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More on Mumia

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From Daniel Flynn:

Pacifica Radio aired Abu-Jamal’s commentaries after National Public Radio rethought an earlier decision to do so. Evergreen State College and Antioch College, among others, hosted the convicted murderer as a commencement speaker via audiotape. A Law & Order episode namedropped Abu-Jamal, with a character noting that the “Philadelphia journalist” was “framed for murder.” Rage Against the Machine played an infamous benefit concert for him.

And today, the Philadelphia Inquirer, which ought to know better, hijacked an editorial “remembering” Daniel Flynn to go off on a wildly inaccurate rant against the death penalty.  How offensive, on an anniversary.  When is enough enough?

Maureen Faulkner is Right: The Fight Against Mumia Will Never Be Over, as Amnesty International Proves with Their Holiday Catalogue

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Maureen Faulkner, widow of Daniel Faulkner, the officer killed by Mumia Abu Jamal 30 years ago tomorrow, has issued a statement about the decision to forego a re-sentencing hearing for Abu Jamal.  Her statement is reproduced below: contrary to some media coverage, she did not agree quietly to the decision to release her husband’s killer from his death sentence.  Instead, she has understandably lost all faith in the justice system, and she does not believe “Mumia” would ever really be executed.

 Maureen Faulkner, 30 years ago.  Still fighting Mumia Abu Jamal and his supporters today.

The Faulkner family has been under continuous attack for three decades by an astonishing cabal of the malicious and the misinformed.  Most in the media are assuming, wrongly, that Mumia’s followers will now drift off to other causes.  There’s no chance of that happening.  Amnesty International announced that appeals were continuing for Mumia.  When Amnesty mentions “international fair trial standards” below, what they mean is that they will continue to try to impose United Nations laws on our country to aid cop-killers.  From the AP:

Amnesty International, which maintains that Abu-Jamal’s trial was “manifestly unfair and failed to meet international fair trial standards,” said the district attorney’s decision [to remove Abu Jamal from death row] does not go far enough. Abu-Jamal still has an appeal pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court over the validity of ballistics evidence.

“Amnesty International continues to believe that justice would best be served by granting Mumia Abu-Jamal a new trial,” said Laura Moye, director of the human rights group’s Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty.

It’s not really about the death penalty.  Once that is abolished, not a single activist will go home.  What do you think they’re going to do: announce that America is now a fair place and quit their jobs?  No, they’ll continue to bleed our justice system dry until they overturn life-without-parole, and then move on every other sentencing rule that keeps killers and rapists off the streets.  We’re in an arms race, and the anti-incarceration activists are winning, not least because we have to subsidize their activism in addition to defending against it.

Meanwhile, the Mumia cultists at Amnesty International issued a press release that calls law enforcement’s support for their fallen colleague “unseemly.”  You’d think they could have been a bit more sensitive on the 30th anniversary of Daniel Faulkner’s murder.  For the holidays, Amnesty’s also selling baby onesies, in case you want to turn your toddler into an advertisement for people who murder police:

 ”All Rights for All People.”  How cute.  Except cops, of course.

Here’s a whimsical poster from their gift catalog depicting a police officer clubbing a kid, $8:

And in case your adolescents are feeling too much pride over being American, here’s a tee-shirt for them, and a map that “turns the world upside down to challenge North-South perceptions”:

