The Mobilization To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal


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With Mumia's life in the balance: The tragic evolution of Gerald Nicosia and Dan Williams

By Jeff Mackler

Attorney Dan Williams was dismissed last month by award-winning journalist and innocent death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal. Williams had served as an important member of Jamal's legal team for the past eight years. He appeared about a month late on Amy Goodman's popular WBAI New York radio show, Democracy Now! to argue that Mumia's reason for his dismissal, the unauthorized publication of Williams' book "Executing Justice: An Inside Account of the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal," was only a "pretext" for the firing. "Mr. Jamal," said Williams, "wants to take this case in a direction that I felt he shouldn't." Williams later added, "A small fringe group has taken over the case."

Williams' book was published without the knowledge or consent of Mumia, who had never seen it. Several attorneys I asked about the matter confirm the veracity of Mumia's statement and legal citations in his petition seeking Williams' formal dismissal. They assert that the publication of the book represents a fundamental breach of the attorney client relationship. Mumia has sued Williams for this breach and is also seeking to block the publication of Williams book.

In a related series of events poet/writer and noted Jack Kerouac biographer, Gerry Nicosia, who is in the early stage of writing another book on the Jamal case, has been sending his former friends mean-spirited letters proclaiming his singular allegiance to "the truth." At issue is Nicosia's hostility to those who question his dishonest and unsubstantiated public assertion that "there is evidence" that Mumia Abu-Jamal killed police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Nicosia's public formulations of this spurious assertion vary. At a special March 23 Nicosia-initiated Philadelphia press conference he attacked Jamal's supporters for supposedly "censoring" his book writing efforts. Nicosia this time modified his statement to say that there "may" be evidence that Jamal was the killer.

Nicosia was more than willing to provide grist for the killing mill of Mumia's tormentors who eagerly joined him in Philadelphia to sing his praises for repeating their lies and for attacking Nicosia's alleged censors. Present in Philadelphia with Nicosia were Joseph McGill, Mumia's state court frame-up prosecutor, Hugh Burns, the current federal prosecutor of Mumia and Maureen Faulkner, the wife of the police officer Mumia was falsely convicted of killing.

I began to count Nicosia as a former friend when, by his own admission to me he broke with his professed allegiance to "the truth" in a Mumia Abu-Jamal book review he authored some six months ago for the San Francisco Chronicle. While reviewing Jamal's most recent work, All Things Censored, Nicosia included a line to the effect that "there is evidence that Mumia was the killer."

Shocked at this assertion from a person who had told me on numerous occasions that all the evidence pointed to Mumia's innocence, I called Nicosia to inquire how such a statement could be included in his review. Nicosia responded point blank that he had not written the line. It was the Chronicle editors, he insisted, who inserted the lie, but with his approval. "If I didn't include it," Nicosia told me, "my review would not be published and my opportunity to have an otherwise favorable review of Mumia's book would have been lost." Nicosia insisted at that moment that in fact he was doing the book's publishers a favor. He had to "make a choice" he said. It didn't occur to him that he chose between the truth as he then claimed to understand it, and a lie. Nicosia rationalized that his otherwise positive review "would reach an audience of some 3.5 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area." This was sufficient to merit its publication and his acquiescence to the Chronicle's censorship of his view that Mumia was innocent.

But Nicosia did respond positively to my observation that his lie was the "spoonful of tar that ruined the barrel of honey." He drafted and mailed a letter of apology for his transgression to Pam Africa, the central leader of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. He sent me a copy.

Nicosia's letter of apology notwithstanding, he began to repeat the lie, but this time with the amazing accusation that those Mumia supporters who then declined to collaborate with him had become his censors.

Nicosia has never been excluded from any Mumia event. On October 7, 2000, for example, he attended a Bay Area private reception for Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the imprisoned world class prizefighter whose murder conviction was reversed in court after he had spent 20 years in prison. The "Hurricane" came to defend Mumia as a fellow frame-up victim. Gerald Nicosia was there as a welcome guest despite his stated views. Tape recorder in hand, he was afforded full access to Carter, whom he interviewed, and to all other reception guests including Pam Africa. Neither, the organizer of the event, or anyone else present objected or otherwise hindered his "work." Similarly, Nicosia attended a private reception for Pam Africa last month and was again a welcome guest.

As for Nicosia's Philadelphia press release statement that former Mumia attorney Leonard Weinglass "would no longer cooperate" with him after the contents of Nicosia's book proposal were revealed, Mr. Nicosia lies yet again. From the very first day that Mr. Weinglass was approached by Nicosia for interviews, that is, more than a year before his book proposal gone astray, Weinglass declined. His policy was of the blanket type. With few exceptions Leonard Weinglass has declined all such invitations.

