THE POLAKOFF PHOTOS: New Photos of the Crime Scene of the Shooting Death of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner - FAQ
background information on Mumia Abu-Jamal
by Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal and Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal, in
consultation with Dr. Michael Schiffmann
Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on Pennsylvania's death row for over a quarter of
a century. His 1982 conviction for the shooting death of Philadelphia Police
Officer Daniel Faulkner, has been contested by jurists, human rights
organizations, and peoples of conscience the world over. Even though he is
arguably the most famous political prisoner in the United States, his case and
struggle for justice distills many of the issues that racially stigmatized
groups and others have faced in the United States for decades: police brutality
and violence, racist applications of the death penalty, prosecutorial
misconduct, suborning of witnesses, and the use of wealth and political
privilege in criminal justice systems to service the ideological interests of
groups and classes in power.
Within the last year, some 26 photos have been discovered by researcher Dr.
Michael Schiffmann of the University of Heidelberg, showing the crime scene
where Officer Faulkner was killed. These photos were offered to police and
prosecutors from the beginning, but were never considered at Abu-Jamal's
1982 trial, or in any judicial phase of his struggle for justice thereafter.
Indeed, they were unknown even to Abu-Jamal's defense team, until very
recently. To widen public knowledge about these photos and to answer many of
the basic questions about them, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal and Journalists
for Mumia Abu-Jamal have collaborated to produce this document of "21 FAQs
about the Polakoff Photos." We stress that while it is important for the
public to have knowledge about these photos, and to debate them in the media
and public forum, the most important and necessary move is for the court system
to give Abu-Jamal a new trial and deliberate officially on this evidence and
all evidence that is potentially exculpatory for Abu-Jamal.
For more information, please see previous press-releases from May, October, and
December (4 photos can be viewed at Abu-Jamal-News.com). Video footage is now
available of the Dec.4 Journalists for Mumia press conference addressing the
photos (Parts One and Two), as well as the Dec. 8 slide show presentation of
the photos, which were recently spotlighted by Reuters, NBC's Today Show,
National Public Radio, Counterpunch, The SF Bay View Newspaper, The Black
Commentator, The Philadelphia Weekly , and others.
More extensive information on the case can be found at the following websites:
FreeMumia.com (New York City), FreeMumia.org (San Francisco), EmajOnline.com
(Educators for Mumia), Abu-Jamal-News.com (Journalists for Mumia), or by
contacting: The International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia
Abu-Jamal, P.O. Box 19709, Philadelphia, PA 19143, (215) 476-8812,
1. Why are these photos coming out just now, and how were they
The photos were discovered by University of Heidelberg linguist and translator,
Michael Schiffmann, during an unrelated internet search in late May 2006.
Schiffmann first found two photos taken by a freelance photographer, Pedro
Polakoff. Later he would have access to over 26 of Polakoff's photos of the
crime scene. Previous researchers and those debating the Mumia case, in court
or outside of court, seem to have had no knowledge of these photos until this
discovery, and until Schiffmann's later discussion of the photos in his
2006 book, Race Against Death: The Struggle for the Life and Freedom of Mumia
Abu-Jamal (published only in Germany, with an English manuscript presently
available). Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EMAJ) and Journalists for Mumia
Abu-Jamal (J4M) have been instrumental in circulating knowledge of
2. Is there any chance these Polakoff photos could be fake or
Schiffmann has responded to this query directly: "Polakoff has preserved
the original negatives, from which the images viewed on the internet were
directly scanned, with a negative scanner. As the negatives show, Daniel
Faulkner's hat started on the top of the VW, and only later showed up on
the sidewalk, where it would then remain for the official police photo. There
isn't a scintilla of a doubt about its authenticity, […] and there
isn't the slightest doubt about the time sequence of the photographs, a
question that I've gone through with photographer Pedro Polakoff again and
again and again." 
3. Who is this photographer?
Pedro P. Polakoff was a freelance photographer in Philadelphia who got to the
crime scene just 12 minutes after the shooting was first reported on police
radio, and apparently at least 10 minutes before the Philadelphia Police Mobile
Crime Detection (MCD) Unit that handles crime scene forensics and
4. How could Polakoff get access to the crime scene for these
Polakoff was himself surprised about how he could move and photograph freely
everywhere at the crime scene, even after the PPD Mobile Crime Unit arrived.
