Given the ole “picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words” dynamic, it is not surprising that the prosecutor repeatedly rejected this photographer's offers of assistance because his photos expose the structural flaws in the case presented in court against Abu-Jamal. These photos provide additional evidence that the jury did not consider all of the available evidence due to misconduct by police and prosecutors. This misconduct fuels demands for a fair trial in this case.
Sadly, this newly rediscovered photographic evidence has yet to stimulate interest in mainstream media...showing once again how this supposed information seeking institution shirks its ethical duties in the Abu-Jamal case to “seek truth and report it.”
--Linn Washington, Jr. is a veteran Philadelphia journalist who has been covering the Abu-Jamal case for over 25 years. He is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune newspaper and an Associate Professor of Journalism at Temple University.
I've seen these photos. They are explosive.
Of course, the key at this point is getting Mumia Abu-Jamal a new trial, so that all this incredible evidence can come out. Clearly, if there is a new trial, there would be a quite different verdict.
If there is not a new trial, then of course, the new evidence will have to be used in an effort to reopen the case at the state level.
--Dave Lindorff is the author of "Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal"
SUMMARY OF FACTS FROM DR. MICHAEL SCHIFFMANN’S NEW GERMAN BOOK “RACE AGAINST DEATH.”
In May, 2006, Schiffmann discovered two photographs on the Internet that were taken by the only press photographer immediately present at the 1981 crime scene – Pedro P. Polakoff, III. Polakoff arrived within 12 minutes of hearing about the shooting on the police radio and about ten minutes before the Mobile Crime Unit (responsible for forensics and photographs) arrived. According to Polakoff, this unit had still not taken any photos when Polakoff left after 30-45 minutes at the scene.
Upon contacting Polakoff, Schiffmann learned that three of his 31 original shots were published in Philadelphia newspapers at the time, and five others were lost. Schiffmann told me that he “published five of the 26 remaining photos to show the following three points:
1) “The cops manipulated evidence and supplied the trial court with stuff that was simply stage-managed. On Polakoff’s photos, P.O. Faulkner’s police hat at first is clearly on the roof of Billy Cook’s VW, and only later on the sidewalk in front of 1234 Locust where it was photographed by the police photographer who arrived 10 minutes after Polakoff!
2) “In court Police Officer James Forbes claimed that he had ‘secured’ the weapons of both Faulkner and Abu-Jamal without touching them on their metal parts in order to not destroy potential fingerprints. However, in the single photo reprinted in the book you can see that Forbes is touching the weapons on their metal parts, and quite a few of Polakoff’s other photos make it clear that Forbes touched and smudged these weapons all over, destroying any potential fingerprint evidence that may have been on them.
3) “The second-most important prosecution witness, cab driver Robert Chobert, simply was not parked in the spot, allegedly right behind Officer Faulkner’s police squad car, where he claimed to have been and from where he claimed to have observed Abu-Jamal fire the shot that killed the officer.”
Polakoff’s observations don’t stop there. Schiffmann writes in Race: “According to Polakoff, at that time all the officers present expressed the firm conviction that Abu-Jamal had been the passenger in Billy Cook's VW and had fired and killed Faulkner by a single shot fired from the passenger seat of the car.”
“Polakoff further reports that this opinion on the part of the police about what had happened was apparently based on the testimony of three witnesses who were still present at the crime scene, namely, by the parking lot attendant in charge of the parking lot on the Northern side of Locust Street, by a drug addicted woman apparently acquainted with the parking lot attendant, and another woman. As Polakoff later heard from colleagues in the media, the parking lot attendant had disappeared the day after, while the drug-addicted witness died a couple of days later from an overdose. Whatever it was that these witnesses saw or did not see, we will probably never know – the interesting fact in any case is that neither of them ever appeared in any report presented by the police or the prosecution.”