Staff Writer

( – On the eve of the anniversary of the night when a police officer was murdered and his accused killer was wounded, supporters of death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal released photographs Dec. 5 in Philadelphia, which they say prove he is innocent and deserves a new trial.

Mr. Abu-Jamal, a former Philadelphia radio journalist and taxi driver, has been on death row for 25 years for the killing of officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981, a crime he says he did not commit.

Mr. Abu-Jamal and his backers say he was framed by a police force, a prosecutor, and a judiciary tainted by racism, and that the newly discovered pictures, by freelance photographer Pedro Polakoff taken the night of the shooting, prove the conspiracy began that night at the crime scene.


“These photos effectively refute key elements of the prosecution’s case. And clearly, one picture is worth a thousand words, this is irrefutable evidence,” Linn Washington, a Temple University journalism professor and a member of Journalists for Abu-Jamal told The Final Call.

The photos were discovered in 2006 by Dr. Michael Schiffman a German researcher working on his doctoral dissertation. His findings were published in a book available only in Germany, called Race Against Death. The book is a complete analysis of the Abu Jamal trial, said Mr. Washington. Dr. Schiffman discovered the photos on the website of the photographer who shot them.

The photographs were turned over by the photographer to the District Attorney’s office in 1982. Mr. Petrokloff “always thought that Abu-Jamal was guilty as charged, so when (the prosecutors) didn’t get back to him, his reaction was: ‘They didn’t think it was important. They had enough other evidence. This doesn’t involve me. I’m out of it,’ ” said Mr. Washington.

“The pictures show the whole changing of the crime scene,” Pam Africa, a member of the International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal told The Final Call.

“According to the prosecution’s story, Mumia came running across the street when he saw his brother being beat. Mumia shoots the cop and then stood over him in a squat position and shoots, and (officer) Faulkner is ducking bullets. What the pictures show is that there is no divots in the ground,” she continued, referring to the absence of holes in the pavement where bullets would have struck the ground.

“So nothing happened the way they said it happened. And none of the mainstream media is actually showing these pictures, because these pictures show that these people lied and they also manipulated the crime scene,” said Ms. Africa.

Despite charges from critics that the pictures may have been altered, they have been carefully scrutinized and scientifically examined, according to Mr. Washington. “There’s a photo of the bloodstream that’s coming from officer (Faulkner). What you don’t see is any splatter marks that would be consistent with a bullet having been shot right through the head. But of more import, is that you don’t see any divots, or chips, or concrete missing that would be consistent with high velocity bullets hitting a sidewalk at a distance of 12 inches or a little more. That particular photo has been subjected to a digitized enhancement by a satellite photo expert, and he found nothing there.

“Then there’s also a number of shots showing deliberate manipulation and corruption of the crime scene. One of the police officers testified that when he got there he secured the slain officer’s gun and Abu-Jamal’s gun, which was in fact was registered to him. The photos show over a sequence of time that the police officer is holding the guns in his hand. He’s holding them by the grips, he’s holding them by the barrels, he’s holding them by the trigger guards,” Mr. Washington continued, but there was no evidence presented in court showing fingerprints on the weapons. The guns were wiped clean of fingerprints.

“In one final element that shows the real corruption of the crime scene, there was a photo shown to the jury of the police officer’s hat laying on the ground, quite close to where he allegedly fell. This was something to heighten the emotion of this officer being murdered. Well, there’s photographs of the hat actually on the Volkswagen of Abu- Jamal’s brother. So that hat was deliberately placed (on the ground), to get a shot by the police crime scene team, to show later in court to heighten the drama of it.”

What makes the photographs revealed by Mr. Abu-Jamal’s supporters so compelling is that they were taken before the official police evidence team arrived.

Even before these latest developments, Mr. Abu-Jamal’s supporters had sought a new trial on grounds that a racist conspiracy denied Mr. Abu-Jamal justice in his original trial. The district attorney, at that time was Ed Rendell, who is now governor of Pennsylvania and the former head of the Democratic National Committee.

“There’s a very big interest on the side that wants him executed, because if he gets relief, then that shows that the District Attorney’s office in Philadelphia engaged in gross misconduct,” said Mr. Washington.

“The current DA in Philadelphia, her hands are tainted because of her past involvement in this case as a judge. She was the judge that arraigned Abu-Jamal at his bedside. All along this case you find the careers of very powerful people, littered along here. All along the line on this case, there is an effort to keep it where it is, that he’s convicted and there’s no merit (in his claims of innocence), because so many people have engaged in such deep misconduct and in some cases, outright corruption,” Mr. Washington continued.

“That’s why his case has such a big importance. And people overseas and people around the United States see the flaws here, and you don’t need a law degree, nor do you need to read 15,000 pages of trial transcripts to understand that this is a gross injustice.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme court has granted dozens of inmates, including death-row inmates, relief on every, single, legal issue that Abu-Jamal has raised. For courts to say that there has not been one single error in the Abu-Jamal case, when they have found errors in dozens of other cases of less import and less substance, that is the definition of absurdity, and again, you don’t need a law degree to understand and to see clearly the injustice that Abu-Jamal is enduring,” said Mr. Washington.