"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jamalists: Majority White Jury Cannot be Fair?

Mumia Abu-Jamal is still, alas, alive and kicking. Mumia, AKA Wesley Cook, his birth name, is a self-professed revolutionary, who was a member of the Black Panthers and supported the black militant MOVE group in Philadelphia.

Jamal was found guilty and sentenced to die for the killing of Officer Daniel Faulkner:
After stopping Jamal's brother, William Cook in central Philadelphia, and calling for backup,

Cook exited his vehicle and scuffled with Faulkner. Seeing the altercation, [Jamal] ran to the scene from a parking lot across the street. As [Jamal] approached Faulkner, Jamal shot Faulkner in the back. While falling, Faulkner fired at [Jamal] and struck him in the chest. [Jamal] then stood over the fallen Faulkner and fired four more shots, the first of which entered Faulkner’s brain between his eyes. Wounded, [Jamal] then walked several steps away from the dying officer and dropped down, sitting on the curb. William Cook remained on the scene standing near the wall of the adjacent building. Within one minute of Faulkner’s radio call, Officers Robert Shoemaker and James Forbes approached the scene, where a cab
driver advised them that an officer had been shot. Additional officers arrived shortly thereafter. Faulkner was taken to Jefferson Hospital immediately, and later was pronounced dead. As Shoemaker approached [Jamal], [Jamal] reached for an unidentified object on the sidewalk. Despite Shoemaker’s repeated orders to “freeze,” [Jamal] continued to move toward the object. Drawing closer, Shoemaker identified the object as firearm, and kicked [Jamal] in the chest to get him away from the gun, and then kicked the gun out of [Jamal’s] reach. As officers carried [Jamal] to a waiting police van, [Jamal] resisted arrest by striking and kicking the officers attempting to handcuff him. As [Jamal] was being apprehended, Officer Forbes frisked William Cook, who exclaimed “I ain’t got nothing to do with this.”

The Commonwealth presented four eye-witnesses at trial. Cynthia White testified that she witnessed [Jamal] run out of a parking lot on the other side of Locust Street as Officer Faulkner attempted to subdue and handcuff Cook. Robert Chobert testified that he heard a shot, looked up, saw the victim fall, and then saw [Jamal] shoot Faulkner in the face. Michael Scanlon testified that he witnessed an assailant, whom he could not identify, attack and shoot Faulkner from behind, saw the officer fall, and then saw the assailant stand over the officer and shoot him in the face. Albert Magliton testified that he heard shots and then saw Faulkner on the ground,
and [Jamal] on the curb. Once Jamal had been subdued, Chobert was escorted to the police van at the scene where he was being held and immediately identified [Jamal] as the individual who shot Faulkner. Magliton also identified [Jamal] as the perpetrator, both at the scene and during the trial. Forbes seized two handguns from within five feet of where [Jamal] was sitting on the curb following the shooting. One was a standard police-issue Smith and Wesson .38 caliber Police Special revolver with a six-inch barrel which was registered and issued to Faulkner. Faulkner’s firearm contained six Remington .38 special cartridges, one of which had been fired. Ballistic testing later confirmed that the bullet that struck [Jamal] was fired from Officer Faulkner’s revolver. The second firearm seized was a five-shot Charter Arms .38 caliber revolver with a two-inch barrel, purchased by [Jamal] on June 27, 1979 and registered to him. [Jamal's] firearm contained five “Plus-P” high-velocity spent bullet shell casings. Officer Anthony L. Paul, supervisor of the Firearms Identification Unit in the Laboratory Division of the Philadelphia Police Department, testified at trial that the bullet recovered from Faulkner suffered a great deal of mutilation and could not be matched with a specific firearm. Paul also testified that the bullet specimen had eight lands and grooves with a right hand direction of twist which was consistent with a Charter Arms revolver and that, conservatively, there were a million Charter Arms weapons in existence at the time.
[Jamal] was taken to Jefferson Hospital for treatment. Because he refused to walk, he was carried into the emergency room by officers. The officers placed [Jamal] on the floor of the lobby at the entrance to the emergency room, and while waiting for treatment, [Jamal] was heard to twice say that “I shot the motherfucker, and I hope the motherfucker dies.” The statement was heard by Priscilla Durham, a security guard on duty at Jefferson Hospital. The statement also was heard by Officer Gary Bell, who responded that “if he dies, you die.”

