Friday, February 19, 2021

From The Archives: Linn Washington Jr. Reviews “The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” by J. Patrick O'Connor

--Please sign our Color of Change petition to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner: Stop Defending Mumia Abu-Jamal's Unjust Conviction

 (This article has been edited for length. It was first published as “New Frame On Framing By Police” on June 27, 2008. )

Many Philadelphians rudely reject the premise meticulously detailed in the new book by veteran journalist J. Patrick O’Connor: police and prosecutors framed Mumia Abu-Jamal placing an innocent man on death row. 

O’Connor provides solid proof for his premise from the very place considered by those convinced of Abu-Jamal’s guilt as their holy-writ: the official transcripts of court proceedings in this case sparking outrage internationally. 

O’Connor read the thousands of pages of transcripts from trial proceedings in 1982 and 1995 during the research phase for his easy-to-read book “The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal” (Lawrence Hill Books 2008).

Carefully citing trial proceedings, O’Connor’s book lists odious instances of wrongdoing by police and prosecutors – accomplished with judicial complicity. 

“From the beginning of this case, it was corrupt. It was a railroad job,” O’Connor said recently during a reading/book signing at a small venue on Baltimore Ave in West Philadelphia sponsored by the organization, Journalists for Abu-Jamal.    

“I wrote the book to show not only that Mumia did not kill Officer Faulkner but to show how and why they framed Mumia,” said O’Connor who lived in the Philadelphia area at the time of the brutal December 1981 crime at the heart of this controversial case. 

In 1981, O’Connor, currently editor and publisher of Crime Magazine, worked as an associate editor of TV Guide then based in a suburb of Philadelphia. 

Rude rejection in Philadelphia of ever mounting evidence of Abu-Jamal’s innocence is one reason why Philadelphia’s newspaper from dailies to weeklies have ignored O’Connor’s book despite lavishing coverage on the anti-Abu-Jamal book released late last year co-authored by the widow of Officer Faulkner. 

“The reception for my book has been pretty good everywhere but in Philadelphia,” O’Connor said. 

“The day after my book came out I came to Philadelphia and tried to talk with newspapers. I thought they would be interested in a book with a different angle,” O’Connor said. 

Hearing Abu-Jamal on the Radio

Author Pat O’Connor said he remembers listening regularly to Abu-Jamal’s memorable reporting on WHYY-FM while driving to work. 

“I never heard reporting like he did. He has such a distinctive voice,” said O’Connor whose journalism career includes reporting for an international news service, editing a city magazine and owning an alternative weekly newspaper. 

O’Connor’s initial interest in the Abu-Jamal case arose from what he considered the seeming incongruity of a journalist whose work he respected being arrested for murder. 

“When I heard of his arrest, it didn’t seem right to me…but I bought the line because the papers in Philly had him convicted by the second day after his arrest,” O’Connor recalled during an interview last Thursday. 

Police, Prosecutorial, and Judicial Misconduct

Low-ball tactics by police, prosecutors and judges render Abu-Jamal’s conviction unjust, O’Connor contends in his book. 

“The DA’s Office withheld evidence that a driver’s license application found in Faulkner’s shirt pocket shows someone else was at the crime scene,” O’Connor said during his presentation last week. 

O’Connor contends Officer Faulkner’s killer was a man named Kenneth Freeman, the business partner and inseparable, life-long friend of Abu-Jamal’s brother. Officer Faulkner’s stopping of the brother’s car for an alleged traffic violation lead to the fatal shooting. 

The owner of that license application told police hours after the fatal shooting that he loaned the document to Freeman. 

Eyewitnesses told police Faulkner’s shooter fled, providing descriptions fitting Freeman.

“Prosecutor’s are supposed to release evidence of innocence,” O’Connor said citing legal rules. 

Eyewitnesses told police that the passenger in the brother’s car shot Faulkner. 

Even the prosecution’s prime witness at Abu-Jamal’s murder trial, a prostitute name Cynthia White, testified in a prior trial that there was a passenger in the brother’s car. 

At Abu-Jamal’s trial, the prosecutor got White to change her prior testimony about the presence of the passenger, a tactic Pat O’Connor calls improperly deceiving the jury. 

The suspicious death of Kenneth Freeman shortly after the 1985 MOVE bombing remains a mystery. O’Connor questions why Philadelphia authorities failed to fully investigate the death of Freeman who was found naked in a secluded area. Authorities closed the case on Freeman’s death as a routine heart attack. 


Pat O’Connor said he began thoroughly investigating the Abu-Jamal case after Amnesty International began releasing reports questioning the fairness of Abu-Jamal’s conviction. 

Abu-Jamal’s imprisonment is “a clear cut case of monumental miscarriage of justice,” O’Connor said. 

--Linn Washington Jr. is an award-winning columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune who has covered the Abu-Jamal case since December 1981.

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