 Don’t you feel less better now?
~~~

To get a taste of what Maureen Faulkner has gone through, there is a 1999 article written by her posted on the very interesting website, Pro-Death Penalty.  Today, Faulkner posted the following statement on her own website.  It’s damning.  Too bad the media wasn’t interested in giving her space to say it, considering all the space they lavish on Abu Jamal’s claims:

Statement from Maureen Faulkner

After enduring 30 years of emotional and physical hell as I’ve suffered through the appeals process, I am now convinced that when a death sentence is at issue, the judges of the Federal District Courts and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals simply do as they want, not as the law dictates. Judges Yohn, Scirica, Cowen and Ambro oppose the death penalty, so they shape the law to suit their personal needs. This isn’t just me venting. It’s a fact that’s supported by the numbers. The dirty little secret about the death penalty in Pennsylvania that nobody wants to come to grips with is that since the death penalty was re-instated by the U. S. Supreme Court in 1976, there have been hundreds of death sentences imposed by Pennsylvania juries. Yet, after three decades of trying, not a single one of them– including my husband’s case — has managed to successfully make it through the Federal appeals gauntlet. How is it possible that over the course of three decades all District Attorneys combined have gone 0 for several hundred on their appeals?

The disgusting reality with the death penalty in Pennsylvania is that the fix is in before the hearings even begin, and federal judges, including the 4 dishonest cowards who presided over my husband’s case, are the fixers.

My family and I have endured a three-decade ordeal at the hands of Mumia Abu-Jamal, his attorneys and his supporters; who in many cases never even took the time to educate themselves about the case before lending their names, giving their support and advocating for his freedom. All of this has taken an unimaginable physical, emotional and financial toll on each of us. Over the past few months, we have anguished over the two terrible options we are presented with. Should we choose a new sentencing hearing, it would undoubtedly take months to complete and come at an extreme cost to the citizens of Philadelphia. It will undoubtedly be a venue for every fringe group imaginable. Droves of sleazy Human Rights lawyers will want to weigh in with amicus briefs. The list of character witnesses for Abu-Jamal would be a rouges gallery of the Hate America First crowd, and unlike he did at the 1982 sentencing hearing, this time around he will undoubtedly keep his vile mouth shut and portray the image of “a man filled with soulful humanity” as his former attorney once described him and not the seething animal he was at the 1982 hearing. The damning testimony of several key eyewitness who are now deceased will have to be read to the jury without emotion and the District Attorney will have the unenviable challenge of seating an impartial jury without being duped by even a single person who intends to nullify the death sentence. Should the jury decide on a death sentence again as they should, we would then start the whole decades-long appeals process over again, and we will be forced to repeat the past 30 years as if they never happened.

Given that we would be forced back into the same foul legal system that has failed us for so long and the morally dishonest judges we would undoubtedly be confronted with if there were a new sentencing hearing, we have asked Seth Williams to deny such a hearing and agree to have Mumia Abu-Jamal’s sentence be reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

This decision certainly does not mark the end of my journey, nor will I stop fighting to see justice done for my husband. Rest assured I will now fight with every ounce of energy I have to see that Mumia Abu-Jamal receives absolutely no special treatment when he is removed from death row. I will not stand by and see him coddled — as he has been in the past — and I am heartened by the thought that he will finally be taken from the protected cloister he has been living in all these years and begin living among his own kind; the thugs and common criminals that infest our prisons. I will hold any official who attempts to help Abu-Jamal improve his situation publicly and legally accountable for as long as I live.

In closing, I’d like to say that I believe the lowest dimension of hell has been reserved for child molesters and unrepentant murderers like Mumia Abu-Jamal. After 30 years of waiting, the time remaining before Abu-Jamal stands before his ultimate judge doesn’t seem quite so far off as it once did when I was younger. I look forward to that day, so I can finally close the book on this chapter of my life and live with the gratification and assurance that Mumia Abu-Jamal has finally received the punishment he deserves for all eternity.

Thank you.

