Myths About Mumia
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s supporters argue that the amount of funding given to him by the Commonwealth was insufficient to hire experts in his behalf. It is often argued that Jamal was given the paltry sum of $150 to mount his entire defense.
A 1996 HBO-TV documentary, A Case for Reasonable Doubt, repeats this assertion and further states that Jamal had no ballistics expert or criminologist available to work for him at the original trial. HBO further contends that had Jamal been granted access to these experts he could have “blown gaping holes in the prosecution’s case.”
In direct contradiction to the allegations of his supporters, the record verifies that Jamal was given enough money to hire his own experts. Yet they were able to find absolutely nothing wrong with the prosecution case.
Receipts were produced at the 1995 PCRA hearing to verify that Jamal received in excess of $13,000 (In 1982 dollars.) to mount his defense in 1982. Contrary to HBO’s erroneous allegation, with this money Jamal and his attorney hired a criminologist, a ballistics expert, a photographer, and even a personal court stenographer. Jamal also had the support of a number of people who functioned as “legal runners” for Jackson and him in 1982. In addition to public funds, Jamal was admittedly receiving an undisclosed (and possibly large) amount of private funding from a number of groups, such as The Black Journalists Association and Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Anthony Jackson, Jamal’s hand-picked attorney, admitted that this extra funding was well in excess of the customary level of support offered to any ordinary defendant accused of murder in Philadelphia in 1982.
FACTS SUPPORTING OUR REBUTTAL
Jamal’s attorneys have gone to great lengths to paint a distorted picture of a destitute Jamal fighting for every penny to get the most meager level of support in order to save his life. Despite knowing that it’s a blatant lie, in his article “The Trial of Mumia Abu Jamal” and again in his book “Race for Justice,” Leonard Weinglass states, “The court allocated only $150 pretrial to the defense for the investigation of the case.” Dan Williams, one of Jamal’s other attorneys dedicates an entire chapter in his book “Executing Justice” to creating the image that Anthony Jackson was without the support of experts as late as April 29, 1982, just a few weeks before the trial began. These are blatant falsehoods.
Now that these distortions have served their purpose, which was to gather sympathy for Jamal with the press and the public, Weinglass freely admits that Jamal actually received $13,000 to $14,000 in public funds with which to mount his defense. During the trial, Anthony Jackson never complained about the amount of funding he received. What he did complain about was the fact that the court refused to give him large sums in advance, and required him to account for the money he spent. Jackson claimed that many expert witnesses were reluctant to take on work that was paid for by the Commonwealth because it could take as much as a year to be compensated for their work, but no such “reluctant expert” has ever actually been produced in court by Jamal’s lawyers, who had the burden of proving these claims in the 1995 PCRA proceeding. The same rules for court funding applied in all cases, not just Jamal’s case. Also, legitimate experts simply do not demand to be paid in full in advance of providing their services. Jackson was told that his experts would be compensated for work they had done once an itemized bill was submitted. Jackson acknowledged that he was aware of this procedure, and in fact hired two experts: George Fassnacht, who, according to Jackson was “world renowned” for his work, was hired as Jamal’s ballistics expert. Robert Greer, also a seasoned veteran who was admittedly hired by the best lawyers in town, was hired as Jamal’s investigator.
In addition to $14,000 in public funds, Jamal also received undisclosed amounts from various private support groups. This funding continues to this day. These were facts well known to Weinglass prior to publishing his writings. Yet he chose to spread the $150 Myth to gain support for his client.
This is what Weinglass himself had to say in his 1995 Closing Argument, about the funding that Jamal received:
“Your Honor will recall the total amount of money that Mr. Greer [Jamal’s investigator] received was $562.”
N.T. 9/11/95, 55
In fact, Mr. Greer testified that he had only billed one hour for every three hours that he worked on this case, therefore, Jamal actually received the equivalent of $1,686 in investigative assistance. (The amount shown is 1982 dollars, which would be more in the order of $5,000 today.)
Weinglass also stated,
“The monies for Mr. Fassnacht, the firearms expert, was raised to $350.”
