you he stated:] I walked towards Whispers and by then it was flooded with other police officers and I saw somebody running past the hotel. I don’t know if they were running because of gunshots or what. Now he [Mr. Hightower] didn’t say I saw somebody running from the crime scene did he?”
Greer: “Not in that description, no.”
N.T. 8/1/96, 224-25
In his later testimony Desie Hightower changed his story and said that he saw someone running before police arrived. He claimed that he had been mistaken when he told Greer he had seen this person after police had already arrived. But Mr. Hightower did not realize his supposed “mistake” until after he had learned that the version he had given Greer was less than helpful to Jamal.
JAMAL’S LAWYERS AGAIN
MISREPRESENT THE RECORD
Again we find Jamal’s lawyers misrepresenting testimony to suit their needs by stating that Desie Hightower was “on the street” and that he “saw the shooter run east on the south side of Locust to where an alley bisects Locust.” They simply ignore the facts contained in Hightower’s statements and testimony.
ALLEGED “EYEWITNESS” #4
As noted earlier, Jamal’s supporters, his attorneys and HBO-TV have conveniently adopted the testimony of a man who is the only witness who actually claims that he saw another man shoot Faulkner and run away.
William Singeltary gave a statement to police immediately after event, in which he said that he had not seen the shooting. He was not called by the defense to testify at the original trial.
Singletary was the featured “eyewitness” in the 1996 HBO-TV docudrama, “A Case for Reasonable Doubt”. Months before they went to production, Leonard Weinglass, Jamal’s own attorney, had stated that William Singletary was not a credible witness. Yet HBO chose to use Singletary’s absurd comments to support their mistake-riddled docudrama anyway.
While addressing the court in 1995, Leonard Weinglass actually admitted that William Singletary was a witness who was not to be believed.
“There is one additional witness who is referred to in the Petition [for appeal] which Counsel has had now for two months. And this is a witness [William Dales Singletary] who is a person whose recollection of what happened on the night in question we believe to be not entirely accurate. We believe his recollection today is not entirely accurate. We believe his recollection which was given in a sworn statement in 1990 was not entirely accurate…”
N.T. 8/11/95, 9-10
Despite his admitted knowledge that Singletary is just not believable, Weinglass, as well as HBO and Jamal’s supporters, are happy to embrace selected segments of Singletary’s incredible story as key “evidence” to further their myth that someone else shot Officer Faulkner and ran away.
WILLIAM SINGLETARY’S 1995 PCRA TESTIMONY
At the 1995 PCRA hearing, Singletary did, in fact, state that he saw another man shoot Officer Faulkner then run away. There are however, numerous impossibilities to the events of December 9, 1981 as Singletary describes them. Additionally, Singletary’s 1995 sworn testimony deviates significantly from a sworn statement he had given to Jamal’s attorneys in 1990.
According to Singletary’s version of events, Officer Faulkner had already been shot “in the eye” by another man when Jamal approached him to “offer assistance”. Singletary states that the shooter had exited the car Officer Faulkner had pulled over, making the “real killer” a passenger in the car that was being driven by Jamal’s brother, William Cook. Singletary claimed that Cook’s mystery passenger approached Faulkner, fired one shot “into his eye”, then threw the gun back into Cook’s car and ran away down the street before police arrived.
According to Singletary, as Jamal approached “to offer assistance,” Officer Faulkner — who had already been shot in the head and was lying on the sidewalk against a wall — suddenly raised his hand and shot Jamal in the chest. Singletary claimed that he personally approached Officer Faulkner at this point and heard him speak. He claims he heard Officer Faulkner say,
“Get Maureen, and get the children.”
N.T. 8/11/95, 270
While “Maureen” was Officer Faulkner’s wife, Officer Faulkner and his wife had no children.
In his 1995 testimony, Singletary also stated that he saw Jamal that night wearing a long and flowing Arab-style “safari suit.” (N.T. 8/11/95, 270)
He claimed that within seconds after the shooting stopped, he watched as “captains and lieutenants got there before the police,” appearing from the shadows of the parking lot across the street where Jamal’s cab was parked.
Amazingly, Singletary claims these Captains and Lieutenants appeared not in cars, but on foot, from the shadows of the parking lot across the street, where Mumia Abu-Jamal’s taxi was parked. When regular police officers arrived, Singletary claimed, these captains and lieutenants “disappeared.” (N.T. 8/11/95, 295)
Additionally, Singletary was the only person among dozens of people at the crime scene that night to witness a helicopter, “circling overhead” illuminating the area immediately after the crime. (N.T. 8/11/95, 294)
IS PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE
What HBO and Leonard Weinglass fail to discuss is the fact that the events testified to by Singletary defy physical facts.
Both the prosecution and defense medical experts agree that Officer Faulkner died instantly from his head wound. Therefore, Faulkner couldn’t have spoken to anyone, nor could he have raised his arm and shot Jamal in the chest as he approached “to offer assistance,” as Singletary claimed.
Singletary said that William Cook’s passenger threw his gun next to the Volkswagen driven by Cook. But no such gun was found.
Singletary couldn’t explain how Officer Faulkner was shot in the back.
Singletary said that Faulkner was shot in the face from a distance of five to ten feet. In fact, the ballistics evidence established that he was shot in the face from a distance of less than 18 inches.
Singletary saw Jamal wearing an Arab-style “safari suit.” In fact, Jamal wore a pair of normal pants, a shirt and a jacket.
Singletary saw a helicopter shining a spotlight on the scene. Out of well over a dozen people who saw the shooting or its immediate aftermath, Singletary alone was the only one who claimed to have seen this. There was, in fact, no helicopter.
