Friday, April 27, 2012


It is Politcal Prisoner Friday here at SCISSION and today I want to present you with a man who has spent four decades now in prison for a crime he will tell you he did not commit.  That man is Muhammad "Fred" Burton.  

It is a story we have already told you a thousand times it seems, just a different name attached. 

Part of the story is the continued lies of the main witness against Muhammad, mentioned above.  Lies which have since been documented, lies which at the original trial and such were called "contradictions."

Philly City Paper reported in 2007 this witness, Marie Williams:

"... told the jury she heard six men, including Burton, talk about "eliminating pigs" in her West Philly basement during a meeting of an alleged offshoot of the Black Panther Party. Between Aug. 30 and Dec. 7, 1972, Williams flipped her story at least four times, according to official documents. Sometimes, Burton was at the meeting. Sometimes, he wasn't. Other times, she said she never overheard the conversation."

The paper also wrote:

 "Recently, Burton's fiancee, Ethel Paris, and friend Lee Wells found two documents while rooting through dusty court records that never came up during trial: a letter from Williams to the district attorney and her sworn statements during a closed immunity hearing. Williams said in both documents that her testimony against Burton was coerced."

At the trial, the judge instructed the jury,

"If you reject the testimony of Mrs. [Marie] Williams," the prosecution's star witness to the effect that the defendant was one of six men who conspired to kill policemen, then the Commonwealth's case against this defendant falls, and he must be found not guilty."

The jury didn't and Muhammad is still in prison.

The Philadelphia Anarchist Black Cross several years ago wrote:

"Fred Muhammad Burton has been falsely imprisoned for 35 years. Fred was convicted in 1972 for the murder of a Philadelphia policeman, the result of the August 29th,1970 attack on the Cobbs Creek Park police station by the Black Unity Council, a Philadelphia based revolutionary organization. Fred's conviction was based solely on the coerced and false testimony of Marie Williams, the wife of Fred's co-defendant, Hugh Williams. Marie Williams stated in a letter to the court that her testimony was given under extreme duress, a result of her being interrogated for 19 hours by Philadelphia homicide detectives. At the time of her interrogation, Marie Williams was pregnant and was given only an egg sandwich and coffee during this 19 hour period of time. These detectives threatened her husband, Hugh with the death penalty, unless she sign a statement implicating Fred in the conspiracy to attack and kill Philadelphia cops. This coerced testimony was hidden from the jury by the Philadelphia District Attorney."

The following is from the Denver Anarchist Black Cross

Fred “Muhammad” Burton

Fred BurtonFred Burton is one of the Philly 5  a group of men accused of an alleged attack on a police station that left one office killed. He was sentenced to a life term for murder. Burton has maintained his innocence since his arrest.

Personal Background

Prior to his incarceration, Fred worked for a phone company, was a well-respected member of his community and his wife was preparing to have twins, his third and fourth child.

Legal Case

In 1970, Fred was accused and then convicted of participating in the planning of the murder of Philadelphia police officers. While the plan was allegedly to blow up a police station, what occurred was that a police officer was shot and killed allegedly by members of a radical group called “the Revolutionaries.”

Only one witness, Marie Williams, who was the wife of co-defendant and primary actor, Hugh Williams, testified as to the relationship between, Fred and “the Revolutionaries.” Fred was not accused of being at the scene of the crime. At Fred’s trial, Marie Williams was compelled by order of the court to testify. Ms. Williams inculpated Fred by testifying that on one occasion, she had heard someone in her basement, a floor below her, say, “Let’s off some pigs.” She did not accuse Fred of making those statements. She only testified to Fred’s presence at that meeting. Ms. Williams also testified that besides the one meeting, she had no knowledge of the content of the meetings.

The Commonwealth intentionally struck every African-American from the active jury. The all white jury unanimously convicted Fred after being purposefully misled by the Commonwealth and Marie Williams.

The testimony of the Commonwealth’s star witness, Marie Williams, was marred by contradiction. Marie Williams initially claimed Fifth Amendment at the first two of three preliminary hearings and refused to testify. At Fred’s third preliminary hearing, Marie Williams completely exonerated Fred. She testified that she had no knowledge of “the Revolutionaries” or of Fred’s involvement with that group. After the third preliminary, the case was held for trial. Marie Williams was then subjected to a closed immunity hearing and compelled to testify at trial.

While searching through records that his family had obtained, Fred came across several items of exculpatory evidence: 1) the transcript of Marie Williams’ previously undisclosed immunity hearing, 2) the two alleged original statements by Marie Williams given to the police after the murder, and 3) a pretrial letter authored and signed by Marie Williams to the prosecutor. This letter was submitted as evidence in the immunity hearing. It stated that the prosecutor and the police were intimidating Marie Williams and forcing her to lie in court. Most importantly, the same letter stated Marie Williams has no knowledge that Fred Burton participated in any meetings or crimes.

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