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  Michael Moore Strikes Low Blow Against Mumia
by Jeff Mackler and Laura Herrera, Co-coordinators, The Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (12-1-03)

Until recently Michael Moore, actor, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, ("Bowling for Columbine" and "Roger and Me") muckraking author and popular lecturer, has been a respected figure whose political commentary appealed to a wide range of audiences.

In 1995 his name appeared prominently among signers of a full-page ad in the New York Times demanding a new trial for U.S. political prisoner and innocent death row inmate, African-American journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. The ad Moore signed detailed violations of Mumia's democratic rights that led to his frame-up murder conviction and the associated worldwide movement for his freedom and/or a new trial where the repressed and new evidence proving his innocence could be presented.

Moore's public speeches have scored the Bush Administration's war policies and the corrupt dealings of Bush's corporate billionaire cabinet officials. His courageous use of the Academy Award stage to denounce Bush won him the admiration of millions and the enmity of supporters of the status quo. His stature is reflected in the astronomical sales figures of his books, past and present, in the U.S. and worldwide. Moore's "Stupid White Men" appeared on the New York Times "best sellers" list. His last two books are rated "one" and "two" in Germany, with similar results across the globe.

Thus, when a figure of Moore's standing decided to reverse his position and side with those who seek to murder Mumia, there is little doubt that a major blow has been struck against this innocent man's 22-year struggle for justice and freedom. Moore's attack comes at an especially difficult moment. On October 8 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected Mumia's appeal. The core of its decision was a refusal to consider critical evidence of Mumia's innocence. "Innocence is no defense," the courts have repeatedly stated in regard to Mumia, basing themselves on technicalities and obtuse interpretations of the law. Sadly, Moore seems to have fallen into a similar line of reasoning.

Moore's attack was published on page 189 of his best-selling and newly-released book, "Dude, Where's My Country?" It appears in a section advising his readers how to speak effectively to conservatives. Moore states:

"Mumia probably killed that guy [Officer Daniel Faulkner]. There, I said it. That does not mean he should be denied a fair trial or that he should be put to death. But because we don't want to see him or anyone executed, the efforts to defend him may have overlooked the fact that he did indeed kill that cop. This takes nothing away from the eloquence of his writings or commentary, or the important place he now holds on the international political stage. But he probably did kill that guy."

Michel Moore; "Dude, Where's My Country?"; Page 189

Moore's logic is terribly flawed and contradictory. His failure to present even the most minimal evidence to substantiate his assertion marks a fundamental break with his tradition of presenting facts to buttress his arguments. Readers should note the three "killing" references in Moore's statement.

Two, the first and last, assert that Mumia "probably" killed Faulkner. But the second reference is unqualified. It states that the efforts to defend Mumia may have overlooked "the fact that he did indeed kill that cop." (Emphasis added).

This is the most extreme and explicit statement in any book dealing with this subject. Mumia's most critical and analytical biographers all conclude at worst, like David Lindorff, in his sometimes irresponsible book, "Killing Time," that he "leans toward innocence." Dan Williams, Mumia's former attorney who was fired by Mumia for publishing a book on the case without Mumia's permission, "Executing Justice," concludes that Mumia is innocent. Both authors were compelled to conclude following their review of the evidence,, that Mumia was the victim of a frame-up and that a judgment of "guilty" cannot be sustained.

Having declared Mumia emphatically guilty, Moore's assertion that Mumia should get a "fair trial" is reminiscent of the old-fashioned cowboy movies where the bad guys control the town and the judge and proclaim, "Let's give him a fair trial and then hang 'em!" If Moore seriously believes that Mumia did not receive a fair trial, as he implies in his statement, one can only wonder how he could conclude that Mumia is guilty. It seems obvious that a fair trial is the minimum prerequisite for an objective judgment. The trial record and an extensive nvestigation convinced Amnesty International that Mumia did not receive a fair trial. Amnesty questioned most every aspect of the proceedings against Mumia and could only conclude that the verdict had to be fatally flawed.