Nicosia was well aware of this fact, having asked me personally over a year ago to intervene on his behalf. I did so on several occasions, to no avail. Weinglass largely restricted himself to public presentations and to legal matters. The few times that he granted formal interviews to major media, his remarks were brutally mauled and distorted to meet the needs of editors, like Nicosia's at the San Francisco Chronicle staff, whose preference was for the official statements of the Fraternal Order of Police or Mumia's prosecutors.

Strangely, Nicosia declines to assert publicly exactly what this "evidence" [he allegedly has] that Mumia Abu-Jamal "did shoot Police Officer Daniel Faulkner." But Nicosia did reveal this "evidence" to me. According to Nicosia the bullet that killed Faulkner was of a special type .38 caliber bullet, the same caliber and type bullet that Mumia's gun contained.

There has been considerable controversy over this so-called evidence including the fact that the state's medical examiner originally reported that Faulkner had been "killed with a .44 caliber bullet," a bullet that could not have been fired from Jamal's gun. Amnesty International's report also cities this fact and adds that the medical examiner was certified by the court as a ballistics expert. As is well known his report was never seen by Mumia's jury. Nicosia's so-called evidence falls short on several accounts.

* The police failed to conduct any tests on Mumia's hands to determine if a gun had been fired by him.

* The police failed to conduct the most elementary tests, to either smell the gun barrel or feel it, to determine if the gun itself had been fired. With more than a score of police on the scene and at the hospital where Mumia was taken after a near fatal wound, the absence of these routine tests amounted to a spectacular omission, so much so that many, including Dan Williams, have concluded that the tests were actually done but the results "deep sixed" to hide results that would have exonerated Mumia.

* The police, by their own admission, "lost" a fragment of the bullet that the medical examiner declared to be the fatal missile, another spectacular "mistake."

* The prosecution could not produce any evidence that conclusively matched the markings on Mumia's gun barrel with those of the bullet.

* And finally, the same police and prosecutors who intimidated witnesses, falsified confessions, and otherwise organized Mumia's frame-up, had sole possession of Mumia's gun and the alleged fatal bullet.

I gave Nicosia a complete set of the 10,000 pages of transcripts of Mumia's 1982 trial and 1995 Post Conviction Relief Act hearing. He had full access to every meeting and rally organized by what he now calls Mumia's "iron-fisted censors."

Mumia's supporters had nothing to hide from the first day Nicosia decided to write his book to today. No one has taken the slightest step to thwart him in securing a publisher or in learning as much about the case as possible. But Nicosia did have something to hide. He hid from Mumia's defense movement the fact that his book proposal purported to have "evidence" proving Mumia's guilt. He had no such "evidence." He has never presented it. What he may have is a warmed over version of the police and prosecution's long rebutted frame-up.

Nicosia "evidence" excludes consideration of the fact that the jury never saw the medical examiner's report of the .44 caliber bullet, nor did it know of the lost fragment, or, for that matter, of the medical reports that refute the police version of Daniel Faulkner's murder.

A month ago, Nicosia told me that the prosecution's chief eyewitness, Cynthia White, was totally unbelievable in her court testimony. But Robert Chobert's story, according to Nicosia was credible. Chobert is the "eyewitness" cabdriver who changed his testimony three times before settling on the police version. He originally told the police as did three other eyewitnesses, that "the shooter ran away." Chobert, previously convicted of throwing a bomb in a school yard, had been driving his cab without a license. His cooperation with the police allowed him to continue doing so.

Nicosia claims in his Philadelphia press release that he wrote his secret 18-page book proposal to avoid "harassment" from the Mumia movement. He dramatically instructed all those recipient publishers to keep it under lock and key. Not a bad ploy for a guy with nothing new to say but a publisher yet to win! The harassment lie aside, Nicosia was a virtual guest of the movement, free at all times to attend its every gathering, and to interview all those he met.

But when some of Nicosia's former friends objected to his unsubstantiated statements, it was more than dramatic Gerry could tolerate. His friend's and Mumia Abu-Jamal himself were labeled "censors." Of course, Mumia has not censored anyone. But the movement defending his rights and demanding his freedom has challenged Nicosia's lies while at the same time welcoming him to our events, private and otherwise. At best he has been considered a harmless outsider. It was hoped that his "research" would lead him to an honest account of Mumia's struggle for justice. Today Nicosia places himself on the same stage as Mumia's tormentors who gloat with their new found first-named friend "Gerry" as they ridicule Mumia's supporters.

