Mumia Abu-Jamal is petitioning for a re-trial regarding his sentencing in the 1981 killing of Philadelphia officer Daniel Faulkner. After multiple appeals to overturn his conviction were denied, the former Black Panther’s case will be heard once again due to new evidence that may prove his innocence, per ABC 6 News.
Abu-Jamal was driving with his brother, William Cook, when they were stopped by Faulkner, reports say. The traffic stop then boiled into a shooting match. Faulkner was fatally shot and Abu-Jamal suffered a gunshot wound to the stomach. Abu-Jamal was found guilty of the officer’s murder, sentenced to death then later re-sentenced to life in prison, per CBS.
Abu-Jamal’s defense team say they found six filing boxes marked with their client’s name stored in the district attorney’s office, per ABC 6. They claim the evidence within those files proves he didn’t have a fair trial. There were notes found written by prosecutor Joseph McGill who allegedly struck out 10 Black jurors to curate a majority-white jury pool.
In another instance, the defense said they found evidence to suggest the witness testimonies lacked credibility. For star witness Robert Chobert, the defense claimed he made a monetary agreement with McGill to testify against Abu-Jamal.
Read more from The Guardian:
One of the documents found in the boxes is a handwritten letter sent from the state’s star witness at trial, Robert Chobert, to the prosecutor, Joseph McGill. “I have been calling you to find out about the money own (sic) to me,” Chobert writes. “Do you need me to sign anything. How long will it take to get it.”
Chobert was one of only two witnesses at the trial who claimed to have seen Abu-Jamal shoot the police officer. No other evidence directly connected the defendant to the killing.
They also raised an eyebrow at the second witness, Cynthia White, who was a prostitute with a record of 38 arrests and another five pending cases against her at the time of the trial. According to The Guardian’s report, the defense believe in exchange for testimony, White was given a handout.
More from The Guardian:
Among the documents in the boxes were letters from the DA’s office to prosecutors involved in each of the five pending criminal cases against White. Abu-Jamal’s lawyers argue that the letters “reveal a concerted effort by Mr McGill and several Philadelphia DA unit chiefs to bring Ms White back from Massachusetts, secure an early trial date in order to expedite her release and ultimately allow her cases to be dismissed for lack of prosecution.”
Such favourable treatment, they suggest, was designed to make “life easier for her in exchange for her testimony against Abu-Jamal”.
Both supporters of Abu-Jamal and members of the police union anticipate the outcome of his hearing Wednesday. He’s now 68 years old, having spent over 4 decades in prison. If he is granted a new trial, his case would be another example of how the prosecution puts away a Black man by breaking the rules.