Monday, June 28, 2021

The Key Findings of Linn Washington Jr. and Dave Lindorff's 2010 Ballistics Test, excerpted from our Color of Change petition to DA Krasner

(Excerpted from our Color of Change petition to DA Larry Krasner

In 2010, investigative journalists Dave Lindorff and Linn Washington performed a test to see whether bullets fired into the sidewalk at close range would leave visible markings. The test was designed to replicate the shooting scenario presented at Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial by ADA Joseph McGill, alleging that Abu-Jamal stood directly over Officer Faulkner and fired downwards at him, execution style. According to McGill’s theory, Abu-Jamal missed several times because Faulkner actively dodged the shots by rolling side-to-side, until the final shot entered Faulkner’s forehead and killed him. 

Lindorff and Washington sought to test a central argument of German author Michael Schiffmann’s 2006 book Race Against Death, written as his PhD dissertation at the University of Heidelberg. Dr. Schiffmann examined the crime scene photos, including those taken by freelance photographer Pedro Polakoff, and concluded that there were no visible divots or markings in the pavement, which Schiffmann asserted should have been visible if the testimonies of key prosecution eyewitnesses Robert Chobert and Cynthia White had been accurate. (The Polakoff photos are the very first photos taken of the crime scene. In addition to showing no bullet marks, the photos show that Robert Chobert’s taxi was not where Chobert testified it was, that Police Officer James Forbes held two guns in his bare hand, and that police moved Officer Faulkner’s hat from the top of Billy Cook’s car onto the sidewalk where it would later appear in the official police crime scene photos.)

In 2010, Lindorff and Washington tested Schiffmann’s assertion by firing a .38 caliber revolver several times into a concrete slab. They then closely analyzed the bullet marks left in the concrete slab. They concluded, without any ambiguity, that the bullets had indeed left visible markings. Therefore, if ADA McGill’s theory (supported by Robert Chobert and Cynthia White’s trial testimony) was truthful, there must have been similar bullet markings in the pavement next to where Officer Daniel Faulkner’s body was found.

For their 2010 test, Lindorff and Washington had one of Pedro Polakoff’s 1981 photos and a 2010 gun test photo compared & analyzed by a NASA photo analyst named Robert Nelson. They concluded definitively that the 1981 photo did not show any markings similar to what was visible in the 2010 photo, meaning that “the whole prosecution story of an execution-style slaying of the officer by Abu-Jamal would appear to be a prosecution fabrication, complete with coached, perjured witnesses, undermining the integrity and fairness of the entire trial.”

Before publishing their findings, Dave Lindorff and Linn Washington informed the Philadelphia DA’s office about the results of their test, and specifically asked the DA for a quote to explain the lack of photographic evidence or testimony about bullet impact marks in the sidewalk around Faulkner’s body. The DA’s office responded to their questions with what Lindorff and Washington considered to be “a non-response.” All the DA’s office told them was: “The murderer has been represented over the past twenty plus years by a multitude of lawyers, many of whom have closely reviewed the evidence for the sole purpose of finding some basis to overturn the conviction. As you know, none has succeeded, and Mr. Abu-Jamal remains what the evidence proved – a murderer.”

--Learn more about the 2010 ballistics test here.

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