Monday, February 24, 2020

State Supreme Court Orders Investigation Of D.A. In Mumia Appeal

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

The state Supreme Court today granted a King's Bench petition sought by the widow of murdered Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, who was seeking to oust D.A. Larry Krasner from acting as prosecutor during an appeal for a new trial on behalf of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Krasner sparked yet another appeal in the 40-year-old murder case by claiming that he had found newly discovered evidence when he took over the D.A.'s office, in the form of six boxes of old documents. Lawyers for the convicted cop-killer then went into state Superior Court, seeking a hearing on the alleged newly discovered evidence, which turned out to be not so new, and Krasner rolled over, saying he wouldn't object to Mumia getting a new trial.

That prompted the slain officer's widow, Maureen Faulkner, to go to state Supreme Court, seeking to disqualify Krasner as prosecutor in the case based on a conflict of interest. In the King's Bench position, Maureen Faulkner's lawyer, George Bochetto, spotlighted Krasner's radical past twenty years ago as a "movement attorney" and "strategist" on behalf of R2K, a legal collective organized by the National Lawyers Guild. The left-wing outfit has long listed Jamal as an active board member. In granting the King's Bench petition, the state Supreme Court deferred a final ruling on the widow's request to disqualify Krasner until an investigation is completed by a court-appointed "special master," who will probe Krasner's radical past and report back to the state Supreme Court.

While the special master is investigating Krasner, the state Supreme Court in today's order said that all pending matters in Mumia's appeal are "stayed pending further action from this Court."

In today's order, the state Supreme Court also approved an application from Faulkner's lawyers to file a supplemental brief in the King's Bench petition to oust Krasner as prosecutor in the Danny Faulkner case. The state Supreme Court also denied the D.A.'s application to withdraw an exhibit in their response to the King's Bench petition that sought to defend two members of the D.A.'s staff from conflict of interest charges raised by lawyers for Faulkner's widow.

The exhibit, which the D.A. tried unsuccessfully to withdraw, was referred to by Faulkner's lawyers in a filing last December as a "false exhibit" that "speaks volumes about the District Attorney's disingenuous attempts to distort the record" in order to prevent the court from disqualifying Krasner  as the prosecutor in the Mumia case.

In an interview, George Bochetto, Maureen Faulkner's lawyer, said that the state Supreme Court's order to seek appointment of a "special master" was "highly unusual."

"Essentially what the state Supreme Court is saying is that we want boots on the ground in Philadelphia to tell us what the hell is going on in the District Attorney's office," Bochetto said.

"I'm delighted with that." He added that the special master will probably be a "prominent former prosecutor with unquestionable integrity."

Imagine a real prosecutor investigating a complete fraud like Krasner.

"It can only get worse for Larry," Bochetto said.

The Mumia case has been a cause celebre for four decades. The story began on Dec. 9, 1981 on Locust Street, between 12th and 13th Streets, when Officer Faulkner pulled over William Cook. Faulkner, who had radioed for backup, was in the process of handcuffing Cook when his brother, then known as Wesley Cook, crossed the street and shot the police officer in the back.

"As Officer Faulkner lay on the ground bleeding, Jamal shot him four more times at close range, once through the center of his face," Faulkner's lawyers wrote in their Nov. 12th King's Bench petition seeking to disqualify Krasner.

A jury convicted Cook/Jamal of first degree murder in 1982, Faulkner's attorneys wrote, "based on overwhelming evidence, including multiple eyewitness identifications," and Jamal's admission to a hospital security guard and another police officer that "I shot the motherfucker and hope he dies."

In the latest appeal under the Post Conviction Relief Act, lawyers for Jamal claimed in state Superior Court that they had supposedly  found "newly discovered evidence" of their client's innocence, namely the six boxes of old documents found by Krasner when he took over the D.A.'s office.

That led lawyers for Maureen Faulkner to petition the Superior Court, seeking to have Krasner disqualified as the prosecutor in the case. The state Superior Court denied the petition in October, so Faulkner's lawyers filed their King's Bench petition in November in state Supreme Court.

According to Faulkner's lawyers, in declining to contest the new PCRA hearing in state Superior Court, the Philadelphia District Attorney's office "is simply refusing to carry out its responsibility to objectively analyze the case and enforce the law."

According to Faulkner's lawyers, the reason why the D.A. won't do his job is bias: "Unfortunately high ranking officials in the District Attorney's Office -- including the District Attorney himself -- suffer from undeniable personal conflicts of interest which are so obvious and so incendiary that the office's continued representation to the Commonwealth all but guarantees a biased and unjust adjudication of the Jamal case."

"To simply concede the issue now pending in the Superior Court," Faulkner's lawyers wrote, was "tantamount to refusing to carry out the District Attorney's responsibility to enforce the law and defend the prosecution of a stone-cold murderer."

