Twenty five years ago black death-row prisoner and journalist Mumia
Abu-Jamal was arrested for the murder of white Philadelphia police
officer Daniel Faulkner and later convicted in a 1982 trial that Amnesty
International has declared a “violation of minimum international
standards that govern fair trial procedures and the use of the death
In the weeks leading up to December 9 (the 25th anniversary of
Abu-Jamal’s 1981 arrest), there were numerous stories in the local press about Abu-Jamal. Future
Despite the FOP threat that they would actively campaign against his
mayoral bid, Fattah stood by his support for a new trial. However, just days later, he voted for a congressional resolution condemning the French city of
Fattah said in a statement that despite being unconvinced that justice
was served in the case, he voted for the resolution because “anyone who stands convicted of so terrible an offense is an affront to those who risk their lives on a daily basis to serve.”
“The House action” said Pam Africa, chair of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, “is designed to weigh in on and promote an atmosphere in the U.S. judiciary that is prejudicial to Mumia’s receiving any form of justice today.”
Also noteworthy was a public concession from Joseph McGill (who was the prosecutor at Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial) in the Philadelphia Inquirer that Abu-Jamal could have been convicted of a lesser homicide charge if he had waged a “true defense.”
Two More People Say Mumia Confessed?
While these two news pieces were important, perhaps the most shocking story to emerge amidst the flurry of news stories published last week was a Dec. 8 NBC 10 story reporting that two more people now say that they heard Abu-Jamal confess at the hospital before treatment for his gunshot wound.
NBC 10 reports that on Dec. 9, 1981 William Colarulo (now a Chief
Inspector for the
guard the door to the emergency room.” Colarulo told NBC 10 that after Abu-Jamal arrived at the hospital, he confessed to his then partner Tom Brady. “He said to my partner something to the effect, ‘I’m glad I shot the M-F’. That’s what my partner said (Abu-Jamal) told him,” said Colarulo.
The second new account from that morning comes from Kathleen Gerrow. Now an executive producer at NBC 10, Gerrow was a radio reporter in 1981 covering the story at the hospital. “I distinctly remember a very distinctive voice shouting, ‘I shot the mother f—-er, I shot the mother f—-er,” said Gerrow.
Pam Africa argues that these two new accounts show that the
pro-execution lobby “is getting desperate. While these new accounts are supposed to strengthen the case against Mumia, it actually further
exposes the confession story for what it is: a fraud. In 1982 it was unbelievable that police forgot about the confession for two months, Now we’re supposed to believe that it took 25 years for these new people to remember it?”
The Hospital Confession: a contentious history Arguably the strongest
evidence presented against Abu-Jamal in court, the “hospital confession” has long been one of the most contentious issues in the debate between the pro and anti-Mumia factions, and has been cited by Amnesty International as one of the reasons the organization calls for a new trial.
The first report of Abu-Jamal confessing to the murder of Faulkner came from the high-ranking Inspector Alfonso Giordano (former Captain of the Civil Defense unit). Arriving at 13th & Locust within minutes, Giordano claimed that Abu-Jamal confessed to him while lying in the police wagon. While the Philadelphia Bulletin immediately reported that Mumia “admitted shooting the police officer in a brief comment to Police Inspector Giordano,” the prosecution did not cite this during the 1982 trial-likely because of credibility issues. Shortly after Mumia’s
arrest, Giordano resigned after learning that he was under federal
investigation for corruption. Years later he pled guilty to federal
charges of tax evasion for not reporting at least $55,000 earned from
extortion in 1979 and 1980.
The first official police account of the “hospital confession,” was
suspiciously introduced two months after Abu-Jamal’s arrest. When
interviewed (in February, 1982) by the police Internal Affairs Bureau
investigating Mumia’s police brutality complaint, Officers Wakshul,
Bell, and hospital security guard Priscilla Durham then reported Mumia’s
supposed “hospital confession” for the first time.
Mumia allegedly declared (in the presence of 15-20 other cops that have never confirmed it): “I shot the motherfucker and I hope the
Testifying in 1982,
the two month mental lapse resulted from being so upset about Faulkner’s death.
Unfortunately, the jury never heard the most explosive evidence
discrediting the confession. While the DA called
testify, Wakshul was suspiciously absent. On the final day of testimony in 1982, Mumia’s lawyer discovered Wakshul’s statement from Dec.9-the morning of the shooting. After riding with Mumia to the hospital and guarding him until his treatment, Wakshul reported: “the negro male made no comment.”
When the defense immediately sought to call Wakshul as a witness-the DA reported that he was on vacation. On grounds that it was too late in the trial, Sabo denied the defense request to locate him for testimony.
Subsequently, the jury never heard from Wakshul or about his written
report. When an outraged Mumia protested, Sabo cruelly declared: “You and your attorney goofed.”
Gary Wakshul Publicly Beaten
Wakshul’s “negro male” report was key evidence at the PCRA hearings, and it was well-known that he would have to testify to defend his
“confession” story. Unknown to Mumia’s lawyers, on July 13 (days before his PCRA testimony) Wakshul was savagely beaten by undercover police officers in front of a Judge in the Common Pleas Courtroom where he worked as a court crier. Almost two years later, the two attackers (members of Philly’s Vice Squad) were suspended without pay as punishment. With the motive still unexplained, the beating was likely used to intimidate Wakshul into maintaining his “confession” story at the PCRA hearings.
On the stand, Wakshul defended both his Dec.9 report and the two month delay as just being a bad mistake. Further discrediting the “confession” story, he repeated his incredible statement given to the IAB investigator in 1982: “I didn’t realize it had any importance until that day.”
The original trial’s injustice was further exposed when Wakshul
testified to being home for his 1982 vacation-in accordance with
explicit instructions to stay in town for the trial so that he could
testify if called.
The “confession” story has been thoroughly discredited. As Amnesty
International concluded: “The likelihood of two police officers and a
security guard forgetting or neglecting to report the confession of a
suspect in the killing of another police officer for more than two
months strains credulity.”
25 Years of Lies
Advocates of Abu-Jamal’s execution say the “hospital confession” reveals Abu-Jamal to be an arrogant and unrepentant killer–more than just proof of guilt. On the other end of the spectrum, supporters of Abu-Jamal argue that holes in the police account expose fabricated testimony.
In a recent essay contextualizing these new accounts within the 25-year execution campaign, longtime Abu-Jamal supporter Kevin Price has written that “these two new stories are weak attempts to piece together a fabricated confession that has long since crumbled. A quarter century later the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) are still desperately attempting to complete the task that they failed in 1981: the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.”
“In 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal was shot with a bullet through the lung, had his head repeatedly rammed into a steal pole, and in this critical
condition was driven around Philadelphia in the back of a police paddy
wagon for nearly an hour (even though the hospital was within a few
blocks) as the police waited for him to die. Since Mumia did not die,
the state’s next best option was to fabricate evidence and railroad
Hans Bennett has been documenting the movement to free Mumia and all political prisoners for over five years. Please check out his new
This article is the latest installment in Bennett’s series on Abu-Jamal
focusing on December 9 and Abu-Jamal’s upcoming oral arguments before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Check out the new series at: hbjournalist1.googlepages.com/ms