N.T. 9/11/95, 56
Unless our math is wrong, $562 + $350 doesn’t add up to $150. Yet to this day, Weinglass will tell his audiences that Jamal only received $150, because it supports their illusion and gains sympathy from Jamal’s supporters.
HOW DID THE $150 MYTH DEVELOP AND
WHAT SUPPORT DID JAMAL RECEIVE?
Leonard Weinglass didn’t arbitrarily pick the $150 amount. Rather, as is his style, he again twists the facts to paint a distorted picture of this case to gain sympathy for his client.
So what really happened in 1982? Well, it was standard practice in all cases for the courts in Philadelphia to allocate an initial amount of $150 for each funding request they received from the defense. Judge Paul Ribbner, who presided over Jamal’s preliminary hearings, explained to both Anthony Jackson and Jamal that the $150 amount could be increased at any time by filing a written request that contained an itemized log of expenses and showing merit. At the 1995 PCRA hearing, receipts were produced verifying that Jackson did just this on several occasions prior to the commencement of the 1982 trial. And Judge Sabo approved additional funds in excess of $1,300, that were over and above the roughly $13,000 already allocated to Anthony Jackson to mount Jamal’s defense. This amount, shown in 1982 dollars, would be roughly $36,000 today.
No one claims that this was not sufficient to mount an adequate defense. Jamal’s supporters make much of the fact that as he prepared for trial, Anthony Jackson petitioned the court for the assistance of another attorney. He told the court that he was overwhelmed by the volume of information he had to handle and told the court he was in need of assistance. Judge Ribbner refused this request. But this fact does not show that Judge Ribbner was biased against Jamal, as his attorneys argue. Nor does it show that Jackson was truly in over his head. Instead it was a shrewd move by the seasoned Jackson to explore every opportunity he had. No other murder defendant in this era was given two court appointed attorneys. Nor was there anything about this case that made it more overwhelming than any of the 14 similar cases Jackson had tried and won.
In 1995, Jackson admitted that he had reviewed the prosecution’s ballistics findings on three separate occasions, for over 3 hours each time, with Fassnacht. Jackson also stated that he had read every one of 150 witness statements “at least 10 times each” and he told the court that he would be ready to proceed with trial in June. And he would have been, had Jamal not taken his notes and his witness statements away from him on May 13.
At the 1995 PCRA hearing, Anthony Jackson was questioned about the amount of funding he received. In direct contradiction to what he had stated in his sworn affidavit to Jamal’s new attorneys, Jackson admitted that he received funding far in excess of $150.
While Jackson acknowledged that he would have preferred “a blank check” to support his defense of Jamal, he also admitted that Jamal received funding and legal support far in excess of what was normally received by defendants accused of capital murder. Jackson acknowledged that he was fully familiar with the process by which he could gain approval for additional funding, and that all lawyers and experts representing indigent defendants in Philadelphia operated under these same rules.
During the preliminary hearings, Judge Ribbner made it clear to Anthony Jackson that he could petition Judge Albert Sabo for additional funding, and prior to the beginning of the trial that just what Jackson did.
NOTE: When reviewing the funding provided to Jackson, it must be understood that the amounts shown are in 1982 dollars. An appropriate adjustment to today’s dollars would be to double or triple these amounts.
Regarding the photographer Jackson said:
Question: “Now, by the way of a petition for monies to pay for a photographer, did you not?”
Answer: “I did, sir.”
Question: “And that was granted, was it not?”
Answer: “Yes, sir.”
Question: “And how much did Mr. Peraneau receive?”
Answer: “I think 150, 200, I really don’t recall.”
Question: “And he was in fact a photographer?”
Answer: “Yes, sir.”
Question: “And he took photographs for you?”
Answer: “Yes, sir.”
N.T. 7/28/95, 7-8
After having his recollection refreshed by his own fee petition, however, Jackson was forced to admit that the photographer was paid much more than this by the court:
THE WITNESS [Mr. Jackson]: Apparently he received $400.
BY MR. GRANT:
Q. The photographer?
Q. And that’s from the Court of Common Pleas by way of your petition?
A. That’s correct.
Q. That’s a lot of pictures, isn’t it?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. In 1981 pictures?
A. Well, Mr. Peraneau is a good photographer.
N.T. 7/28/95, 8-9.