Maureen Faulkner

You Have The Right to Commit Crime. Nothing You Say or Do Will be Used Against You in a Court of Law.

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Yesterday, I linked to one section of an interesting Philadelphia Inquirer series on chaos in the courts.  The entire series is worth reading, but you have to download a flash player to view it all (pathetically, that’s onerous for me): here’s the link.

Anyone who believes the problems described by the Inquirer are limited to the City of Brotherly Love has not visited a courtroom in their own jurisdiction lately.

Such problems are not even limited to our country, though the panoply of indulgences we shower on criminal defendants used to be the envy of criminals throughout the world.  As in so many other endeavors, the rest of the world is catching up with us.  Britain may be even more lenient than we are on serial recidivists, and simultaneously hard on ordinary people who break the law, a phenomenon crying out for a name.

See, for example, this from the U.K. Telegraph:

Businessman Jailed For Attacking Intruder, Who Goes Free

Munir Hussain, who was threatened at knifepoint and tied up by a gang of masked men in his living room last year, was told he must go to prison for 30 months to preserve “civilised society”.

But Walid Salem, a criminal with more than 50 convictions, was handed a two-year supervision order for his role in the break-in at an earlier hearing.

He was one of three men who ambushed Mr Hussain, his wife and children . . . Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were forced to crawl from room to room before being forced to lie down in the living room . . . when Hussain’s teenage son managed to escape and raise the alarm, he seized his chance and turned on his captors. While two of them got away, Salem was cornered in a neighbour’s front garden. With the help of his brother, Tokeer, 35, who lived nearby, Hussain set upon him with a metal pole and a cricket bat, the court heard.

Hussain and his brother got long prison sentences: 30 and 39 months, for retaliating in the heat of the moment against a man who was terrorizing their community and had tied up and threatened — in a word, tortured — Hussain’s wife and children.  Walid Salem, he of the torture and 50 priors, got no jail time.  No matter what you think of the Hussain brothers’ actions, it is hard to read the words of their sentencing judge without simply recoiling:

“[I]f persons were permitted to take the law into their own hands and inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse.”

Whatever part of walking free after 50 prior crimes and a current crime of such severity does not indicate the collapse of both civilization and the British system of criminal justice, eludes me.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia:

Just 23 years old, John Gassew has been arrested 44 times, mostly on charges of sticking a gun in people’s faces and robbing them.

But in the eyes of the law, Gassew isn’t an armed robber.

He’s never been convicted.

Gassew has only been sent to jail once, for a drug charge.  So on the books, he looks just like all those imaginary people locked away for no reason other than that they once took a toke of pot.  Remember that the next time some activist starts ranting about the unfairness of our “barbaric” justice system.  It’s unfair, allright:

Despite being called one of the city’s more prolific, and sometimes violent, stickup men by police – they say he bashed a delivery man over the head with a bat, shot at a 13-year-old neighbor, and smashed in the face of a robbery victim – Gassew has been sentenced to jail only once, for a drug charge.

The Northeast Philadelphia man has become so confident in his ability to beat charges, police say, that he openly scoffs at the system. In December 2007, officers arrested him as he ran down a street, leaving behind a car that police said was filled with the loot from 21 robberies he committed in just one weekend.

“It looked like a store in there,” said Detective Bob Kane.

As Kane and Detective Robert Conn of the Northeast Detective Division tell it, when they confronted Gassew with four trash bags of evidence, he leaned back in his chair and told them he’d take his chances in court.

“The bad guys know that if they come in the front door, the back door is usually open,” Conn said.

That back door being the courts, where some bloviating magistrate listens hard to the sound of his own voice as he ushers felons back onto the streets.  It’s the same story everywhere:

A small-time criminal emboldened by a system that fails time and again to put him away graduates to more violent acts and, eventually, a standoff with police.

Gassew has beaten cases in almost every way – including three trials in which he was found not guilty after witnesses changed their story on the stand or were found not credible.

“Twenty-three years old and 44 priors. There’s no excuse for that,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

