The Fleeing Man

Raising Doubts About the Guilt of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Would Kordansky's story have altered Abu-Jamal's destiny? At a hearing, she testified that on the night of the shooting she was residing at a house overlooking the scene. Between 3:45 and 4 a.m., Kordansky said she heard a noise that sounded like firecrackers.

"When she looked out," notes Abu-Jamal's lawyers, picking up the explanation, "she, too, saw a man running east on the south side of Locust Street—an observation that harmonized with the other eyewitness accounts. Kordansky came down from her hotel room and promptly told police, in an effort to assist them in apprehending the fleeing perpetrator, that she had seen the man running on Locust Street."

In his own defense, attorney Anthony Jackson said he reached Kordansky by phone but Kordansky would not give him her address. But Abu-Jamal's new lawyers excoriate Jackson in their petition. "The defense's failure to call Kordansky was not a strategic or tactical decision by [Jackson]," they assert. "During the 1982 trial, defense counsel told the court that, had he been given Kordansky's address before trial, he would have been able to interview her and 'maintain some contact with the witness so I could have her in court.' "

Missing from this tragic scenario is Abu-Jamal's brother, William Cook, whom the jury never heard from. But his absence might have a lot to do with the alleged shenanigans of those who want Abu-Jamal dead. Cook had been charged separately with assaulting a police officer and was advised by his attorney that by injecting himself in Abu-Jamal's trial he ran the risk of being charged with first-degree murder and convicted.

In the 1995 hearing, Abu-Jamal's appeal lawyers tried to call Cook to the stand, hoping that Cook would testify that he had a passenger in his car the night of the shooting; that this passenger was present when Faulkner was shot; and that Abu-Jamal indeed was innocent. Cook refused to come into court unless he was protected. He disappeared, and Abu-Jamal's lawyers wound up having to explain Cook's fear of self-incrimination, adding that he was in hiding because he feared being arrested "or otherwise harmed by police in retaliation for his appearance."

Abu-Jamal continues to attract international support from death-penalty opponents, celebrities, and politicians who believe he was railroaded.

One of his most fervent backers is the widow of former French president François Mitterand, Danielle Mitterand, who visited Abu-Jamal on death row in Pennsylvania last April. Instead of the convicted cold-blooded killer some portray Abu-Jamal to be, Mitterand found a dreadlocked prisoner with "a great depth of soul," a man who "incarnates [the] cause" against capital punishment.

"It is my firm conviction that Mumia is innocent," says Mitterand, the founder of Fondation France Libertés, a Paris-based human rights organization with branches in 53 countries. "We have an expression in French, J'ai la conviction intime, a legal phrase that judges or jurors use to convey their certainty of a man's innocence. One could use this phrase with regard to Mumia. . . . Everything I have read by the legal experts points to his innocence. I am also aware of testimony that was suppressed, and evidence that was never brought before the court."

Additional reporting: Danielle Douglas

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