In a supplemental petition filed Nov. 22nd in state Supreme Court, Faulkner's lawyers detail Krasner's work as a "movement attorney" and "strategist" representing "advocates for Mummia's exoneration and freedom."

The National Lawyers Guild in the past has represented labor unions and "oppressed minorities," Faulkner's lawyers state, including alleged political prisoners and activists. Since 1998, the guild has listed Mumia as member of their governing board, referring to him as a  "jailhouse lawyer and VP Emeritus."

Faulkner's lawyers highlight Krasner's work in the wake of the 2000 Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia. The protests during that convention included "A day of resistance to the Death Penalty and the Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal."

During the protests, some 400 people were arrested for allegedly assaulting police, obstructing roadways and committing numerous acts of vandalism.

In response to the arrests, the NLG organized R2K Legal." A website explained the purpose of the group: "R2K Legal is a collective of over 400 activists that were arrested during the Republican National Convention protests in Philadelphia PA ... Along with supporters and attorneys, they are taking their legal defense into their own hands, and forcing the process to be political."

According to an R2K press release, the protesters at the convention were out there to advocate: "FREEDOM OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL AND ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS" as well as "ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY, ABOLISH THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, STOP POLICE TERROR" and "END THE CORPORATE WAR ON THE POOR."

Kris Hermes, a former NLG vice president, wrote a book in 2015 about the protests at the Convention entitled "Crashing the Party." In the acknowledgements section of the book, Hermes thanked "movement attorneys" by name including Krasner. Hermes also wrote that a core member of the R2K group, Caleb Arnold, was represented by Krasner, along with another codefendant Danielle Redden, as they protested the "prison industrial complex."

Krasner subsequently hired Arnold to work at the D.A.'s Immigration Rights Unit. In Hermes' book, he also cited Krasner's paralegal Jody Dodd as a "dedicated activist" on behalf of the protesters.

Krasner's role in the R2K legal collective was not limited to representing individual defendants but also "included a prominent role in deciding the collective political and legal strategy for R2K," Faulkner's lawyers wrote.

"These lawyers are committed to the progressive political goals of many of the protesters and are willing to utilize solidarity as a tactic for achieving the group's goals," Hermes wrote.

In an interview to promote his book, Hermes explained that benefits of the R2K Legal collective that Krasner was a part of: to "establish an important link between the political movements the defendants are part of and the lawyers representing them."

Legal collectives, Hermes said in an interview, "have the unique opportunity to politicize criminal cases, including organizing the defendants to be strategic and bring politics into the courtroom."

As part of his activities on behalf of convention protesters, Faulkner's lawyers wrote, Krasner was one of the R2K lawyers assigned to research ways to recuse Judge Seamus McCaffery, a former cop of 20 years who was then known as a pro-cop judge in Philadelphia Municipal Court.

The lawyers who tried but failed to remove McCaffery as judge cited as reasons for his removal, his career as a cop, his membership in the FOP, and his role as grand marshal of the Daniel Faulkner Memorial Motorcycle Run.

"Krasner was an attorney and lead strategist on a legal team organized by a legal association on which Mumia Abu-Jamal is an active board member and which is dedicated to freeing Jamal," Maureen Faulkner's lawyers wrote. "The same legal team sought the disqualification of Judge [McCaffery] because of his association with Faulkner and the Mumia Abu-Jamal case."

"The court should have grave concerns over Krasner's failure to disclose his work on behalf of R2K, NLJ, and the movement to "Free Mumia" since becoming the district attorney," Faulkner's lawyers wrote. "Krasner's failure to disclose these significant connections to the movement to 'Free Mumia' combined with the multiple points of conflict raised in the King's Bench Petition, support the conclusion that he has an ulterior agenda and fixed bias in favor of Mumia Abu-Jamal."

If the special master winds up investigating D.A. Krasner's alleged newly discovered evidence, he will find out that Krasner went off half cocked on this one.

There's nothing new in those six boxes of old documents. Who says so?

For starters, there's former D.A. Lynne Abraham, who oversaw the prosecution of Mumia. Next on the list is  Joseph McGill, the sole prosecutor at the original Mumia trial back in 1982. In a Nov. 18th affidavit, McGill stated that he was never contacted by anyone in Krasner's office prior to the D.A.'s decision not to oppose Mumia's request for a new PCRA hearing based on the alleged newly discovered evidence.

It's all bunk, McGill says in his affidavit. There's nothing new in the documents, just a couple of old allegations about witnesses in the case that turned out to be completely false.

Finally, Maureen Faulkner's lawyers also interviewed former detective Joe Walsh, who was the man who carried the six boxes of evidence into the D.A.'s office for the purposes of safe storage decades ago. He also said there was nothing new in the old files.

So Krasner, intoxicated with the thought of freeing Mumia, went off half-cocked, didn't bother to interview any witnesses before he reached his cockamamie conclusion that he had found newly discovered evidence that would necessitate a new trial for the most notorious convicted cop killer in the city's history.