“A second chance? OK. A third chance? OK. But how about a 30th? At some point, you have to realize this guy’s a menace to society. You can’t keep cranking him out,” said Ramsey.

After a decade of attempts to crack down on gun crime, the streets of Philadelphia are still awash with armed robbers, and the courts are unable to put them away even when they are caught red-handed.

And why is that?  Because those “decades of attempts” coincided with and were not nearly as powerful as the vast and systematic dismantling of consequences for criminal actions enacted by an unholy cabal of activists, attorneys, academicians, all abetted by cherished public fantasies about our prisons being stuffed full of innocent men, and felons being misunderstood innocents crying out for help.

One of the most effective ways of keeping people out of prison is to de-fund the courts by creating unnecessary, virtually unenforceable sets of hoops to be jumped through in order to achieve a prosecution.  Philadelphia is the poster child for such legal shenanigans, but it’s bad everywhere, and behind every legal loophole, there’s some self-satisfied appellate judge telling his grandchildren how gramps bravely protected the poor and weak — criminals, that is.

That’s how streets ended up “awash” with crime.  Fitting adjective, awash:

Of the 9,850 gunpoint robberies reported in the city in 2006 and 2007, only a quarter were brought to court, according to an Inquirer analysis. In the end, only two in 10 accused armed robbers were found guilty of armed robbery.”There’s a law on the books that enhances the penalty when you commit a crime with a gun. It’s not enforced,” noted [Police Commissioner] Ramsey, referring to the state’s mandatory minimum five-year sentence for brandishing a firearm in the commission of a felony.

I would love to hear an explanation from any judge — or law professor — regarding the state of affairs that exists today, in Atlanta, Philadelphia, every major city, wherein judges and prosecutors simply disregard the laws they are required (you know, by law) to enforce.  I’ve never heard an explanation, nor have I heard one peep about censure of the many judges whose careless abdication of their responsibilities have most recently resulted in horrific subsequent crimes:

A 13-year-old girl who lived next door said Gassew pointed a sawed-off shotgun at her and asked, “Do you all want to die?”, before firing at her. A judge found the story credible enough to allow Gassew to be tried as an adult. But a different judge found him not guilty.

In May 2004, Gassew was charged with clubbing a pizza-delivery man over the head with a baseball bat and stealing about $100. The victim, who spoke only Spanish, identified Gassew at the scene and later in court. But Gassew was found not guilty after a witness changed her story on the stand.

Prosecutors said she was scared. Another neighbor, who also identified Gassew, failed to appear. Even a codefendant in one of Gassew’s robbery cases said he was scared of him.

Police say they had reason to be frightened. His own aunt, Neilene Calloway, took out an emergency restraining order on him in April 2005 after several armed men came looking for him at the house.

It appears that court authorities in Philadelphia were content to wait for Gassew to murder someone before they acted.  We are all responsible for letting such things go on.  We sacrifice victim after victim and do nothing:

Jennifer Mulholland, who was a bartender at Brian’s Sports Bar in Frankford, got a taste of [Gassew's threat].

Gassew drank there often, she said in an interview, and befriended her.

One night in May 2006, Gassew said good night and left. A short time later, a man wearing a mask burst into the bar with a gun in his hand and demanded that she empty the register.

Mulholland thought it was Gassew. “Quit playing,” she told him.

“It’s not a joke,” the robber replied, pointing the silver gun at her head.

“I knew it was him,” she recalled.

He grabbed her by the neck and told her to open the register.

She gave him the money.

Mulholland, whose father is a police sergeant, said she was prepared to testify.

“I never got a court notice,” she said.

There are millions of Jennifer Mulhollands in this country (and elsewhere), victims whose lives were treated like garbage, and then “the system” decided they had no rights, who could have died and then were told that their right to even be heard in court was irrelevant because the rights of criminals are the only rights that matter at all.

I’m one of those people; my husband is another.  We were both merely lucky to survive.  So were the cops who ended up getting shot at by John Gassew, in the utterly inevitable, thankfully non-fatal, denouement of a decade of criminal negligence on the part of the Philadelphia court system issuing from the end of Gassew’s semiautomatic handgun.