If you chose to accept Singletary’s version of events, as HBO does, one other amazing point is evident. According to Singletary, Officer Faulkner’s “real killer” was actually a third person who got out of the car driven by Jamal’s brother, William Cook. If this were true, do you think Cook would have mentioned it some time in the past nineteen years in which his brother has been waiting to be executed for the murder?
WHAT SINGLETARY SAID AT
THE TIME OF THE SHOOTING
At the 1995 PCRA hearing Highway Patrol Officer Vernon Jones stated that he saw Singletary at the scene that morning. Singletary had admitted that Officer Jones was a friend of his that he knew from his work as a tow truck operator. Officer Jones testified that, after police had already secured the crime scene, Singletary approached him and asked him what had happened. Officer Jones told Singletary that a cop had been shot. Singletary commented to Officer Jones, “I heard some shots but I thought they were firecrackers.” (N.T. 8/14/95, 21) Officer Jones asked Singletary “if he had seen the shooting and he answered no.” (N.T. 8/14/95, 21) This testimony verifies that William Singletary never saw Officer Faulkner being shot.
NOTE: Jamal’s supporters and William Singletary claim that the police intimidated Singletary so that he would not offer his helpful testimony. For more information about the alleged intimidation of William Singletary go to Myth #6.
ROBERT CHOBERT —
WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION
The final person who supposedly “saw the shooter run away, east on the south side of Locust Street”, was Robert Chobert. Both the defense and the prosecution agree that Chobert was one of the closest individuals to the shooting. Both sides also agree that Chobert was an actual eyewitness to the shooting. Robert Chobert gave an initial statement to police just minutes after the shooting. Chobert testified at the original trial and again at the 1995 PCRA hearing.
But Chobert was a prosecution eyewitness. He has consistently and unequivocally said that he saw Jamal shoot the officer to death.
For Jamal’s supporters to try to use Robert Chobert to bolster their “Running Man Myth” borders on the comical.
FIRST STATEMENT TO POLICE
From the first moments of the case, Mr. Chobert identified Jamal as the killer. This is demonstrated by the testimony of Inspector Alphonse Giordano at the 1982 pretrial suppression motion:
McGill: “Was anybody outside, any civilian, taken to the wagon?”
Giordano: “Oh, yes. There was a cab driver, a white cab driver.”
McGill: “All right. And, tell us about that. What did you observe there?”
Giordano: “The white cab driver stated that the man that shot the policeman ran away, and he was a Move member, and I said, “What do you mean, a MOVE member?” He said, “He had the hair, the funny hair.” And at that point, somebody said, “We have in the back of the wagon a man with dread locks.”
McGill: “OK, and did he identify this defendant?”
Giordano: “Yes, he did.”
McGill: “All right. And what did he say?”
Giordano: “As soon as the doors were opened up and he saw this gentleman, he said, “That’s the man. He shot the policeman.”
N.T. 6/1/82, 70-71
ROBERT CHOBERT’S FIRST
RECORDED STATEMENT TO POLICE
Robert Chobert gave a written statement to Detective Raleigh Wicher at 4:25 AM, which was approximately 30 minutes after the shooting. At that same time, Michael Scanlan and Cynthia White were separately giving their statements to different police officers out of each others presence. This is what Mr. Chobert said:
Question: “Were you present when P/O Faulkner was shot?”
Question: “Did you see who shot him?”
Question: “Who shot him?”
Answer: “A black male. He has knotty hair like the MOVE members and its long, he is dark complexioned and he is kind of heavy set. He was about six feet tall and he was wearing a light tan shirt and jeans.”
Question: “Will you go on in your own words and tell me what you know about this shooting?”
Answer: “I was coming from the direction of Broad Street and I crossed 13th. I was in the right hand lane. I stopped as soon as I crossed 13th Street and I was letting out a fare, it was a lady. She got out and walked back toward 13th and Broad St. I was writing down on my pad how much the fare was. Then I heard a shot. I looked up and I saw the cop who was on the pavement next to his car, his car was parked a little in front of my car. I saw the cop fall to the ground when I looked up and I saw this black male stand over the cop and shoot him a couple more times. Then I saw the black male start running towards 12th Street. He didn’t get far, maybe thirty or thirty-five steps and then he fell. I got out of my cab and started walking over to the cop. When I got up to him, all of the sudden all of the cops came and told me to get back. Then I got back in my cab and I was getting ready to leave, but they had me blocked in.”
Question: “Did you see what happened to the black male that you saw shot the cop?”
Answer: “Yes, they got him. The cops got him and stuck him in the back of a wagon.”
Question: “Did you see the gun the a man used to shoot the cop?”
Answer: “No, I was too far away. I just saw him stand over the cop and pointing and I heard shots.”
Question: “Did you see anyone else do anything to the cop?”
Answer: “I saw another guy running, but the cops got him too. I’m not sure he was involved.”
Question: Describe the male that you saw running and then being grabbed by the cops?”
Answer: “He was about 5’6”. He was wearing a red and green hat, a beanie, a long heavy dark colored coat. He had like a full beard.”
Question: “Did this male run along with the male that did the shooting?”
Answer: “No. He started running as soon as the shots were fired and then he got about half a block away. Then all the cop cars came and he just stopped.”
Robert Chobert Statement, 12/9/81, 4:25 AM
At the scene Chobert identified the man who tried to run, but fell, and was then put in the back of the wagon — Jamal — as the shooter. The other man, who began to run but stopped when the police came, was Cook.
There was no fleeing phantom.
CHOBERT’S TESTIMONY AT
THE 1982 MOTION TO SUPPRESS
After giving his statement and prior to the start of the 1982 trial, Robert Chobert testified at the Motion to Suppress. At this hearing, Mumia Abu-Jamal was representing himself and he personally questioned many of the witnesses who would later testify at the trial. While Jamal was questioning Robert Chobert, the following exchange took place:
Jamal: “You did see the cop being shot – the man shoot the cop?”