Nicosia, the "expert" who to my knowledge hasn't written a word of his book other than his secret publishers' proposal, likely neglected to inform these publishers of the facts that prove Mumia's innocence. This kind of voluminous material is not likely to be found interesting in the main stream that Nicosia today savors.

Nicosia's press release crudely refers to a statement by Dan Williams implying that Williams was fired because he had objected to the so-called censorship of Gerald Nicosia. Nicosia insinuates that he was perhaps responsible for Williams' dismissal. No longer a humble writer in search of the truth, Nicosia poses as the man whose "evidence" was so damning that Mumia's fired his own attorney to repress it. But Jamal's dismissal of Williams had absolutely nothing to do with the content of William's book. At the time of Williams' dismissal and perhaps even today, Mumia had never read it.

But I have received an uncorrected proof of the William's book, a copy I sent almost immediately to Mumia after I learned of Williams' dismissal. Entitled, Contrary to Nicosia's view, Williams holds that Mumia is an innocent man.

Alas, Nicosia's held a March 22 Philadelphia press conference to tout his unwritten book and denounce his "censors." His claim of allegiance to the truth stands exposed. Having failed to examine the full range of evidence available to him and being two years short of his own expected date of completion, he decided nevertheless to take to the airwaves, hand in hand with Mumia's frame-up team. The almighty dollar appears to be Nicosia's new god and Mumia Abu-Jamal his intended victim.

While Dan Williams asserts Mumia's innocence in contrast to Nicosia's hype about non-existent evidence indicating his possible guilt, Williams has taken a dangerous and harmful path. His Amy Goodman interview separated him from the case in a tragic and absurd manner. Williams asserted that "while Mumia's case had the enormous potential of reaching out broadly and explaining what's wrong with the criminal justice system...a small fringe element has taken control of the case." But Williams neglects to describe this "fringe element." Williams continued that his discussions with mainstream media people convinced him that "the case has become marginalized, a spectacle, rather than a case dealing with the underlying issues of the criminal justice system."

"It has the grandiosity of a conspiracy...the mobsters killing Faulkner, Anthony Jackson (Mumia's 1982 attorney) entering into a conspiracy with Judge Sabo (the judge in Mumia's 1982 trial) ...These are insupportable. We have no evidence to prove them," said Williams who concludes, "People outside look on this as an oddity. It's histrionic rhetoric, a grandiose conspiracy theory."

The reference to the mobsters killing Faulkner is also to be found in his book, his "inside account." It is a reference, according to Williams to a conversation among Mumia's four attorneys wherein Williams asserts, that one raised this as a possibility. In truth however, aside from this single reference, there has never been a single occasion where this notion was raised either publicly or during the course of Mumia's trial proceedings by any attorney or for that matter by anyone associated with Mumia's defense. The attorney who Williams attributes the remark to was dismissed from the case more than a year ago.

Thus, Williams' histrionic comments reveal nothing since the "mobster" theory has never seen the light of day, that is, until Williams himself publicly announced it, that is until Williams wrote his "insider account" of the case without Mumia's authorization.

But Williams second so-called conspiracy has seen the light of day. The collusion between Mumia's original court-appointed attorney, Anthony Jackson, with Judge Albert Sabo and prosecutor Joseph McGill has been well-documented. It appears in black and white in a sidebar to the court transcript. It appears again in an amicus curiae brief authored by the Chicana/Chicano Studies Foundation. With Mumia's approval this brief was submitted to Judge Yohn, the federal district court judge assigned to Mumia's case. When Judge Yohn broke with precedent and unexpectedly refused to receive this critical brief that documented Judge Sabo's violation of Mumia's right to self-representation, Mumia asked attorney Marlene Kamish to file a writ of mandamus in the U.S. Court of Appeals demanding that Yohn consider the matter.

A central focus of Mumia's position appears in Kamish's argument in the section entitled: "Only the Chicana/Chicano brief exposes the fraud perpetrated upon Mr. Jamal by judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, [Anthony Jackson] and Supreme Court Justice McDermott in conducting a sham proceeding before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to justify denial of his right to represent himself." Here Kamish provides for the first time evidence that "hanging judge" Albert Sabo illegally prevented Jamal from continuing to act as his own attorney and illegally prevented him from seeking the direct assistance of a non-layer, John Africa. Kamish's petition states: "Supposedly, after Judge Sabo removed Mr. Jamal's pro se status [the right to act as one's own lawyer] and ordered his court-appointed "back-up counsel," Mr. Jackson, to take over the defense, Mr. Jackson and the prosecutor, at Judge Sabo's behest, went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on an emergency basis to request guidance on the issues just decided adversely to Mr. Jamal by the trial judge, viz., whether Mr. Jamal had the right to be assisted at counsel table by non-lawyer John Africa and whether Mr. Jamal could continue to represent himself or should instead have his defense taken over by court-appointed attorney Jackson."