The law comes down hard on decent people, while prolific thugs are literally groomed in-court by irresponsible judges and lawyers to escalate their violence to the tipping point.

At what point do people like us get some answers from those responsible?

Getting Away With Everything Except Murder in Philadelphia: Another Argument for the “Broken Windows” Theory

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Disorder in the courts. It is the main reason violent offenders and repeat offenders are still on the streets.  Why is our court system falling apart?

The Philadelphia Inquirer has some of the best crime journalism in the country.  They understand that covering the justice system doesn’t just mean hounding the cops and covering big trials: it means investigating the courts, particularly courts’ systematic failures to enforce the law.  Why this fact continues to elude nearly every other big-city newspaper eludes me.  If you read nothing else this week, take a look at this:

Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied

With Philadelphia’s court system in disarray, cases crumble as witnesses fear reprisal and thousands of fugitives remain at large.

By Craig R. McCoy, Nancy Phillips, and Dylan Purcell

Inquirer Staff Writers

Kareem Johnson stood over Walter Smith and executed him. He fired so close that Smith’s blood splashed up onto Johnson’s Air Jordan baseball cap.

He shot him as a favor to a childhood friend.

Smith was a threat because he had come forward as a witness in a murder case against Clinton Robinson.

With the witness dead, Robinson cut a sweet deal. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to just 2 1/2 to five years.

“Basically, I beat it,” he says now.

He and Johnson know all about beating cases in the Philadelphia courts. In just three years, Johnson, 26, and Robinson, 24, were arrested a total of nine times for gun crimes, but until the charges escalated to murder, nothing stuck.

Three years, nine gun crime arrests, no consequences.  That’s about all you need to know.  People point fingers at the cops, but the cops did their job.  They made nine arrests, and then the public and the courts dropped the ball — nine times.  Then the no-snitching culture and the do-nothing courts caused another death:

Johnson’s bloodletting came to an end only after he killed a 10-year-old boy in 2004 in one of the city’s most notorious murders. As for Robinson, he’s locked up on a drug charge, but expects to go free soon.

After Faheem Childs’ death, people pointed fingers at the police.  But what about those nine wasted chances to get Childs’ killers off the streets for lesser crimes, arrests that surely must have included the type of evidence (a gun carried illegally by a young man with a criminal record) that would have required nothing more than the willpower of one D.A. to say: I want the maximum this time, because it’s the third/fifth/ninth time?  And the willpower of one judge to pause for one moment from his droning soliloquy about his own central role in rehabilitating young men to say: Wait a minute.  This guy is a serious threat to innocent people in his community.

Cities that implemented the “broken windows theory” of crime fighting were already well on their way to safer streets by the mid-1990′s.  But Philadelphia clung to an older cycle: neglect, then activist-driven outrage when something really bad happens, then blaming police for failures that should have been laid mostly at the feet of City Hall and the courts (Politically-savvy activists never blame the politicians, or blame them for long: they scapegoat the cops and stick their hands out for handouts from mayors and councilmen).

The result?  The highest murder rate among big cities.  And more:

In a comprehensive analysis of the Philadelphia criminal courts, The Inquirer traced the outcomes of 31,000 criminal court cases filed in 2006, 2007, and 2008, tracking their dispositions through early this year. The results go a long way toward explaining the violence on city streets.

For three consecutive years, Philadelphia has had the highest violent-crime rate among the nation’s 10 largest cities, FBI figures show. It has the highest rate for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Though murder cases are an exception, Philadelphia conviction rates trail the nation’s in rape, robbery, and serious assault cases.

“We have a system that is on the brink of overall collapse,” said Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, a former Philadelphia judge and a longtime critic of the courts’ high dismissal rate, after reviewing The Inquirer’s findings.

“These are the most horrendous crimes that can be committed – murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault,” he said, calling the conviction rates “unacceptable.”

The disorder in the courts uncovered by the Inquirer is staggering:

Defense lawyers routinely exploit the court system’s chaos. They delay cases to wear down victims and witnesses, and seek spurious postponements if they know prosecution witnesses are in court and ready to go.