Chobert: “Yeah, I said I did, didn’t I?”
Jamal: “Well, you sure did. And you saw me in the back of the wagon didn’t you?”
Chobert: “Yes, I did.”
Jamal: “What made you certain it [I] was the same man?”
Chobert: “Because I saw you, buddy. I saw you shoot him!”
Jamal: “You saw me –“
Chobert: “I saw you shoot him, and I never took my eyes off you until you got in the back of the wagon.”
N.T. 6/2/82, 2.74-5
ROBERT CHOBERT’S 1982 TRIAL TESTIMONY
Robert Chobert was sitting in his taxicab, parked approximately 30 feet behind Officer Faulkner’s police car. While testifying at the 1982 trial, Mr. Chobert’s description of events was as follows:
“I heard a shot. I looked up, I saw the cop fall to the ground, and then I saw Jamal standing over him and firing some more shots into him.”
N.T. 6/19/82, 210
Chobert further stated:
“Then I saw him [Jamal] walking back about ten feet and he just fell by the curb.”
N.T. 6/19/82, 211
The curb is where the police apprehended Mr. Jamal only moments after the shooting.
Chobert is also asked to physically identify Mumia Abu-Jamal as the shooter in the courtroom:
McGill: “Would you look around the courtroom and tell me if you see if he is in here the Courtroom?”
Chobert: “Yes, he is.”
McGill: “Will you point him out?”
Chobert: “He’s right there. (Indicating Jamal)”
McGill: “Is there any doubt in your mind at all that that man is the man who shot the officer?”
Chobert: “That’s the man all right. I got no doubt.”
N.T. 6/19/82, 213
In 1982, Chobert was asked if there were any people involved besides Jamal and Cook:
Joe McGill: “Other than those two males [Jamal and William Cook] and the Police Officer, was there anyone [else] there?”
N.T. 6/19/82, 213
Chobert was also asked if he watched Jamal from the time of the shooting, until he saw him in the police wagon:
McGill: “From the time you saw the defendant [Jamal] shooting the Police Officer until the time that the defendant was placed in the [police] wagon, did you ever lose sight of the defendant?”
Chobert: “No, I didn’t.”
N.T. 6/2/82, 2.59
Despite what Jamal’s attorneys and Stuart Taylor portray outside the courtroom, on cross-examination, Anthony Jackson did an outstanding job of trying to attack Chobert’s credibility regarding the differences in his June 1982 testimony, as it compared to his December 1981 statement to police. Jackson questioned Chobert about his description of the shooter, what the shooter did after the police arrived, about William Cook and what he did, and finally about his ability to identify the person who shot Officer Daniel Faulkner. Chobert acknowledged that he might have been unsure about minor details, such as the distances each person ran, the exact color of clothing worn by each man, precise height, size, and weight, and so on. However, he repeatedly told Jackson that he had clearly seen Jamal shoot Faulkner, that he focused most of his attention on Jamal during and after the shooting, and that he never lost sight of Jamal until the police arrived, struggled with him, handcuffed him and carried him away. Chobert was unwavering:
Jackson: “Did you see a gun?”
Chobert: “No, I didn’t see the gun.”
Jackson: “Did you see a gun?”
Jackson: “Did you see the flash of a weapon?”
Chobert: “No, but I heard shots.”
Jackson: “You heard shots?”
Chobert: “And I saw him pointing.”
Jackson: “Pardon me?”
Chobert: “I saw him pointing his hand, too.”
Jackson: “So you assume the shot must have come from the man with his hand out?”
Chobert: “Because there were only two guys there.”
N.T. 6/19/82, 229-30
ROBERT CHOBERT — MYTH VERSUS REALITY
Despite his damning testimony, Leonard Weinglass still pretends to embrace Robert Chobert outside the courtroom as supposedly having said that the real shooter ran away. Inside the courtroom, however, Mr. Weinglass argues that Mr. Chobert can’t be believed because he had a “deal” with the District Attorney. At another point, Jamal’s lawyers have actually argued that Robert Chobert didn’t see the shooting at all! In the 1995 closing argument, Jamal’s lawyer states:
“…there is no evidence in the record that supports that he [Chobert] actually saw either Mr. Jamal being shot, or he actually saw Mr. Jamal, shooting, shooting Officer Faulkner.”
N.T. 9/11/95, 27
Nothing could more clearly illustrate the fact that there is no outright lie which is so blatant, absurd, or inconsistent that Jamal’s lawyers will not utter it. In his statements given immediately after the shooting, before the police could have had any opportunity to pressure him (and long before the police could have known what to pressure him to say), Mr. Chobert unequivocally said that there were only two men involved in the shooting, Mumia Abu-Jamal (the shooter) and William Cook (the driver of the Volkswagen). At all times, Chobert has said that police at the crime scene apprehended both the shooter and the other man. He never said that “the shooter fled up an alley” or that “the shooter ran away”.
As Mr. Chobert said on cross-examination in 1982:
“I know who shot the cop and I ain’t going to forget it.”
N.T. 6/19/82, 256
WHAT THE EYEWITNESSES REALLY SAW
It is useful to contrast the various “running man” theories hatched by Jamal’s “scheme team” with the testimony of the actual eyewitnesses to the murder.
Michael Scanlan was visiting Philadelphia from out of state. He was sitting in his car at the intersection of 13th and Locust, just 70-80 feet away from the spot where Officer Faulkner fell. Mr. Scanlan witnessed the entire murder, beginning to end. He left the crime scene to find help for Officer Faulkner and returned to the scene after he found a police vehicle and told them about the shooting.