(substituting "Jamal" for "Petitioner") Now, it's important to realize just how much damning evidence there is that amply justifies the guilty verdict and the death sentence in this case, because Jamal has become a celebrity "political prisoner" among the academic left, Hollywood, and Europeans, and even has a street named after him in France (of course) (the entire sordid cast is summarized here). To these folks, the facts no longer matter, Jamal is a symbol of their hatred of the justice system. No one really buys Jamal's latest theory that the officer was murdered by the mob because he was investigating them and the mob framed Jamal, but it doesn't matter: he's a black liberal hero and therefore whether he's actually guilty or not is irrelevant.

He has gone up and down the gauntlet of direct appeals and habeas petitions, and been soundly rejected at all stages, save for a ruling that held the death sentence had to be vacated because a sentencing instruction might have been misconstrued by the jury (an appeal of that decision is currently pending).

The case is in the news again, however, because a Third Circuit Court of Appeals panel just heard arguments that Jamal's conviction should be overturned because some black jurors were supposedly improperly striken from the jury pool.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with Jamal's guilt or innocence? The answer is nothing, but a case called Batson v. Kentucky says that since defendants have a right to have their own racial group represented on jury pools, and minorities and women have a right to sit on juries, if it can be shown that they were excluded because of their minority status or on account of their sex, the conviction must be vacated. I know that sounds incredible, but it's true: a guilty defendant can walk because a potential juror's "right to sit on a jury" has been violated, even if he had the fairest trial in the history of the world and regardless of his guilt or innocence.

Fortunately for the citizens of Philadelphia and the family of Daniel Faulkner, in order to prevail, Jamal has to show that the jury pool had a certain number of blacks, and then that these blacks were struck by the prosecution in a discriminatory manner. (four blacks and 20 whites were on Jamal's jury pool and 10 whites and 2 blacks actually tried the case). But as Capital Defense Weekly laments:

At oral argument the panel, according to press accounts, suggested they needed to know the racial makeup of the approximately 150-person jury pool before they could determine whether the selection had been biased. “It doesn’t prove anything,” without the larger number for comparison, Judge Robert E. Cowen said. No such record exists.
There's alot of baloney in Jamal's brief about how often the Philly DA strikes blacks generally and how often the particular prosecutor in the case strikes blacks generally, which is certainly a defamatory slur meant to suggest without proving that the DA is a racist, but it matters not one bit, since the only relevant legal question is how many were struck in this case, and whether race-neutral reasons were advanced for the strikes.

In any event, this would be the flimsiest of reasons to reverse a conviction which rested on such solid evidence and which had a multi-racial jury (as if that is particularly relevant). Unless of course, the Jamalists want to create a new rule that the defendant has the right to a jury of his own race, which reduces to the claim that whites are universally racist and can not fairly assess the evidence in a case with a black defendant (which is decidedly not the rationale of Batson, which expressly rejected the notion that there is a right to have a certain racial makeup, and only held that a defendant should have a jury from which his own racial group has not been improperly excluded).


Anonymous said...

Lets split the difference. Mumia did it (and has not denied it since to my knowledge) and his trial, presided over by a lad who claimed that he was going to "help fry that nigger", stank. What then?

Tom McKenna said...

Interesting thought excercise... I don't for a minute believe this smear about the judge, but let's assume for purposes of argument that he's a rabid racist.

Does it change Jamal's guilt? Does it mean he didn't get to present evidence he wanted to present or that improper evidence was admitted that should have been excluded?

Does it mean that the judge somehow manipulated the jury into imposing a death sentence for a horrific deliberate point blank murder of a police officer?

The apparent answer to all the above is "no." The "issue" is nothing but a diversionary red herring.

Anonymous said...

That's a dodge. Simply put: If he is guilty does it matter whether or not he had a fair trial?

c matt said...

It doesn’t prove anything,” without the larger number for comparison, Judge Robert E. Cowen said. No such record exists.

Well, if no such record exists, the Batson challenge should be easy - he loses. Jamal has the burden to make an adequate record for appeal. If he had a lawyer present, or was present himself, he had the opportunity to request and preserve the jury pool information, His failure to do so waives that challenge.