Polakoff told Schiffmann that it was the "most messed up crime scene I
have ever seen." It was completely unsecured, a fact testified to also by
Philadelphia journalist, Linn Washington, Jr. 
5. How did Schiffmann get his information from Polakoff?
After the first contact, first by telephone, and then by email with Polakoff,
Schiffmann amassed over 60 pages of email notes from questioning Polakoff. He
also had over six weeks of other contacts with Polakoff, "without ever
revealing more to him," writes Schiffmann, "than the fact that I was
working on a book on the case." Only relatively later in the conversations
with Polakoff did Schiffmann reveal his own views and suspicions about the
prosecutors' version of the case. Schiffmann also has studied
Polakoff's many responses at different points during his contacts, and
Schiffmann finds that Polakoff is both detailed and consistent each time.
6. What is most important about the 26 Polakoff photos?
This question must be approached both as a procedural question and as a
substantive question. Procedurally , there is the fact that Polakoff offered
the 26 photos to the police and DA's Office, and they showed no interest in
them. The photos surely never entered the court record of Abu-Jamal's case
to be set before a jury's deliberation. Let us grant that photos can enter
as evidence in many ways, and a photo which very clearly shows one thing to one
person can show something very different to another person, often depending on
context (of other evidence, knowledge, personal experience and ideological
interests, and so on). Nevertheless, the key procedural point is that the
Polakoff photos, which were available and offered to police and prosecutors in
both 1981/1982, and in the 1990s, never even made it into the evidentiary
record of this case. They were omitted, left out, of all procedures for
investigating Officer Faulkner's death.
Substantively , the Polakoff photos enable defense attorneys, and by extension
the court, to raise significant reasonable doubt about the basic scenario of
Officer Faulkner's death – a scenario that prosecutors constructed to
argue for Abu-Jamal's guilt. In light of the Polakoff photos, that
scenario could be completely destroyed by attorneys. In particular, testimony
for the prosecution about that scenario, provided by Cynthia White, Robert
Chobert and Michael Scanlon, becomes incredible. 
----- At the 1982 trial of Abu-Jamal, they all testified that the killer stood
over the officer who was lying defenselessly on the sidewalk and fired several
.38 caliber bullets down at him, one of which hit him between the eyes and
killed him instantaneously, whereas the other shots missed.
----- These missing shots would have produced traces in the sidewalk that it
would have been impossible to overlook, since bullets of that caliber would
have left large divots, or even holes with concrete broken away, in the
----- Neither the one police photo of where Faulkner allegedly lay, nor a full
nine other Polakoff photos taken of the same area from various angles, show any
traces of such shots into the sidewalk.
----- Even if we grant that interpreting photographs can at times be a complex
endeavor, the apparent absence of any such divots renders the prosecution
witnesses' testimony highly problematic, to say the least.
7. Couldn't the other shots have glanced off the sidewalk or hit at
such an angle that they might not have left any trace?
This is highly unlikely. In the first place, the prosecution witnesses and
prosecutors' summary of the crime claim that a killer stood directly above
Jamal, straddling him even, and fired downward. From that angle any missing
shots are most likely discharged in a downward direction that would leave
divots. In the second place, a highly qualified ballistics expert who was
consulted by Schiffmann has informed him that firing .38 caliber bullets in
this way would "inevitably" produce divots in the sidewalk.  The same point is made in the specialized literature on the
subject. Again, this is a new matter that was never heard, or deliberated on,
by a jury.
8. Are there other significant problems for the prosecution case raised
by the Polakoff photos?