MICHAEL SCANLAN’S ORIGINAL STATEMENT
Michael Scanlan gave a written statement to Police Officer Margerum at 4:24 AM at the Police Administration building, about 30 minutes after the killing. He did so simultaneously with Cynthia White and Robert Harkins, who gave their statements to different officers in different locations.
These are the pertinent questions and responses taken from Michael Scanlan’s 12/9/81 statement.
Question: “Will you please go in your own words and tell me what if anything you know concerning the shooting of a Police Officer which occurred a short time ago this evening?”
Answer: “I was coming down Locust St. in my auto, having just dropped a friend off at the Academy of Music at Broad and Locust. I had just stopped at the red light where the club Whispers is located. I noticed the Officer approach a black guy standing outside a car, in front of it. The Officer asked him a few questions and then he spread the guy across the car with his arms out, and the guy turned back around and swung at the Officer. The Officer pulled his billy club out and swung hard at the guy, hitting him several times on the arm and the back. The guy was bigger than the Officer. Then I noticed another black guy come running across the street towards the Officer and the guy he was hitting. Then the guy running across the street pulled out a pistol and started shooting at the Officer. He had the gun pointed at the Officer. He fired while he was running at the Officer once, and the Officer fell down. Then he stood over the Officer and he fired three or four more shots point blank at the Officer on the ground. I looked around for another Policeman and didn’t see one, so I took off in my car to look for one. I found one on Walnut Street about a block towards Broad. I told them I had just seen an Officer get shot and told them where. I followed them down in my car. I lost them but I just went back down there.”
Michael Scanlan Statement, 12-9-81, 4:24 AM
When asked to describe the killer, Scanlan said:
“He did have the same type of hair style, like the “Move” hair style. The guy that shot the Officer [had] an either red and yellow, or red yellow and black bright colored sweater on. He had a cap on too. The sweater was very distinguishable.”
Michael Scanlan Statement, 12-9-81, 4:25 AM
This is an exact description of the clothing and hairstyle worn by Mumia Abu-Jamal when he was found sitting on the curb near Officer Faulkner’s body.
MICHAEL SCANLAN’S SECOND STATEMENT
On December 11, 1981, Michael Scanlan was interviewed a second time. He again gave an accurate physical description of William Cook, who was repeatedly described by Scanlan as “the driver of the car stopped by the officer.” In addition to correctly identifying William Cook, Scanlan also described the clothes the shooter was wearing, and described how he had run from the parking lot across the street:
Question: “Can you describe the second male who ran from the parking lot?”
Answer: “I really only saw him from the side. Negro male, about 5’11” maybe about 180lbs. I couldn’t say if he had a beard, I saw long sideburns, dark skin, wearing a black knit cap, like over the back of his head, holding his hair in. He had a long-sleeved sweater on. I think it was red and black, or yellow and black.”
Michael Scanlan Statement, 12-11-81
MICHAEL SCANLAN’S 1982 TESTIMONY
Michael Scanlan testified extensively at the 1982 trial. He first testified to seeing William Cook attack Officer Faulkner (See Myth #8).
McGill: “What did you observe the officer and this man [William Cook] do?”
Scanlan: “They were talking. The black man spread-eagle on front of the car, [the Volkswagen] and while he was spread-eagle, he swung around and struck the officer in the face with his fist.”
McGill: “All right. And at that time what then did you observe?”
Scanlan: “At that point the officer reacted, trying to subdue the gentleman, and during that time another man came running out from the parking lot across the street towards the officer and the gentleman [William Cook] in front of the police car.”
McGill: “And what happened?”
Scanlan: “I saw his [Jamal’s] hand come up, like this, and I heard a gunshot when the man got to the policeman and the gentleman he had been talking to. Then the officer fell down on the sidewalk and the man [Jamal] walked over and was standing at his feet and shot him twice, I saw two flashes.”
N.T. 6/25/82, 8.6-7
Then Mr. Scanlan offered his most compelling testimony. When asked by the prosecutor, Joe McGill, whether or not he thought the shots hit Officer Faulkner, Mr. Scanlan replied:
McGill: “Do you know whether or not any of those shots hit the officer?”
Scanlan: “Yes, sir. I could see that one hit the officer in the face. Because his body jerked, his whole body jerked.”
McGill: “His body jerked?”
Scanlan: “Yes, sir.”
McGill: “Where was he then, when his body jerked, after the shot?
Scanlan: “Where was the officer?”
Scanlan: “He was lying on the sidewalk, face up.”
N.T. 6/25/82, 8.8
Also during his 1982 testimony, Scanlan stated that in response to William Cook’s punch to the face, Officer Faulkner had struck Cook on the shoulders:
“Three times at the most”.
N.T. 6/25/82, 8.25
Scanlan was asked which direction Officer Faulkner was facing when the first shots were fired. He replied that Faulkner had his back turned to Jamal as he fired.
McGill: “Now, what did you do after you saw the officer shot? First of all, if you recall, in what direction was the officer’s back to the man who was running across the street, and who shot him?”
Scanlan: “His back was towards him.”
McGill: “Was towards the man who shot him?”
Scanlan: “Yes, sir.”
N.T. 6/25/82, 8.11
Scanlan acknowledged that he was too far from the scene to see the actual gun in the shooter’s hands. However, he also stated that he saw him with his hands clasped together, the motion of the shots being fired, and the flash from the gun.
Jackson: “…You didn’t see a gun in his hands?”
Scanlan: “Not until he got over — all I saw was the hands together, the motion like this.”
McGill: “Indicating the index finger pointed forward, your Honor, sweeping motion from his leg, throughout the front of his body.”