In his dishonest book, Executing Justice, Jamal’s former attorney, Dan Williams, suggests that Jackson was without an investigator until just a few days before the trial began. The record, however, belies this notion. In January 1982, just weeks after the shooting, Anthony Jackson also hired Robert Greer as his investigator. In 1990, Jamal’s new attorneys again retained Robert Greer to assist them in their efforts to appeal Jamal’s conviction.
Question: “How long, for what period of months did you work for Mr. Jackson on this case?”
Answer: “To what period of months? I think I first talked to him in January.”
Question: “Yes, sir?”
Answer: “I probably finished up with him after talking to Hightower, yeah, after talking to Hightower.”
Question: “I know, but I don’t know when you -“
Answer: “Probably May, April or May.”
N.T. 8/1/95, 193
(Greer interviewed Desie Hightower on May 3, 1982.)
Like Fassnacht the ballistics expert, Greer was no hack. While testifying in 1995, Greer stated that he was a seasoned investigator in 1982 and that he was often hired by the best attorneys in Philadelphia for his services.
Question: “The best lawyers in town hire you, don’t they?”
Answer: “That is correct.”
N.T. 8/1/95, 241
At the 1995 PCRA hearing Greer stated that, because of personal involvement, he worked on the case three hours for every hour he billed; bringing the total time he spent assisting Jackson to over 70 hours.
Question: “And based upon your testimony yesterday, Mr. Greer received practically $500; correct?”
Answer: “Ah, yes sir.”
N.T. 7/28/95, 12
In fact, it was later agreed that Greer received $562 from the Court, via Jackson. A letter was produced that had been signed by Greer, which verified that Greer was also “retained” by the Mumia Abu-Jamal Defense Committee, though Greer denied this.
Question: “Thank you, Mr. Greer. Oh, by the way, since that’s all you did, and you only submitted a bill for 22-and-a-half hours, how much did you actually work on the case?”
Answer: “You are talking about actually worked?”
Answer: “That’s hard to say. Umm…”
Question: Twice that much?”
Answer: “Probably three times that much.”
N.T. 8/1/95, 242
Jamal’s attorneys argue that the Court refused to allocate funds for Jackson to “retain” a ballistics expert. Yet Jackson himself acknowledged that the court allocated him sufficient funds to hire George Fassnacht, who, by Jackson’s own admission, was an exceptional and “world renowned” ballistics technician. Like Robert Greer, Jamal’s current attorneys retained the services of George Fassnacht prior to and during the 1995 PCRA appeals hearing. Jackson, who had spent over 5 years as a police evidence technician, admittedly met with Fassnacht for over three hours, on three separate occasions, before the trial began to review the prosecution’s ballistics findings and determine how to attack it.
Jackson further admitted that he continued to confer with Fassnacht right up to the end of the trial and that Fassnacht was paid a fee in excess of the normal fee allocated for a ballistics expert.
Question: “And you said yesterday also that Mr. Fassnacht, who was your alleged expert ballistician, received more than twice what the initial and usual fee was for his services, did he not?”
Answer: “I believe he did.”
N.T. 7/28/95, 12
Question: “And you then thereafter testified that he [Fassnacht] looked at no Firearms Identification Unit Reports, that is to say, he didn’t look at the findings of paper of the ballisticians who testified at trial; correct?”
Answer: “He looked at whatever I was given.”
Question: “Pardon me?”
Answer: “Whatever I was given.
Question: “Oh. So he did look at reports?”
Answer: “Yeah, I apologize if I misstated. Yeah, I mean he looked at whatever I was given in discovery.”
N.T. 7/28/95, 13-14
Question: “Well, when he [Fassnacht] gave you his extraordinary [cost] projection, did you file a petition with the Court of Common Pleas and say I need extraordinary bucks?”
Answer: “Oh, yes, sir. Mr. Fassnacht was — I do particularly remember being in front of Judge Ribbner. Mr. Fassnacht is well known here in Philadelphia and of course he has performed these tests and things of this sort all over the world. During the time I know that I appealed before Judge Ribbner I had asked for additional funds. And I know there was a prolonged discussion. And I was told when I got the extra money, that’s all I was going to get. And again, I think originally $150 and whatever the extra amount was, that was it.