Yes, many, but two more should be noted, especially. First, the testimony of
taxi driver Robert Chobert is further discredited. He claims to have been
parked just behind the slain police officer's squad car, with a direct view
of the killing. The Polakoff photos show the space behind the officer's car
and there is no sign of Chobert's taxi, giving fuller support to the
conjecture that Chobert's probationary status for a past act of throwing a
Molotov cocktail into a grammar schoolyard, and the fact that he was driving
his cab without a license on account of repeated DUI violations, might have
made him vulnerable to police pressure to say he saw what he didn't
Second, the photos raise further questions about police contamination or
manipulation of evidence at the crime scene. One Polakoff photo shows police
officer Faulkner's hat on the top of the VW he had pulled over, whereas the
official police photo, taken later and used at the trial has the hat on the
sidewalk where prosecutors say Faulkner was slain (and a later Polakoff photo
has it moved to the ground also, which corresponds with the official police
photo). Several Polakoff photos show police officer Steve Forbes at the crime
scene holding the recovered weapon in his bare hand, even changing the guns
from one hand to another, whereas at trial Forbes had denied touching the guns
metal parts for the full one-and-a-half hours he held them. Again, these
matters were not heard by a jury.
9. Wouldn't the police and prosecutors be interested in such early
photos of the crime scene?
One would think so. Polakoff reports, however, that the police showed no
interest. After Polakoff's photographic work had been so obvious to police
at the crime scene in 1981, he expected to be contacted by the police or by the
D.A. He was not. Polakoff also phoned the DA's office in 1982. Then, in the
1990s, Polakoff says, "when there was this big fuss about a new trial for
Abu-Jamal, I contacted them myself and asked them to get back to me. They
didn't even answer me."  He was offering them the
photos and what he had to say about them. The interest that police and the
DA's Office should have shown was suspiciously absent.
10. In spite of their failure to respond to Polakoff, is there any
evidence that the police and prosecutors did know about his
As noted above, the police were very much aware that he was shooting these
photos during the early moments at the crime scene in 1981. There is no way
they would not be aware of that basic fact. Moreover, according to Schiffmann,
three of Polakoff's photos did appear in different Philadelphia newspapers
during the days just after the shooting. Schiffmann summarizes: "It is a
breathtaking lack of investigative zeal that they didn't get back to him
all by themselves despite the fact that the cops knew him well and his name was
clearly visible on the photos, at least in the editions of them I came across
on the internet in May 2006." 
11. Were any of the photos used in the trial of 1982?
No, they were not used at the 1982 trial where Abu-Jamal was convicted, nor at
any of his later appellate hearings, nor at the PCRA Hearings of the 1990s.
12. If these photos are potentially helpful to Abu-Jamal's case,
why didn't Abu-Jamal's several teams of attorneys make use of
The answer to this query is simple: the Abu-Jamal attorneys did not know then
that the Polakoff photos existed. Now that they do know, it's a different
story. Present attorney, Robert Bryan, has said he "could have a field day
in court with those photos" – provided, of course, that Abu-Jamal
gets a new trial.
13. Why didn't Polakoff contact Abu-Jamal's defense team about
his photos, after he had not received any responses from the police or
In the period of the shooting, and right up to the recent present, Polakoff was
very supportive of the police view of the case, having, according to
Schiffmann, "not the slightest doubt that Mumia was the murderer."
 Polakoff wanted to help the prosecution and was surprised
when they were totally uninterested in his photos. He had no motivation to
contact the defense team.
14. Why was Polakoff so sure Mumia was the shooter? After all, even
though he was an early arrival to the crime scene, he wasn't early enough
to see the shooting.
Polakoff simply believed the police who told him that a fellow cop had been
shot and that they "had the motherfucker who did it."  When he offered the photos to them he just wanted to try to help
them confirm that argument with the material available to him.
15. Was Polakoff told anything else by the police about the killing of
Yes. In fact, Polakoff says, "all the officers present expressed the firm
conviction that Abu-Jamal had been the passenger in Billy Cook's VW and had
fired and killed Faulkner by a single shot fired from the passenger seat of the
car."  For all the years after the case, since
Polakoff had read almost nothing else about the details and debates about what
happened, he "held the firm opinion that this was indeed what had taken
place," i.e. that Mumia – contrary to actual fact - had been riding
in his brother's VW and emerged from there to shoot Faulkner. 