N.T. 6/25/82, 2.27
“CREDIBLE BUT CONFUSED?” YOU BE THE JUDGE.
In his article written for The American Lawyer, Stuart Taylor championed the “theory” that Officer Faulkner saw Jamal coming, shot Jamal, and then turned his back, after which Jamal shot him. The one, small difficulty with this “theory,” of course, is that it is contradicted by the testimony of every person who saw the event.
Taylor tries to dismiss Michael Scanlan as “credible but confused” about what he had seen the morning of December 9, 1981. But Scanlan testified that he was not confused in the least. He stated that he was quite clear about what he had seen, and was not “confused about the events,” despite the chaos occuring in front of Officer Faulkner’s patrol car when Jamal arrived and started shooting:
Jackson: “So would it be fair to say, with refreshing your recollection with that [written] statement, that the officer did indeed fall after the first bullet, after the first shot?”
Scanlan: “He didn’t fall immediately down on the sidewalk. It was a few seconds. There was confusion when all three of them were in front of the car. He didn’t fall directly down, as a result of the first shot.”
N.T. 6/25/82, 8.33
To support his “confusion” argument, Taylor points out that, in his second interview with police on December 11, 1981, Michael Scanlan said:
“One of the two black males [Cook or Jamal] was standing over the officer, I don’t know which one it was, then I saw two or three flashes, and heard the shots, I saw the gun in one of the males’ hands, but don’t know which male it was.”
Taylor argues that this statement — in which Scanlan merely states that he did not know the identities of the two men involved, who were obviously Jamal and his brother — shows that Scanlan was “confused” about which of them shot Officer Faulkner. Therefore, Taylor infers, Scanlan’s entire account should be disregarded. Taylor rejects Scanlan’s later testimony at trial, which perfectly clarified this point, as simply the result of coaching by the prosecution. He writes, “By the time of his June 25, 1982 testimony, however, Scanlan’s account was less messy: he said that a man (concededly Jamal) had run at Faulkner from behind, and that “I saw a hand come up, like this, and I heard a gunshot. There was another gunshot when the man got to the policeman, and the gentleman he had been talking to. And then the officer fell down on the sidewalk and the man walked over and was standing at his feet and shot him twice, I saw two flashes.” Taylor goes on to write, “The man walked over … and shot him twice? Which man? How could Scanlan, who admitted on 12-11-81, that he had no idea which man it was – be sure in June 1982 that it was Jamal?”
But either it is Taylor who is confused, or he is deliberately playing dumb to bolster his theory. It is perfectly clear even from Scanlan’s pretrial account who did what. Even if Scanlan did not know their identities, his statements specify that one man was being arrested by the officer (Cook), and that the man who “ran up” (Jamal) shot him. Unless Taylor wants to pretend that Scanlan was claiming that Cook did the shooting (something no one has ever suggested as a rational possibility), there is simply no ambiguity at all. This is made all the more clear from Scanlan’s testimony on cross-examination:
Scanlan: “Yes. I couldn’t give either of the two names.”
Jackson: “Did anyone ask you for names?”
Scanlan: “No. The night of the shooting when I gave my statement I believe I said that the guy who ran across the parking lot. But then a few days later after it being all in the papers and on TV, I couldn’t give the name, I couldn’t identify anybody and still can’t [by name]. That’s why I wasn’t sure which –“
Jackson: “Did the police ever ask you for a name?”
Jackson: “What made you think they wanted you to identify them by name?”
Scanlan: “I guess so that I could identify that particular person. See, I could only identify them as to clothing.”
N.T. 6/25/82, 8.50-3
Taylor forgets to note that in his December 11, 1981 statement (i.e., the same one that Taylor says shows Scanlan was “confused”), Scanlan correctly identified the shooter by the clothing Jamal wore. On 12-11-81, having just asked Scanlan to identify “the driver of the Volkswagen,” the interviewing officer asks the following question:
Question: “Describe the second male that ran [from the parking lot] towards the officer?”
Answer: “I really only saw him from the side. Negro male, about 5’11” maybe about 150 pounds, I couldn’t tell if he had a beard, dark skin, wearing a black knit cap like over the back of his head, holding the hair in. He had a long sweater on I think it was red and black, or yellow and blue. I don’t remember what the color of his shoes and pants were.
Michael Scanlan Statement, 12/11/81
Scanlan testified at trial consistently with his statement:
Jackson: “By the way, do you know whether it was the driver [Cook] or the man who ran from the parking lot who fired the shots?”
Scanlan: “It was the man that ran from the parking lot.”
Jackson: “Do you remember telling the police — and you can refer to your [12-11-81] statement, sir. Could I see it and point it out for you? Page 7 of the hand-written statement. Please read out loud, the question and answer.”
Scanlan: “[Question:] Did you see this male shoot the officer?” “[Answer:] No, I didn’t follow the flash back to the gun, but when I saw the guy running across the lot towards the cop, I knew he was going to help the guy that was getting hit from the billy club.”
Jackson: “Okay, So would it be fair to say based on the fact that you gave that statement on December 11, 1981, when you were asked specifically did you see who fired the shot, you said no?”
Scanlan: “Well, what I meant, I couldn’t identify them. I was worried about identifying the person [in the second interview]. As of now, I still can’t identify them [by name], only by clothing.”
Jackson: “You were asked earlier in that interview, as well as on December 9th, if you could identify anybody and you told them no, right?”
Jackson: “That question specifically asked, “did you see who fired,” not if you could describe, not if you could identify [them]. It said, “Did you see who fired the shot.”
Scanlan: “Well, I saw — I saw the firer of the shot, because I saw the right hand extended, and I saw two flashes, and the officer’s body jerk.”