N.T. 7/28/95, 19
Answer: “Well, I think it was cheap at that price. If you know ballistics. The information he [Fassnacht] gave me was invaluable during the cross-examination of the witness [Anthony Paul, the prosecution’s ballistics expert], it was well worth it.
Question: “It was well worth it?”
Question: “In fact, he [Fassnacht] did advise you and consult with you and give you his expertise?”
Answer: “I said that, yes.”
Question: “And he directed you to areas that he thought were ripe for exploitation or attack by you?”
Answer: “Yes, sir. It all just made it all the more clear it would have been so much better if I had him conduct an independent test and perform some other examinations. Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t do it.”
Question: “Certainly in the best of all worlds it is always nice to have more?”
Answer: “Yes, I guess that’s what it is.”
Question: “But when you coupled his expertise and his advice to you – and he is a world renowned expert, is he not?”
Answer: “Yes, sir.”
Question: “When you coupled that with your expertise as an evidence technician and knowing what of necessity is done and should be done, that in fact, gave you more of an edge than the average lawyer would have because of your expertise coupled with his expertise, did it not?”
Answer: “Probably did.”
Question: “And you kept Larry Paul [the prosecution’s ballistics expert] on the witness stand and cross-examined him on behalf of Mr. Jamal to a fare-the-well, didn’t you?”
Answer: “I did the best I could, sir.”
N.T. 7/28/95, 24-25
In reference to the additional “independent tests” of the physical evidence (jackets, bullets, guns and so on) that Anthony Jackson alleged would have made it “better” for him in 1982, it should be noted that Mumia Abu-Jamal and his current attorneys had the opportunity and the funding to run these exact tests on the physical evidence prior to the 1995 PCRA hearing. In fact, the prosecutor pleaded with the defense to do so. To this day, the defense has refused to perform any tests on the fatal bullet. Instead they choose to argue that the “guess” at the caliber of the bullet (.44) — made by a medical doctor in the Preliminary Medical Examiner’s Report without benefit of a microscope or scale — was more accurate and credible evidence than the formal test results presented by the prosecution. This argument was unanimously rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in their 1998 PCRA ruling. (For additional information see Myth #1.)
SO HOW MUCH FUNDING
WAS JAMAL ACTUALLY GIVEN?
In reference to the total amount of funding Anthony Jackson — the defense’s own 1995 PCRA witness — solicited and received from the court in 1982, the following was said:
Question: “Okay. So now we are up to around what? Let me see. 450, 350, that’s 800, photographer, Fassnacht. We got 450 for an investigator. That’s around 1,200. Now we have 150 for the pathologist, so we are up around 1,400. Did you retain the services of — that you paid for — of any other experts in your pursuit of a defense for Mr. Jamal?”
Answer: “I don’t think so. I Don’t —“
Question: “When I say did you pay for: Did the Court of Common Please, did the Citizens of Philadelphia pay for any other experts?”
Answer: “No. According to this petition [for funds], the Citizens of Philadelphia paid 562 for an investigator, $400 for a photographer, and $350 for a ballistician, and that was it.”
Question: “So, the investigator got nearly $600 now?”
Answer: “Yep, that’s what it looks like.”
N.T. 7/28/95, 29-30
Question: “Your final bill submitted on C-4 for experts – and you claim that they were fair and reasonable amounts – was 1,312 dollars and 50 cents; would that be correct?”
Answer: “Okay, yes, I see it down there. I guess that’s it, yeah.”
N.T. 7/28/95, 100
JAMAL RECEIVED ADDITIONAL SUPPORT
AND FUNDING FROM OUTSIDE SOURCE
At the 1995 PCRA hearing, Joe Davidson, from the Association of Black Journalists, stated that his organization submitted between $200 and $400 in additional dollars for Jamal’s 1982 defense. He also acknowledged that there was an additional undisclosed amount of money made available to Jamal by The Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal and other support groups.
Additionally, Anthony Jackson admitted that he personally “took money out of my own pocket” (out of the $13,000 the court paid him) to cover some of the costs of defense.