16. At Abu-Jamal's trial, police, prosecutors, and defense were all
agreed that Mumia approached the scene from his own cab through a parking
lot across the street. So, where did the police get this early version of the
crime that the shooter emerged from the passenger seat of Billy Cook's
Polakoff told Schiffmann that the early police opinion was the result of
interviewing three other witnesses who were still present at the crime scene (a
parking lot attendant, a drug addicted woman, and another woman) – none
of whom, however, seem to have "appeared in any report presented by the
police or the prosecution."  Polakoff concluded this
from statements made by the police to him directly, and from his overhearing of
17. Has anyone else ever claimed that there was someone else riding
with Abu-Jamal's brother that night in the passenger
One person to indicate that a passenger was riding in Billy Cook's car was
one of the prosecution's own witnesses, Cynthia White. She testified in the
trial of Billy Cook himself, where Abu-Jamal prosecutor Joseph McGill
functioned in the same role as in the Abu-Jamal trial. One of her remarks was
highly problematic for the prosecution, whose murder case against
Abu-Jamal had always been based on the presupposition that only three persons
were present at the scene: Faulkner, Abu-Jamal, and Cook: 
----- White: And the police got out of the police car and walked over to the
Volkswagen. And he didn't get all the way to the Volkswagen, and the
driver of the Volkswagen was passing some words. He had walked around between
the two doors, walked up to the sidewalk.
McGill: Who walked?
White: The passenger – the driver. The driver and the police officer.
McGill : When the officer went up to the car, which side of the car did the
officer go up to?
White: A. The driver side.
McGill: The driver side?
McGill: What did the passenger do?
White: He had got out.
McGill: What did the driver do?
White: He got out of the car.
McGill: He got out of the car?
White: Yes. 
The language of this dialogue seems to point pretty clearly to the presence of
another person at the scene, namely, a passenger in Billy Cook's VW. The
driver of a car and the passenger of a car are notions that are hard to
confuse, but moreover, White also says that the driver "got out of the
car," while the passenger "had got out of the car," which once
again points to the driver and the passenger as being two distinct persons. The
prosecution never clarified this question.
----- That other man, who would have been a third man at the crime scene (in
addition to Billy Cook and Abu-Jamal), was never acknowledged by prosecutors or
police at Abu-Jamal's trial.
----- Even though it is almost certain that Cynthia White didn't observe
the shooting itself, she may very well have seen the beginning of the events,
since in her testimony regarding Abu-Jamal, she mentioned a fact that was both
true and inconvenient for the prosecution, namely, the beating of Billy Cook by
18. Why would Abu-Jamal and his brother, Billy Cook, not themselves
emphasize the presence of the third man, Kenneth Freeman, at the crime scene
and thus a potential suspect?
Schiffmann argues that the identity of the third man, Kenneth Freeman, means
that if Abu-Jamal and his brother fingered him as the killer they would have
been pinning blame not only on a friend of theirs, but on a friend of their
family. Freeman would then have had to face the same fate that Abu-Jamal did
– for an action that might have been considered as legitimate
self-defense and the defense of others on the part of Abu-Jamal and Billy Cook.
The background to this is that according to Schiffmann, all the available
evidence points to the conclusion that the December 9, 1981 shootout was
triggered by the life-threatening shot that Officer Faulkner fired into
Abu-Jamal's chest. With Mumia Abu-Jamal already incapacitated, most likely
the third man on the scene, Kenneth Freeman then sprang into action and began
firing at the officer, in what he probably conceived as defense of Abu-Jamal,
his brother, and not least himself. But of course there was no guarantee, to
put it mildly, that the Philadelphia courts would interpret this as
self-defense. So Freeman ended up being left out of the picture by the two
other men involved, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Billy Cook.
19. Is there any evidence that Kenneth Freeman was the kind of person
who could be considered a threat to a police officer?
In a deposition by Philadelphia journalist Linn Washington, Jr., he stated that
Kenneth Freeman frequently reported his experiences of police brutality to the
Philadelphia Tribune where Washington worked. Washington knew Freeman as a
frequent victim of police abuse.  Washington has also
stated repeatedly that, on account of this background, Freeman harbored
"an enormous anger at the police." 