Kamish notes that "there was something exceedingly 'fishy' about these alleged proceedings, as indicated by the lack of any entry on the Supreme Court docket of any petitions, hearings or rulings concerning such matters." Citing a case that the Third Circuit had itself decided years before, Yohn v Love, [no relation to the Judge Yohn in Jamal's case] where the court held that a hearing before a single Supreme Court judge was "not held before a court of competent jurisdiction," Kamish concludes that the alleged hearing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was "bereft of any legal validity whatsoever. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration but rather an accurate characterization of the purported proceedings before Supreme Court Justice McDermott in the case of Mr. Jamal to describe them as a classic example of a 'kangaroo court.'"

After analyzing and rejecting every possible exception to the Yohn case, Kamish concludes, that "the purported hearing before Supreme Court Justice McDermott amounted in reality to nothing more than a charade, a game of let's pretend' in which Judge Sabo, the prosecutor, Mr. Jamal's court-imposed attorney, Mr. Jackson, and Justice McDermott all made believe it was a legal proceeding rather than what it really was -- a farce. This sham proceeding, bereft of any legal validity, was utilized to defraud Mumia Abu-Jamal out of his twin constitutional rights to represent himself in his trial and to have the assistance of lay advisor John Africa at counsel table."

During Jamal's trial 1982 Judge Sabo specifically cited this alleged "Supreme Court" ruling to support his decision to prevent Jamal from acting as his own counsel. When Jamal persisted in arguing for his rights Judge Sabo discussed the matter further, but in a private (in camera) meeting from which Jamal was excluded. But the record shows that Jamal's court-appointed attorney, Anthony Jackson, the same attorney that Jamal refused to accept as his counsel, actually suggested to Judge Sabo that Mumia be removed from the court and excluded from his own trial. The result was that Jamal spent more than half of his own trial locked in a holding cell with no provisions for him to hear, not to mention to participate in the proceedings where his life hung in the balance.

Far from a "conspiracy theory" as Williams alleges, Anthony Jackson's conduct is a matter of the court record. But Williams' book portrays Jackson not as a person who acted in collusion with Mumia's prosecutors and Judge Sabo but rather as a hapless, ill-prepared, perhaps incompetent attorney. While the record and Williams book demonstrates this to be the case, it also demonstrates, contrary to Williams, that for whatever reason, Jackson acted in collusion with Sabo and the prosecution.

The remainder of Williams WBAI interview is a sad commentary on his integrity. He claimed that Mumia never asked to see Williams manuscript. "There were good reasons why Mumia never saw the book," Williams stated. He added, "It would be a tacit admission that he agreed with every word." Here Williams plays with words. It is hard to believe that he does not understand that in what is perhaps the world's most debated death row case, his own client would not want to review the work of his attorney when his life is at stake.

Williams vainly tried to justify his unjustifiably conduct citing a case where one Jeffrey Turbin wrote a book on the Contragate trial of Olliver North while North's appeal was still pending. Turbin was unsuccessfully sued by the Justice Department, Williams argued in his own defense. Amy Goodman ended the matter when she observed that Turbin was representing the prosecution not the defense. Williams didn't pursue the matter. Today, Mumia's enemies, from the prosecution, the Fraternal Order of Police and the local media are having a field day with Williams and Nicosia who both allowed their own egos and personal interests to interfere with their better judgment.

In Nicosia's case, a man with no book and no facts has found his fifteen minutes in the limelight. He will be forgotten along with his factless speculations. In the case of Dan Williams, he was apparently unprepared to remain a disciplined member of Mumia's legal team and serve his client in pursuing a line of argument that provided concrete evidence that Mumia was denied his constitutional right to self-representation. He has aggravated his mistakes by fruitless attempts at justification.

Meanwhile Mumia courageously endures in his struggle for the truth. With his life on the line he offers nothing in his defense but the facts that prove his innocence and his challenge to all those who have denied him his fundamental rights.

The record demonstrates that faint hearts, liars and idiots have their moments in history. Mumia's truth will outlive them all.

[Note: Mumia also dismissed his chief counsel Leonard Weinglass. Weinglass has refused comment other than to say that he remains convinced of Mumia's innocence and is committed to assist in any way possible.]

Jeff Mackler is a National Coordinator of Mumia's Defense.

For additional information call: 415-695-7745

© Jeff Mackler April 2001