Convicted Cop Killer: Prosecutors Messed With Jury

Mumia Abu-Jamal's retrial request goes before judge in Philadelphia
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2022 1:46 PM CDT
Convicted Cop Killer's Retrial Request Goes Before Judge
A protestor holds up a poster depicting Mumia Abu-Jamal on Dec. 28, 2018, during a demonstration outside the offices of District Attorney Larry Krasner, in Philadelphia.   (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

A judge on Wednesday will review a retrial request from a prominent former member of the Black Panthers, imprisoned since 1982 for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. The request is based on fresh evidence Mumia Abu-Jamal says backs his long-held assertion that he was framed. His conviction has long drawn skeptics. In 2000, Amnesty International found that "numerous aspects of this case clearly failed to meet minimum international standards," per the Guardian. Abu-Jamal, then a vocal police critic, was working as a taxi driver when he saw Faulkner arresting his brother on Dec. 9, 1981. Shots were fired, killing Faulkner and leaving Abu-Jamal wounded. At trial, two witnesses testified that they'd seen Abu-Jamal shoot Faulkner at point-blank range; there was no other direct evidence connecting him to the shooting.

In a petition, Abu-Jamal's lawyers say six filing boxes related to the case, found at the Philadelphia district attorney’s office in December 2018 and disclosed to the defense team the following month, contain "highly significant evidence which the commonwealth never previously disclosed," including a letter witness Robert Chobert wrote to prosecutor Joseph McGill, asking how long it would take to get "the money own (sic) to me," per the Guardian. Abu-Jamal's lawyers say this suggests Chobert "understood there to be some prior agreement … such that the prosecution 'owed' him money for his testimony." The state denies this, claiming Chobert was only asking about compensation for lost earnings during his participation in the trial.

But Abu-Jamal’s lawyers say files also show "a concerted effort" by prosecutors to dismiss five pending criminal cases against the second witness, Cynthia White, which was designed to make "life easier for her in exchange for her testimony." They also say McGill’s own notes—showing a large "B" beside the names of Black prospective jurors—suggest he illegally relied on race to decide which potential jurors to strike. McGill ultimately "blocked 71% of all potential Black jurors from sitting on the final jury, compared with only 20% of all non-Black panelists," per the Guardian. Abu-Jamal, 68, has long claimed issues in the jury makeup. Faulkner's widow, who has condemned Abu-Jamal's appeals, is expected to attend Wednesday's hearing in Philadelphia, per WPVI. (More Mumia Abu-Jamal stories.)

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