Jackson: “All right.”
N.T. 6/25/82, 8.34-36
Stuart Taylor might be confused, but Michael Scanlan was not. Scanlan has consistently stated that the shooter was “the man who ran from the parking lot” who “was wearing a red and blue striped sweater.” Only one man on the face of the earth fits that description — Mumia Abu Jamal.
MICHAEL SCANLAN’S MAP
In his article, “Guilty and Framed,” Stuart Taylor displays how ridiculous support for Jamal’s innocence and the Running Man Myth can get when he writes, “Scanlan then drew a diagram that clearly showed Faulkner facing Jamal as Jamal approached the scene.” Again we find one of Jamal’s supporters building a case out of thin air, in order to support the Running Man Myth. Taylor clearly misinforms his readers. The diagram he refers to is reproduced in Leonard Weinglass’ own book, “Race For Justice.” Weinglass too argues that this diagram clearly shows Faulkner facing Jamal, as Jamal ran at him from the parking lot. But the crude, hand-drawn diagram drawn by Scanlan was done for the simple purpose of showing where each person was standing in relation to the entire crime scene. It does not purport to show where each person was facing moment by moment, any more than it purports to be drawn to scale, or to accurately show distances or compass headings. In fact, the drawing uses stick figures. There is no way to tell which way any of the little stick-people is “facing.”
In contending that this drawing “clearly shows that Faulkner was facing Jamal,” Weinglass was simply indulging in one of his usual whoppers. He, at least, has the excuse of being Jamal’s lawyer. Taylor, a journalist, was either incredibly gullible or just unwilling to take the trouble to look at the drawing. Michael Scanlan’s diagram in no way establishes which way Officer Faulkner was facing when Jamal approached him. Scanlan’s statements and testimony, which Taylor totally ignores, leave no doubt that Jamal came from behind and shot his victim in the back.
Cynthia White, a black woman, was in the area while working as a prostitute and saw the shooting from beginning to end. She identified Jamal as the shooter at the scene and gave a written statement at 4:15 AM, some twenty minutes after the murder.
CYNTHIA WHITE’S 12-9-81 STATEMENT TO POLICE
In her original statement to police Cynthia White said:
“I saw a Police Officer pull over a Volkswagen. One guy was in the Volkswagen. The Police Officer got out of the car and went over to the Volkswagen. When he got to the Volkswagen, the driver of the Volkswagen got out. They both walked towards the Police car. They got to the front of the car. Another guy came running out of the parking lot on Locust St. He had a hand gun his hand. He fired the gun at the Police Officer about four or five times. The Police Officer fell to the ground. I started screaming. The guy who shot the Police Officer was sitting on the curb. The guy who got out of the Volkswagen was standing there. A Police wagon came from 12th St. over Locust St. One of the Officers got out of the wagon and went over to the Police Officer. Other Police Officers arrived. I was trying to tell them who shot the Officer, but they wouldn’t listen. The Police handcuffed the man who was sitting on the curb, the man who shot the Officer. Then they took the man who got out of the Volkswagen.”
Cynthia White Statement, 12-9-81, 4:15AM
Cynthia White is asked to describe the man who shot Officer Faulkner.
Question: “Can you describe the man who fired the gun?”
Answer: “He was a black male, short, in his 20’s, and he also wore his hair in dreadlocks.”
White was asked how close the killer had come to Faulkner before he fired, and — less than an hour after the shooting — correctly identified what ballistics tests would later confirm. The killer had fired from a distance of less than two feet. and that Jamal’s five shot revolver had been fired five times. Cynthia White’s account paralleled what the four other eyewitnesses saw, including that Jamal ended up sitting on the curb after firing the fatal shot.
Question: “How far away from the police Officer was the man, when he fired the gun?”
Answer: “A couple of feet.”
Question: “How many times did he fire the gun?”
Answer: “Four or five times.”
Question: “What did the man do after he fired the gun at the Police Officer?”
Answer: “He sat down on the curb.”
Cynthia White statement, 12-9-81
CYNTHIA WHITE’S 1982 TESTIMONY
Cynthia White’s 1982 testimony spanned nearly two full days. Anthony Jackson subjected White to lengthy cross-examination regarding most of the issues argued by Leonard Weinglass today, some 19 years after the killing. Hour after hour, Jackson split hairs with White over her statements and her testimony. He went over her many past arrests for prostitution, and claimed that she had a “deal” with the DA and the police. Her testimony was unwavering.
In her 1982 trial testimony, Cynthia White stated:
“The policeman got out of the car and walked over — started walking over towards the Volkswagen. The driver of the Volkswagen got out of the car. A few words passed. They both walked between the police car and the Volkswagen up to the sidewalk. A few words passes again between them. The driver of the Volkswagen then struck the police officer with a closed fist to his cheek, and the police turned the driver of the Volkswagen around in a position to handcuff him.
I looked across the street in the parking lot and I noticed he [Jamal] was running out of the parking lot and he was practically on the curb when he shot two times at the Police Officer. It was in the back. The Police Officer turned around and staggered and seemed like he was grabbing for something. Then he fell. Then he [Jamal] came on top of the Police Officer and shot some more times. After that he went over and he slouched down and he sat on the curb.”
N.T. 6/25/82, 8.75-7
Confirming that there was no phantom shooter, White also stated that Faulkner had his back turned, as Jamal approached, and that Jamal was within a few feet of Faulkner when he shot him in the back.
McGill: ” How many times did you see him shoot at the police officer?”
McGill: “And then at that time, where was the police officer’s back in relation to the man who was running across the street?”
White: “His back was facing him.”