Judges, prosecutors, and even prominent defense lawyers acknowledge that this kind of gamesmanship is common and that the system’s failings work to defendants’ advantage.

The system bungles basic, but crucial, steps necessary to getting key witnesses into court. Inmates, needed at trial as witnesses or defendants, never arrive. Police are routinely booked to appear in different courtrooms at the same time, guaranteeing that cases will collapse.

Though officials are working to reduce the problem, as many as a quarter of all subpoenaed inmates in recent years have failed to show up for court on any given day, experts say.

The court’s bail system is broken. Defendants skip court with impunity, further traumatizing victims who show up for hearings that never take place.

There are almost 47,000 Philadelphia fugitives on the streets. Philadelphia is tied with Essex County, N.J. – home of Newark – for the nation’s highest fugitive rate. To catch them, the city court system employs just 51 officers – a caseload of more than 900 fugitives per officer.

The consequences are staggering, too:

The system is overwhelmed by an exploding caseload, pressuring judges to put a premium on disposing cases, rather than insisting that victims and defendants have their day in court.

Of 10,000 defendants who walked free on their violent-crime cases in 2006 and 2007, 92 percent had their cases dropped or dismissed. Only 788 – 8 percent – were found not guilty at trial, The Inquirer’s analysis shows.

Staggering, too, the financial waste.  The clerk of court (Clerk of Quarter Sessions) office is so dysfunctional, it doesn’t even keep up with basic record-keeping:

In a sign of the system’s disarray, court officials had trouble answering when The Inquirer asked how much fugitives owed taxpayers in forfeited bail. At first, they said the debt was $2 million. Then they pegged it at $382 million. Finally, they declared it was a staggering $1 billion.

Of course, there’s a crooked politician at the helm.  And, remarkably, her daughter, drawing a taxpayer check right beside her:

After the newspaper raised questions about the bail debt 11 months ago, the courts and the city pledged to hire a firm to go after the money. That never happened.

For years, [District Attorney Lynne A.] Abraham has complained about the court’s failure to collect the money. Mayor Nutter, in a recent letter to her, blamed Clerk of Quarter Sessions Vivian T. Miller, saying her “inability to provide accurate records” had stalled the entire effort.

In an interview, Robin T. Jones, Miller’s top aide and her daughter, acknowledged the office had no computerized records of the debts, just paper notations in each defendant’s file.

Paper notations.  Nor did the D.A., for her part, keep up on record-keeping:

Abraham, the city’s top prosecutor, has failed to keep figures tracking how well – or poorly – her office has done in court . . . Abraham’s successor, Seth Williams, a Democrat and former assistant district attorney who will take office next month, said the D.A.’s failure to track case outcomes contributed to the low conviction rates. He said he was appalled by the newspaper’s findings.

“We have to change this,” Williams said last week. “It’s not that it’s just bad. It’s terrible.”

According to the Inquirer, Abraham staked her reputation, rightfully, on homicide prosecutions.  Her office ranked higher than the national average in successful prosecutions for that one crime (82% compared to 71%).  But Philadelphia ranks at the bottom, or close to it, for other violent crimes.  So the choice the city has made, it appears, is to do the opposite of “broken windows.”  Cut-em loose until they kill someone — not manslaughter, homicide only.

Judges claim this is all news to them.  They are shocked, shocked!:

Of the cases that die, 82 percent collapse in Municipal Court, whose judges decide whether cases should proceed to Common Pleas Court for a full trial.

Asked about the low conviction rates, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha H. Neifield said she wanted to study the issues.

“This hasn’t been presented to us before,” she said. “We want to do the right thing. If we in any way can be construed as causing any problem, we want to fix it.”

Study the issues.  You do that, judge.  Read the rest here.

~~~

Perhaps Philadelphia should be the new poster child for the broken windows theory of crime, rather than New York, or even Los Angeles.  Because broken windows works, New York’s era of dysfunction is fading into a memory; L.A. is well on the right path.  In Philadelphia, that reform never came, and the results are clear every time a new murder defendant walks into court with a five-page arrest sheet for prior crimes.

At least Philadelphia has one thing going for it that a lot of other cities simply don’t have: reporters who bother to ask real questions about what is happening to the court system as a whole.  Call it broken windows journalism.