Question: On July 19, Federal District Court Judge William Yohn Jr. rejected a request by Mumia's new legal defense team to take a deposition from Arnold Beverly, who has confessed that he, not Mumia Abu-Jamal, killed police officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981. Mumia has been on Pennsylvania's death row for close to 20 years.
What is the significance of this decision by Judge Yohn?
Sam Jordan: Mumia's new attorneys brought forth a petition for a federal habeas [appeal] before the Federal Court, but -- as you pointed out -- Judge Yohn rejected it. He did this citing the Statute of Limitations in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which Clinton signed into law in 1996.
Mumia and his legal team are arguing that there are new facts -- the confession of Arnold Beverly, in particular -- that should be brought to the attention of the court. But for this to happen, these new facts must first be accepted into the record of the state courts.
Not only did Judge Yohn reject taking a written statement from Arnold Beverly, he went further in his opinion, encouraging the state courts to reject them also.
Mumia has been summoned to appear on August 17th in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, which is presided by Judge Pamela Dembe. Mumia and his attorneys will argue that all the new evidence must be heard and that the Post Conviction Relief Act hearings must be re-opened.
Judge Yohn's July 19 decision was aimed at advising Judge Dembe not to hear Mumia's new evidence. Yohn's action on this habeas appeal is unprecedented. It's beyond Yohn's province to urge the state courts to take any specific action.
Question: Is there any validity to the claim there is a Statute of Limitations in this case?
Sam Jordan: Mumia and his attorneys have cited the fact that there is no Statute of Limitations on murder. So Mumia asks: If there is no Statute of Limitations on murder, can there be a Statute of Limitations on a confession of murder?
This is a question the court will have to face on August 17th. It may not be the only proceeding. Hopefully there will be more to come in terms of Mumia getting a full opportunity to air issues with respect to the violation of his Constitutional rights, the behavior of the court, the behavior of the prosecutors, pressure on the witnesses, and the coerced perjured testimony.
Question: Mumia's new legal team is being challenged to prove their rightful standing in court. To do this, they are legally obligated to present new evidence proving Mumia's innocence. But they also must prove "ineffective assistance of counsel" and/or "constructive denial of counsel" in regard to the conduct of Mumia's previous attorneys.
Mumia's new attorneys have presented a comprehensive 275-page brief in which they make their case forcefully. What is Mumia's main claim regarding "ineffective assistance of counsel"?
Sam Jordan: In a criminal case it is elementary that the attorneys should assert their client's innocence. But in Mumia's case, the submission of his claim of innocence was never made. This was not done by Anthony Jackson, his court-appointed attorney, at the first trial. It was not done by Marilyn Gelb, his Appellate Court-appointed attorney for the first appeal, and it was not done by the team of Weinglass and Williams, who were his attorneys in the Post Conviction Relief Act hearings and in his first appeals at the federal level.
Mumia's claim of innocence has not been brought properly before the state court. He was denied one of the most fundamental of representations.
Question: The Big Business media claim that the new scenario presented by Mumia's new legal team about how police officer Faulkner was killed is "absurd." They have dismissed Arnold Beverly's testimony altogether. You would think that if the new evidence presented by Mumia's legal team is as "frivolous" and "farfetched" as they all claim, the prosecution and the courts would be more than willing to have it aired in the state and federal courts.
How do you explain this unwillingness by Judge Yohn to admit Arnold Beverly's confession into evidence?
Sam Jordan: Arnold Beverly, a self-professed hit man, was a party to a conspiracy by the Philadelphia police and crime circles in Philadelphia to eliminate Officer Dan Faulkner because of the difficulties Faulkner was causing them. Officer Faulkner had been involved in the investigation of corruption in the Philadelphia police in prostitution, drugs and gambling.
The new evidence presented in the 275-page brief by Mumia's new legal team exposes the fabricated case against Mumia by the police, the prosecutors and the courts.
It exposes the police because of their assistance not only in the death of Daniel Faulkner, but in withholding and destroying evidence, pressuring key witnesses, and sifting through over 150 witnesses who were at or near the scene in Philadelphia that December 9th to get the five or six of them who were most vulnerable to police prosecutorial pressure.
The role of the prosecutor, likewise, is exposed when the evidence of Arnold Beverly is brought forward. It indicates that the prosecutor's theory of the case was completely manufactured. The new 275-page brief demonstrates, for example, that the testimonies of the key prosecution witnesses, Cynthia White and Robert Chobert, were changedto coincide with the state's fabricated version of the murder.
The testimonies of Arnold Beverly, Billy Cook and William Singletary all indicate that Cynthia White was never in a position to have seen the events at 30th and Locust.They indicate that Chobert was extremely vulnerable to police and prosecutors to testify in the manner that they required. Chobert, an arsonist, a man driving with a suspended license who himself was violating parole, stood to return to prison for up to 30 years.
The new evidence sheds new light on the role of Joseph McGill, who was Assistant District Attorney at the time. McGill had one of his chief witnesses, Veronica Jones, testify in the trial against Mumia to say that there were only three people at the scene: Mumia, Faulkner and Cook. Yet McGill used that same witness in William Cook's assault trial two months before Mumia's trial to say that there was another passenger in the car.