A few basic facts need restating:

  • Mumia was excluded from a majority of the proceeding of his own trial. He was excluded because he repeatedly requested permission to exercise his constitutional right to represent himself. He was denied this right.
  • In violation of Supreme Court rulings in the  Batson case, 11 of the 14 Black jurors available were excluded in a trial presided over by the notorious Judge Albert Sabo, who had sentenced more people to execution, 31, than any judge in the U.S. Twenty-nine of the 31 executed were Black.
  • Philadelphia District Attorney  Ronald Castille authorized a training tape for prosecutors, instructing them on how to exclude Black jurors, which they did. Castille, subsequently promoted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, refused to recuse himself when Mumia's case was appealed to his court. He thus assumed the role of prosecutor and judge.
  • Terri Maurer Carter, an award-winning court stenographer, overheard Judge Sabo state in his courtroom antechambers in reference to Mumia's case, "Yeah, and I'm going to help 'em fry the nigger."  Carter's testimony was excluded by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the spurious grounds that Sabo's "alleged" racism was litigated and rejected in proceeding that took place six years BEFORE, Carter's affidavit was submitted.
  • The testimony of Cynthia White, the chief police witness against Mumia,  has been thoroughly repudiated. None of the several witnesses on the murder scene ever saw White. White admitted to Evette Williams, according to  Williams sworn affidavit, that White was not on the murder scene, did not see Mumia and was forced, via police threats of a long-term prison sentence, to implicate Mumia. William's testimony was excluded from court consideration. Police informant Pamela Jenkins testified that Philadelphia police pressured her to falsely state that Mumia was the killer. Jenkins refused to do so. Veronica Jones, a prostitute vulnerable to police intimidation, testified in 1995 at Mumia's Post Conviction Relief Act hearing that her 1982 court testimony that helped convict Mumia, was a lie, the direct result of police intimidation.
  • The testimony of taxicab driver Robert Chobert, the prosecution's other supposed eyewitness,  was repudiated by a defense investigator whose affidavit affirmed that Chobert admitted he had lied when he stated in court that he was present at the murder scene. Other witnesses present refute Chobert's claim that his cab was on the murder scene. No other witness saw the cab. Chobert, an arsonist, had been previously convicted of throwing a Molotov cocktail onto a schoolyard. He was allowed by Philadelphia police to continue driving his cab, even though his license had been revoked
  • The alleged confession of Mumia has been proven to be false, refuted by a series of witnesses and other evidence excluded from jury consideration.
  • And finally, Arnold Beverly, a mob hitman and police collaborator,  confessed that he, not Mumia, killed police officer Faulkner. Beverly's testimony and his request to appear in court, have been rejected on the grounds that they were submitted too late for consideration!

These are but a few of the facts and constitutional issues that should have led Michael Moore to think twice before adding his substantial political weight to the prosecution's frame-up effort.

There is some evidence that Moore has reconsidered his damaging accusation. An artist at New York's Pacifica radio station, WBAI, states that she wrote to Moore to express her displeasure at his attack on Mumia. She reports that Moore responded as follows:

"hi, thanks for writing. i can see now that i was being too flip and was trying to make a larger point that had nothing to do with mumia. i have long supported his efforts for a new trial and will always oppose his and anyone's execution. please accept my apologies. mm"

Michel Moore by Email

A man of Moore's stature should understand that the damage he inflicted on Mumia's fight for justice and freedom cannot be undone by a personal and vaguely worded email expressing apologies. What is needed now, and what would clearly indicate that Moore has not departed from his previous commitment to exposing society's injustices, is for Moore to review his original statement and, at a minimum, publicly reassert his belief that Mumia's trial was a frame-up and that therefore no conclusion regarding his guilt can be properly drawn.

Leaders of Mumia's defense are in the process of contacting Moore to inform him of the wide range of evidence proving Mumia's innocence. They have every right and indeed an obligation to insist that a retraction by Moore be issued and that it be as widely circulated as the original false accusation.

We are hopeful that Moore will respond positively to the facts on record and rejoin the struggle to win justice and freedom. His failure to do so can only demonstrate that he cannot be counted on as a source of unbiased and objective judgment in the future.

We urge supporters of Mumia's freedom to contact Michael Moore at:  mike@michaelmoore.com

The Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
298 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

Related Links:
Race & Law - Hot Topics - NYS Defenders Assoc - Public Defense Backup
Regarding Batson

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