20. Is there any evidence that Officer Faulkner that night had any
interchange with a third person such as Kenneth Freeman?
Yes, in the shirt pocket of Officer Faulkner was a driver's license
application in the name of Arnold Howard, which Howard later testified was
paperwork he had given to Kenneth Freeman. We don't know quite why Freeman
was given the paper work or what Freeman would do with it, but the fact that he
was known to have it, and that it ended up in Officer Faulkner's shirt
pocket, suggests that Faulkner and Freeman had some interchange on the night of
Six people, Robert Chobert, Dessie Hightower, Veronica Jones, Deborah
Kordansky, William Singletary, and Marcus Cannon, reported at various times
that they saw one or more men run away from the scene, in the direction of a
nearby alleyway which would have been a very suggestive escape route for anyone
who would want to avoid being caught by the police.
----- One of these people was prosecution witness Robert Chobert. There is
every indication – see for this, inter alia, question 8 – that
Chobert did not observe the shooting itself and was not where he claimed to
have been, behind Police Officer Faulkner's car, but he may very well have
observed the person that fled the scene after the shooting. Chobert first
simply said that the shooter had run away. Shortly after this, after he had
identified Abu-Jamal, he said the shooter had run away but did not get very far
– 30 to 35 steps and was then caught. At the trial, Chobert said the
shooter made it no further than ten feet. Actually, Abu-Jamal was right next to
the dead officer and thus fit neither of the accounts given by Chobert.
Interestingly, in his first descriptions after the shooting, Chobert described
the shooter as large, stocky, weighing 220 to 225 pounds and wearing dreadlocks
– a description that fits Kenneth Freeman as he is remembered by
acquaintances almost perfectly.
21. Where is Kenneth Freeman himself now?
He was found dead on the night of May 13/14, 1985, the night of the firebombing
of the MOVE house. Freeman was found "handcuffed and shot up with drugs
and dumped on a Grink's lot on Roosevelt Boulevard, buck naked."
 Again, no jury ever heard or deliberated on Kenneth
Freeman's fate, or on his possible connections to the crime for which Mumia
Abu-Jamal was convicted and sentenced to death.
Given the actual flimsiness of the case against Abu-Jamal – lying
eyewitnesses, a phony confession, distorted or non-existent ballistic evidence
– the police at the scene had to suspect that someone else was involved
and probably the actual shooter. Since they were aware of the Howard license in
Faulkner's shirt, an immediate trail led to none other than Kenneth
Freeman. Given the revengefulness and propensity of the Philadelphia police for
deadly violence, as well as the date and extremely suspicious circumstances
under which the dead Freeman was found, the conclusion that he was killed by
the police as part of a general vendetta against its perceived
"enemies" (remember that 11 MOVE members were killed the same night)
doesn't seem far-fetched.
 J4M communiqué, December 12, 2007.
 Linn Washington, Jr., in sworn declaration, May 14, 2001,
sections 18 and 19.
 Michael Schiffmann, personal communication to Mark Taylor,
October 9, 2007.
 Schiffmann, personal communication to Taylor, October 9,
 Personal communication to Schiffmann, June 19, 2006.
 Personal communication to Mark Taylor, EMAJ, October 9,
 Schiffmann, personal communication to EMAJ, October 9,
 Michael Schiffmann, Race Against Death, 234.
 Ibid. 235.
 E.g., in his guilt phase summation at the Abu-Jamal
trial, prosecutor McGill attacked defense witness Dessie Hightower, the
only witness at the Abu-Jamal trial who testified to a person running
away from the scene, primarily from angles that had nothing to do with that
particular point, but these attacks were clearly meant to demonstrate that no
other person had been at the crime scene apart from Cook, Abu-Jamal, and
Faulkner. See TP, July 1, 1982, p. 165-168.
 William Cook Trial Protocol, p. 33.
 Schiffmann, Race Against Death, 220.
 Linn Washington, Jr., sworn declaration, May 14, 2001,
sects. 13, 14, 15.
 Conversations with Schiffmann, February 2006, May 2006,
August 2006, May 2007.
 Testimony by Arnold Howard at the PCRA Hearing, August 9,
1995, p. 21.