In addition to Fassnacht and Greer, the supposedly cash-strapped and under-supported Jamal also had a photographer and a personal court stenographer working for him. His personal stenographer was to provide daily typed transcripts, allowing Jamal to personally review each day’s testimony from his cell.
To evidence this, the following exchange took place:
Court: “It was brought to my attention, though, that you have engaged a private stenographer. Who is that?”
Mr. Jackson: “Judge, she is a student up at Temple University. We’re attempting to accommodate Mr. Jamal’s wishes. On Monday we will have a motion for Your Honor to allow two certified stenographers who would be able to provide him [Jamal] with daily copy.”
N.T. 6/17/82, 1.25
As stated, Robert Greer, Jamal’s criminologist, admitted under oath in 1995 that he billed 1 hour for every 3 hours he worked on this case.
A.D.A. Grant: “You only submitted a bill for 22 and one half hours, how much time did you actually work on the case?” Greer: “Probably three times that much.”
N.T. 8/1/95, 242
The total amount of private funds contributed to Jamal’s defense in 1982 is undisclosed at this time. As stated, Joe Davidson, a member of the Association of Black Journalists stated that his organization contributed roughly $400 to Jamal’s defense in 1982. Additionally, Lynn Washington, another member of the Association, stated in an interview given to National Public Radio in 1992, that his organization offered to provide Jamal with a “top notch [defense] attorney.”
The court record also shows that 15 character witnesses testified on Jamal’s behalf in 1982, each of whom spoke of Jamal as a valued member of their community. When asked by the District Attorney how much money they had contributed to support Jamal, while under oath, each one stated that they had not donated a single dollar to Jamal’s defense fund. This in the hour of Jamal’s greatest need. Is this case credible?
Jamal’s supporters like to throw out wild claims of conspiracy against him. We suggest they look in their own back yard and determine what these 15 people and Jamal’s attorneys are hiding. Then they will see how much money and resources were really offered to Jamal in 1982.
One might argue that the total amount approved by the Court — which was in excess of $1,300 for experts and $13,000 for Jackson’s services — was not adequate. However, given that Jackson had admittedly received far more funding and support to defend Jamal that he had for any other “court appointed” case, it seems that the $1,300 amount was, at a minimum, “fair” and far in excess of the $150 figure that Leonard Weinglass and Jamal’s supporters offer up.
So, we see that, contrary to what the inaccurate HBO-TV documentary asserts, Jamal did in fact have both a criminologist, (Robert Greer), and a ballistics expert, (George Fassnacht), working for him during the original trial in 1982. As mentioned, these same “experts” were again hired by Jamal’s current attorneys to do investigative work leading up to the 1995 PCRA hearing.
BUT JAMAL DIDN’T HAVE HIS BALLISTICS
EXPERT OR A FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST TO
TESTIFY AT THE TRIAL?
Those who support Mumia Abu-Jamal take every opportunity to imply that there was a vast conspiracy to convict him. Leonard Weinglass has scripted a list of issues that, when taken at face value, seem to confirm this. Whenever possible, Jamal’s supporters are quick to repeat these semi-factual sound bites to their new recruits, or to any willing media source willing to listen to them. More often than not, these individual repeat these alleged “facts” with blind faith in Leonard Weinglass; assuming that what he states is always true and accurate. What they fail to account for is the fact that Leonard Weinglass, has repeatedly distinguished himself as a master at manipulating and manufacturing facts, and that he is willing to say almost anything if it benefits himself or his client.
The issue regarding Jamal’s access to both a forensic pathologist and a ballistics expert at the time of the trial is a prime example. Jamal’s supporters often repeat Weinglass’ assertion that “Jamal was not represented” by either of these experts. The inference being that the court (the supposedly villainous Judge Sabo) denied Jamal access to these allegedly vital experts.
The reality of this situation is something entirely different. In fact, during the 1982 trial, neither Anthony Jackson nor Mumia Abu-Jamal ever called for either of these experts to testify in Jamal’s behalf, and neither Jamal nor Jackson ever petitioned the Court to appropriate funds to pay for expert testimony. Jamal was not “denied access to a ballistics expert and a pathologist to testify in his behalf”. In fact, the court record verifies that Judge Albert Sabo encouraged Anthony Jackson and Jamal to bring their ballistics expert, George Fassnacht, into the courtroom to testify, if he could factually challenge the findings of the prosecution’s ballistics evidence.