McGill: “Indicating for the record pointing to the defendant, Mr. Jamal. And how close did he get to the defendant — how close did the defendant get to the police officer when you heard those shots or saw those shots?”
White: “I’m not good at feet, but it wasn’t too far away. It was very close.”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.99
Cynthia White also stated that she was able to see a gun in Jamal’s hand, just as she had in her original statement.
McGill: “And what was it that you saw in his hand?”
White: “I seen something — the gun, front part.”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.104
McGill: “You stated you saw a gun in the defendant’s hand in the middle of Locust Street before he shot him in the back; is that correct?”
McGill: “Did you see anything in his hand, or were you able to see anything in his hand when he was over the Policeman?”
White: “I could tell something was in his hand, yes.”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.115
Cynthia White told the jury that she watched Mumia Abu-Jamal slump down on the curb after he shot Officer Faulkner in the face.
McGill: “Now Miss White, after the defendant shot the Police Officer when he was on the ground, what did he do then?”
White: “He went over and slumped down on the curb.”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.105
As she had just minutes after the shooting, Cynthia White physically identified Mumia Abu-Jamal as the man she saw shot Officer Daniel Faulkner.
McGill: “Okay, now you mentioned the name and also you pointed a few times. I’ll ask you, the man who shot the police officer, Miss White, the man who shot the Police Officer both in the back and also when he was standing over him, is he in this courtroom?”
McGill: “Would you point him out? Would you tell me what he’s wearing?”
White: “Striped shirt.”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.105
White stated that immediately after the shooting, she walked towards the two fallen men, Jamal and Faulkner.
McGill: “How close did you get to him then, when you walked up some more?”
White: “Very close.”
McGill: “All right, indicating for the record approximately from where Miss White’s feet are, I would estimate the most, …I would say Your Honor, maybe ten feet, 12 feet.”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.108
Cynthia White also stated that Jamal was violently resisting police as they attempted to apprehend him. Both the written statement and the testimony of eyewitness Albert Magilton, who will be discussed later, corroborate Ms. White’s 1982 testimony.
McGill: “Did you see them [the police] take this defendant anywhere?”
McGill: “What did they do to the defendant?”
White: “They took him to the wagon. When they approached him and they went over to him he was swinging his arms and kicking, and they was trying to get him under control to handcuff him.”
McGill: “And there was a number of Policemen there doing that?”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.109
While being cross-examined, White reiterated the fact that Jamal was violently resisting police as they attempted to handcuff him.
Jackson: “Before we get back to the specifics of your statement — did you see Mr. Jamal beaten that night?”
White: “What I seen was Jamal sitting on the curb, swinging his arms with closed fists and kicking, and the police swinging back and trying to get him under control to handcuff him.”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.149
In his article, “Guilty and Framed,” Stuart Taylor chastises Anthony Jackson, vaguely complaining that Jackson did not do “a very good job of attacking the prosecution witnesses on cross-examination”. Yet the record shows that Anthony Jackson questioned each of the prosecution’s witnesses for hours. He made sure the jury heard about each and every minor discrepancy between the witness’ initial statements and their testimony. He questioned Cynthia White at length about the apparent changes to her observations in her testimony as compared to her written statements. He tried hard to create the impression that White’s testimony was a result of coaching by the District Attorney and the police.
Though he criticizes Jackson for supposedly doing a poor job, Taylor lazily follows the same trial blazed by Jackson in attempting to attack Cynthia White’s credibility. For instance, he points out that in her original statement Cynthia White said that Faulkner had not “struggled” with William Cook, but later testified that she saw Cook strike Faulkner “with a closed fist, to his cheek”. Anthony Jackson pointed this out in 1982. Characteristically, Taylor ignores White’s response:
Jackson: “Does your statement represent the truth?”
Jackson: “Are you certain of that?”
Jackson: “Okay, just one example, let me refer you to page three of your statement. Last question and answer, can you read it out loud, please?”
White: “Did you see any struggle between the officer and the two men?”
Jackson: “Your answer was?”
White: “No, there was no struggle.”
Jackson: “Is that the truth?”
White: “I didn’t see any struggle.”
Jackson: “You didn’t see any struggle?”
White: “No, because after he turned him around in the position to handcuff him, I looked across the street [at Jamal] so I didn’t see any struggle.”
Jackson: “What about you indicating that William Cook struck the police officer?”
White: “That’s when [what] I did notice. Struck or struggled, same thing.”
Jackson: “Okay. Struck or struggled are different. That’s the reason you didn’t tell him?”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.156-7
White explained why she did not consider Cook’s punch and Faulkner’s response a “struggle.” Taylor simply ignores Ms. White’s testimony.
It might also be remembered that Cynthia White was a young, uneducated prostitute, who, only 20 minutes before giving her initial statement, had seen a police officer shot, point black, in the face. On several occasions during her initial interview, Ms. White was obviously unclear about what the interviewing officer had asked her. The questions asked of her in her initial statement were sometimes vague. Jackson covered every detail on cross-examination, for all the difference it made. But the jurors, who could observe White’s demeanor, could see that she was telling the truth.
Jackson: “Just to be certain, is this the truth, what you told the police on December the 9th?”
White: “I said yes, in different words.”
Jackson: “In different words it’s the truth. How can we tell what’s truthful in here if we can’t go by these words?”
White: “Because it’s all the truth, but it’s in different words, that’s all.”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.161
Jackson: “…on December the 9th. You went on in your own words and you described how it [the shooting] happened, not in response to any specific question, but you said that on your own; is that right?”
Jackson: “But what changed on the [December] 17th?”
White: “Nothing. They were asking me questions and they asked me in a different way to explain it.”
Jackson: “They asked you in a different way?”
