Baltimore IMC :
Baltimore IMC

Review :: Activism

New Book on Mumia Hits and Misses

New Book on Mumia Hits and Misses

In his new book Dave Lindorff purports to tell the truth about Mumia
Killing Time: An Investigation Into The Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, by Dave Lindorff. Common Courage Press Paperback 342 pages Soft Back, $19.95

Dave Lindorff has undertaken a laborious endeavor in order to tell the story of, as well as shed new light into, the exceedingly complex and highly controversial death penalty case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The fruition of his years of research culminated in Killing Time: An investigation Into The Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. In his exhaustively researched tract, Lindorff attempts to deconstruct the mythology that has often passed for debate in a case that encompasses not only race and class, but how the American system of justice is clearly burdened by the brutal ambition and prejudices of those that comprise it. Lindorff has a daunting task in all of these regards and, in some cases, he does quite well, while at other times, particularly when he is guided by his opinions, fails miserably.

The majority of the book is spent reviewing Jamal's original trial and subsequent appeals. Lindorff quite correctly makes the contention that from 1982 till this day, there have been gross errors committed and outright misconduct on the part of prosecutors and police to secure Jamal's conviction, as well as in keeping him firmly in place on Pennsylvania's death row. Although Lindorff has clearly done his homework in terms of reviewing the Jamal's legal struggle, he offers very few new insights into the case that were not already put forth in Dan William's book on the Jamal case Executing Justice.

One area of particular interest in Lindorff's book is his criticisms of Jamal's legal representation. While he only offers an oblique critique of former Jamal attorney Leonard Weinglass, he tears into Jamal's new legal team of Eliot Grossman and Marlene Kamish with a vengeance. He paints the latter as inexperienced attention seekers who are pursuing a hopeless legal strategy that, instead of leading to Jamal's freedom, will virtually ensure his continued incarceration. It is in this contention that Lindorff distances himself from reality. While one should avoid placing attorneys, especially attorneys who are representing a person on death row, beyond reproach, that reproach should be tempered with the facts.

At particular issue is the much maligned "confession" of a man named Arnold Beverly who, in the early nineties, approached one of Jamal's attorneys and eventually admitted to killing Police Officer Faulkner in a mob murder for hire scenario. Jamal's lead attorney, Leonard Weinglass purportedly nixed the idea of bringing to light this man and his outlandish claims. It remained a dead issue until one of Jamal's attorney's named Dan Williams published his own book about his involvement in the case, as well as the case itself, and brought the Arnold Beverly story to light. Lindorff also presumes to say that Jamal rejected this self-proclaimed hitman despite having never interviewed Jamal himself, and despite Jamal's statements about having been mislead by his former legal defense team that they were further investigating this potential suspect when they were really throwing this confession "onto the trash heap," as Williams brags in his book. Jamal was left with no choice, but to fire Williams, as well as Weinglass, for the disclosure of privileged information.

Now Jamal's new attorneys Kamish and Grossman filed the Beverly affidavit, as well as several others, as a bid to win Jamal a new trial. Unfortunately, the media, as well as the personality cult of Leonard Weinglass that was embittered by his removal, focused solely on Arnold Beverly and assailed his story as incredulous and excoriated Kamish and Grossman for presenting it. What was forgotten in the controversy was the fact that the Beverly confession should be allowed into court and should be investigated, due to the very nature of capital cases. When a man's life is on the line, no confession by another party should be so quickly discounted. Lindorff makes no claim of attempting to locate Beverly to either prove or disprove the confession. Lindorff also seems to want to lead his readers down an erroneous path that has Jamal's legal team as focusing all energies on the Beverly confession. Lindorff clearly was not argueing off of fact here, but, instead off of his own frustrated opinion, which he made no attempt to explain his reasons for believing so. This is factually incorrect and seems to betray an animus towards Jamal's new legal team that permeates the book.

On a positive note, Lindorff takes to task the mainstream media in Philadelphia for there lackluster, and often pointedly biased coverage of Jamal's case throughout the years. The fact that the Philadelphia Inquirer has never assigned investigative reporters to look into the case is nothing short of scandalous. The other major Philadelphia newspaper the Daily News has placed itself in the position of being a propaganda machine for the Fraternal Order of Police with their unrepentant demonization of Jamal and anyone who dares to voice the opinion that he belongs anywhere than in a tiny jail cell.

Dave Lindorff believes that there are legal points within his book that, if accurately presented, will help lead to Jamal receiving a new trial. As a long time observer of this case, I am not so optimistic and not because I do not believe the facts warrant such a turnabout. The deeply entrenched misconceptions by the public and open hatred of Jamal by many within Philadelphia's power structure virtually ensure that, despite the plethora of legal reasons for not only a new trial, but immediate release, Jamal will remain locked away for some time to come. As many have also witnessed, there are over thirty legal reasons that had very strong merit that the courts hardly even batted an eye at. It will take a lot more than a good legal arguement that will lead to a new trial, not to speak of eventually freeing Mumia Abu-Jamal.

-Tony Allen December 26, 2002

This site made manifest by dadaIMC software