McGill brought forward the same witness knowingly with the two different testimonies as to what she saw and experienced the same night and in the same incident. That is exposed with the Arnold Beverly testimony.
Regarding the physical evidence of how Faulkner was killed, Arnold Beverly's testimony is so accurate that it even matches the medical examiner's files. The new brief presented by Mumia's legal team, in fact, gives a detailed account of virtually every moment of the murder of Officer Faulkner. It is now possible to see how all the pieces fit together.
What we have with Beverly's affidavit is a completely competing account of events, one that is corroborated by other witnesses who were on the scene, some of whom gave their original stories to the police but were then pressured to change them.
So you can understand why the prosecutors, the police and the courts are not anxious to have the truth in this matter brought to light. Indeed, the key elements in Mumia's case indicate that there would be no government cause of action leading to Mumia's arrest, conviction and incarceration if the government itself were not willing to deliberately abandon every principle of fairness in the legal code.
Question: During the first week of September, a United Nations-sponsored World Conference Against Racism will be held in Durban, South Africa. You are one of the initiators and main authors of a Letter to UN General Secretary Kofi Annan requesting UN intervention on behalf of Mumia. [See attached.] You have stated that your overall objective is to obtain a UN General Council resolution demanding freedom for Mumia. Could you talk about this campaign.
Sam Jordan: Our intention is to demonstrate that in Mumia's case is found the racist kernel of the criminal justice system in the United States. Mumia's case and the choreography developed by the prosecutor, the police and the courts to kill Mumia happens every day in the United States to people of color, though the cases are not always so widely known or publicized. It is estimated that out of the 2 million people imprisoned in the United States today, there are about 250,000 who have been wrongfully convicted, with methods used by the prosecutors and the police that mirror those used against Mumia.
The World Conference Against Racism should know that of the 96 people released from death row since 1996, all have something in common: the arbitrary, discretionary authority used by the police and prosecutor against poor people and particularly people of color.
When there are people of color in the dock, the prosecutors use perjured testimonies from their chief witnesses. They deliberately withhold and destroy evidence. This happens routinely with poor people and people of color, who don't know the law or have to settle for poorly prepared court-appointed attorneys.
There is a racial distribution of the availability and access to private attorneys. Moreover, it is often the case that the evidence was never sufficient in the first place to sustain a capital verdict charge.
There are in fact eight factors that Mumia shares with these 96 releasees. Those several hundred thousand people in U.S. prisons who were wrongfully convicted, 3,700 of whom are on death row in the United States, have met this kind of machination on the part of the prosecutors.
It is our aim to expose this situation before world public opinion.
Question: On August 29th, the Permanent Committee of the International Tribunal on Africa, the International Liaison Committee for a Workers' International, and the Socialist Party of Azania will be hosting a one-day conference in Durban, South Africa. One of the conference objectives is to bring out the truth about Mumia and to prepare the delegation that will submit the Letter to Kofi Annan on Mumia.
Another focus of the August 29th conference will be the need to cancel the African debt, beginning with the debt inherited from the apartheid regime, and to promote the fight for reparations. These are among the issues included in a separate Open Letter to Kofi Annan that has been circulating for over a year and that has gathered widespread support from unionists and activists across the African continent and internationally. [See attached.]
You will be participating in this August 29th conference as part of your two-week activities in Durban on behalf of Mumia. Why do you feel it is important for you to be at this conference?
Sam Jordan: The August 29th conference is important; indeed, it is critical. There is a need to promote an open and honest international dialogue on the issues of slavery, reparations, and debt cancellation on the eve of this UN-initiated conference on racism. This dialogue, in my opinion, might even be expanded to include a discussion on Zionism. We know that every day the situation in the Middle East is deteriorating.
The legacy of chattel slavery in the United States affects the U.S. government's willingness to discuss the issues of reparations and slavery or the issue of the debt. This is because the United States government owes a debt, and the debt that it owes is frankly a debt that must be paid -- and will be paid, one way or another.
The August 29th conference will allow us to raise the issue of Mumia in the midst of these other critical issues. This is very important. It will help put the spotlight on the exercise of authority by the state where it is most evident - and that is the exercise of the criminal justice power.
When the exercise of that power within the state itself - as is the case in the United States - is found to be governed by considerations of race and ethnicity, then we have an issue that must be placed before the attention of world public opinion.
So the U.S. criminal justice system has to be exposed. In fact, it has to be rid and cleansed of the work of racism. Racism is the chief obstacle to the full participation, to the full realization, of human beings in our society. This must come to the attention of world public opinion.
Mumia called the United States a "Herrenvolk" democracy. This is a direct reference to the racist apartheid rule in South Africa. Mumia is referring here to egalitarianism for white people and the subordination of people of color. That's what we have in the United States.
The United States is the most sophisticated example of "Herrenvolk" democracy. We have to face it. Mumia's case brings this out into the open.
So, yes, the August 29th conference will provide an important forum in which to discuss Mumia's case. It will highlight the need to put an end to "Herrenvolk" democracy in the United States.