Court: “Let me say this: You’ve got your own expert. You’ve got Mr. Fosnick [Fassnacht], right?”
Jackson: “But that’s not the issue.”
Court: “Wait a while. If he wants to come in and testify on these bullets and anything else, bring him in. That’s fine.”
N.T. 6/23/82, 6.136
Jackson refused to do so. Because it would have only served to make Jamal look even more guilty.
So, contrary to what Jamal’s supporters argue, Jamal was not “denied access” to the expert testimony of a pathologist and a ballistics expert, he and his attorney never asked to have either one made available to them because their testimony wouldn’t have helped Jamal in any way. We know this to be true, because at the 1995 PCRA hearing Jamal did have access to the expert testimony of both his ballistics expert and a forensic pathologist. As determined by the Supreme Court, these experts failed to prove the prosecution’s test results inaccurate in any way. Further, when asked by the prosecution to test the bullet for themselves George Fassnacht refused to even look at it, let alone test it and refute the prosecution’s findings.
The burden of proof at trial lies with the prosecution. Jamal’s supporters seem to think that if the prosecution can bring in expert witnesses to support their case, the defense should be allowed to do the same thing at public expense. But that’s not the law. The law requires the defense to prove that they need expert testimony to refute the prosecution’s claims. Jamal and his attorney never even attempted to do this, much less succeeded at it. But they were offered funds to do so anyway. And they still failed to have their ballistics expert testify, because he could in no way refute the prosecution’s findings.
The 1995 PCRA hearing proved this. When invited by ADA Joey Grant to examine the physical evidence, Jamal’s ballistics evidence flatly refused:
ADA Grant: “Well, we now have what you didn’t have, what you didn’t have in 1981. Would you be willing to try a hand at it now?”
George Fassnacht: “Would I be willing to reexamine this evidence? No, I wouldn’t.”
N.T. 8/2/95, 150
In 1995, George Fassnacht also acknowledged that both Leonard Weinglass and Anthony Jackson had failed to make him fully aware of all the facts surrounding the case that might influence the ballistics tests. For instance, George Fassnacht stated that prior to giving his sworn affidavit to Leonard Weinglass, he had never been told that Officer Faulkner’s jacket had been roughly handled after the shooting (the jacket was rubbed against the ground and the seats of two separate police vehicles prior to transport to the hospital and the application of the hands of the officers who carried Officer Faulkner to these vehicles). Fassnacht agreed that these facts would have rendered certain chemical tests of the jacket ineffective, and would have ruled out such tests being attempted. Fassnacht likewise admitted that he had never been told that Mumia Abu-Jamal had struggled with the arresting officers as they attempted to subdue and handcuff him. Again Fassnacht agreed that such struggling would have made it “difficult to perform any tests on Jamal’s hands”.
(For more information on the ballistics evidence go to Myth #12)
The contention of Jamal’s lawyers that the testimony of George Fassnacht, would have been substantially beneficial to Jamal in 1982 is absurd, since Fassnacht’s testimony in 1995 proved absolutely nothing. Leonard Weinglass’ public statements inferring that the court somehow conspired to deny Jamal access to Fassnacht’s testimony in 1982 are nothing more than another attempt to mislead Jamal’s followers and gain misguided public sympathy for Jamal.
Here is another example of the distorted truth that Jamal’s attorneys and supporters are disbursing to the media and the public. To this day, when convenient, they continue to insist that Jamal was given only $150 to mount his entire defense and that he was not given adequate assistance to mount his defense. They also erroneously argue that Jamal was “denied” the representation of both a ballistics expert and a forensic pathologist.
In review, the record clearly refutes each of these notions. In addition to the assistance of his seasoned hand picked attorney, Jamal received in excess of $14,000 to mount his defense. He had the support of an “internationally renowned” ballistics expert, an investigator who provided over 60 hours of service, a photographer, a personal court stenographer and several legal runners who worked on his behalf. The $150 Myth speaks volumes to the credibility of the allegations made by Jamal and his attorneys.
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