White: “I mean in a different question, you know. He asked me in a different question to explain it.”
Jackson: “They asked you to explain it on the 9th, they asked you to explain it again it on the 12th. So why was your explanation different on the 17th?”
White: “I just told you.”
Jackson: “Forgive my ignorance, could you explain to me again why it was different on the 17th?”
White: “Because they asked me in a different way to explain it more specifically.”
N.T. 6/21/82, 4.177
It is clear to anyone who reads Cynthia White’s testimony in its entirety that she was often confused by the questions asked of her, and that she was often inconsistent with respect to minor details. But the core of her testimony was entirely solid, and entirely consistent with her prior statements. She consistently identified Jamal as the shooter, and her account was fully corroborated by those of the other eyewitnesses. Despite Anthony Jackson’s best efforts to impeach her, the jury found her to be credible.
Albert Magilton was walking across the intersection at 13th and Locust, roughly 80 feet from the scene, as the shooting occurred. At the moment of the first shot being fired, he was in the western crosswalk of 13th Street and Locust Street, near Michael Scanlan’s car. Like the other eyewitnesses, he saw Jamal run across the street and, after the shooting, sit down on the curb.
ALBERT MAGILTON’S 12-9-81 STATEMENT
Mr. Magilton said the following in a signed statement following the shooting, at 5:35 AM:
Question: “Can you tell me anything about this shooting?”
Answer: “Yes, this Officer pulled a Volkswagen over at 13th and Locust. He got out of his car. The driver of the Volkswagen got out of his car, from the drivers side. The Officer walked the driver over to the pavement. I noticed a guy walking from the parking lot, across the street. I turned around and the next thing I know is, I heard some shots. I looked and saw the Officer on the ground. The driver of the Volkswagen just stood there. The Police came up and picked the Officer up. Other Officers stopped the driver of the Volkswagen. The Police placed the Officer that was shot in the back of the paddy wagon. The Police had the driver of the Volkswagen and another male handcuffed. They held the driver of the Volkswagen there and took the other male away in the wagon.”
Question: “Where were you standing?”
Answer: “I was by the parking lot on the north side of Locust Street.”
Question: “Did you ever see the male that you saw walk out of the parking lot again?”
Answer: “The police had him on the ground. Then they placed him in the back of one of the wagons.”
Albert Magilton Statement, 12/9/81, 5:35 AM
ALBERT MAGILTON’S SECOND
STATEMENT TO POLICE
In a subsequent interview on 12/17/81, Magilton described the man he saw coming from the parking lot behind Officer Faulkner:
Question: “Can you describe the other male that you saw come from across the street?”
Answer: “He looked almost the same as the other guy, except he had the kind of hair like the Move people have; like it’s all twirled around. He was in his mid 30″s I guess. His complexion was a little darker than the first guy [the driver of the Volkswagen, William Cook] I would say medium brown. He was about 5’11”, average weight, about what his weight class would be for his weight. I can’t remember what he was wearing. I remember a striped shirt that he had on.”
ALBERT MAGILTON’S TRIAL TESTIMONY
Little more need be said about Mr. Magilton’s testimony in the 1982 trial, as it was perfectly consistent with his earlier statements. He testified that he saw Jamal — who he identified in court — quickly crossing Locust Street heading toward Officer Faulkner. He heard shots, and immediately looked and saw Jamal again, who sat on the curb after the shooting (N.T. 6/25/82, 8.75-8.78, 8.98-8.138) (Jamal was still sitting on that same curb when Officer Shoemaker arrived moments later and found him there — at which point Jamal tried to shoot Shoemaker). The only thing that Jamal’s lawyers can think to say about Mr. Magilton is that he “did not see who fired the shots” — as if there were any possible doubt from his testimony who it was that fired the shots.
EYEWITNESS ROBERT HARKINS
This brings us to the final eyewitness — a surprise defense witness who ended up being a witness for the prosecution.
Robert Harkins was called to the stand by Jamal’s own lawyers in 1995. Supposedly, Mr. Harkins was going to testify about some vaguely-described police malfeasance, at least according to Jamal’s lawyers. Harkins, to put it mildly, did not perform as advertised. First, he scolded Jamal’s lawyers for lying about what he had told them. “[E]very time I say something you come back with something different than what I say to you, and I do not like that.” Mr. Harkins then testified that, although he could not identify the gunman, immediately after the shooting he saw the gunman sit on the curb (N.T. 8/2/95, 205-228).
This testimony further corroborated Jamal’s guilt. At trial Officer Shoemaker testified that he arrived moments after the shooting and found Jamal sitting on the curb, his gun inches from his hand (N.T. 6/19/82, 115). Robert Chobert testified that Jamal, after shooting the victim in the face, walked over to the curb and fell (N.T. 6/19/82, 211-212). Albert Magilton testified that, after the shooting, he saw the officer lying on the ground and someone else on the curb, whom he later identified as Jamal (N.T. 6/25/82, 6.75-8.79, 8.98, 8.138).
There were many eyewitnesses. Not one of them saw a fleeing phantom shooter. All of the eyewitnesses saw the same thing. They saw Jamal run at the Officer from behind. He shot the officer in the back and then shot him in the face as he lay face-up on the ground. Jamal then tried to run, but got only a few feet and sat down on the curb. That’s where Officer Shoemaker found Jamal. He ordered Jamal to freeze, but Jamal instead tried to pick up his gun. Jamal’s brother, meanwhile, stood by and insisted that he had “nothing to do with” what his brother had done.
Jamal’s own brother has never pretended to have seen any fleeing gunman.
Jamal himself remains silent. He allows his lawyers to chant their “running man” lie to anyone who will listen.
But it is nothing more than that — a lie.
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