And now, because of his radical past, Krasner will hopefully be exposed in state Supreme Court as an unscrupulous and dishonest left-wing ideologue who should be disqualified from the Mumia case because of his extreme bias and his radical past, which has finally caught up with him.

In response to the state Supreme Court order to investigate Krasner, Jane Roh, his alleged spokesperson, as is her usual practice, did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither did Krasner.

Roh, however, gave a full interview to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which filed their story about this case nearly three hours after Big Trial first broke the news about Krasner. Naturally, the Inky did not credit this blog. But they did get the benefit of a full interview from Roh.

In an email to the Inquirer, Roh wrote, "We don't comment on litigation."

Can you believe the taxpayers are paying this woman $118,000 a year to be the D.A.'s "communications director?"

Regarding the exhibit that the D.A.'s office tried unsuccessfully to withdraw, well that's another embarrassing story for Larry Krasner and his sorry D.A.'s office.

In the original King's Bench petition, Faulkner's lawyers had attacked two members of the D.A.'s office, in addition to Krasner, for having conflicts of interest when it came to Mumia.

In response, the D.A. filed an exhibit that purported to be a copy of the D.A.'s own website at the time  that the King's Bench petition was filed. But instead, as Faulkner's lawyers noted, the D.A.'s exhibit was "full of inaccurate and incomplete statements."

Faulkner's lawyers had contended that Paul George, who is Krasner's second in command of the D.A.'s law division, had previously been a lawyer for Mumia.

In the D.A.'s response to the King's Bench petition, the D.A. contended that George had merely served as a "local counsel" who just "simply read the appellant brief" for Mumia after it had been written by Mumia's other lawyers, because those other lawyers supposedly weren't qualified to represent defendants in capital murder cases, where the death penalty was involved.

But the rules of criminal procedure say that a lead counsel in a capital case must have significant experience, as well as meet training and education standards. If George indeed served as first chair, because Mumia's other lawyers weren't qualified to work capital cases, he had primary responsibility for Mumia's defense, and was not a "mere rubber stamp as George would purport" in a misleading affidavit filed by the D.A., Faulkner's lawyers wrote.

So, Faulkner's lawyers concluded, either George misled the court or he deliberately violated the rules of criminal procedure by serving as a rubber stamp in the Mumia appeal.

The D.A. had also contended that Faulkner's lawyers should have known from the D.A.'s website that George is not the immediate supervisor of the assistant district attorney assigned to handle Mumia's appeal.

But, Faulkner's lawyers wrote, this is false because George's alleged title of assistant supervisor of the law division was not listed on the D.A.'s website until after the King's Bench petition was filed. Previously, George had been listed on pleadings filed by the D.A. as a direct supervisor to attorneys that included the appeals unit. But in his new post as second in command in the entire law division, he has authority over more assistant district attorneys than the chief of the appeals unit.

"In other words, George does not directly supervise the assistants in the appeals unit, he supervises their supervisor," Faulkner's lawyers wrote.

Faulkner's lawyers also contended that Jody Dodd had a conflict of interest because she was a supporter of Mumia's. Dodd is Krasner's former paralegal from his private law practice who is now head of the D.A.'s "Reconciliation Unit," despite being an active member of the Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal," Faulkner's lawyers charged.

But Dodd in her defense claimed that she had merely volunteered on behalf of a group called "Up Against the Law," which she said "simply supports the people's right to protest."

That group, however, didn't exist in 2002, when Faulkner's lawyers claimed Dodd had a conflict. Faulkner's lawyers added that Dodd should have known the group known as Up Against the Law didn't exist back then because it was Dodd who founded the group in 2011.

In addition, in 2002, Dodd was associated with R2K, the group that worked directly with Mumia and his supporters to advance his case. Dodd, Faulkner's lawyers claim, was also associated with a third group, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, which also advocated for Mumia's release. Dodd in 2000 was listed as the that organization's national coordinator.

Dodd's affiliations with the other two organizations that supported Mumia were not included in an affidavit that the D.A. submitted from Dodd in an attempt to rebut the conflict of interest charges.

Regarding the D.A.'s ongoing conflicts, and the D.A.'s various misstatements concerning those conflicts, Faulkner's lawyers wrote, "the personal conflicts and appearances of impropriety of the District Attorney's office are overwhelming. The District Attorney should not be permitted to withdraw its false exhibit, as it speaks volumes about the District Attorney's disingenuous attempts to distort the record" to prevent the state Supreme Court from disqualifying Krasner as a prosecutor in the Faulkner case.

The state Supreme Court apparently agreed. And now they're going to investigate Larry Krasner, something that's long overdue.

Maybe the feds should be next.

1 comments:

  1. The two men now convicted of the 2015 murder of Sgt. Robert Wilson III avoided the death penalty after accepting a deal from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office (Krasner). I can't believe he remained in office beyond that.

    ReplyDelete

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