[Ppnews] New Appeal - Mumia Abu-Jamal faces US Supreme Court

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 19 15:27:03 EST 2008


Mumia Abu-Jamal faces US Supreme Court, as supporters mobilize globally

By Hans Bennett

On Friday, December 19, 2008, death-row 
journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal filed his appeal to 
the US Supreme Court, asking it to consider his 
case for a new guilt-phase trial. One month 
before, the Philadelphia District Attorney filed 
its separate appeal to the US Supreme Court 
asking to have Abu-Jamal executed without a new sentencing-phase trial.

At this critical stage in Abu-Jamal’s case, 
supporters organized a week of global solidarity 
actions that began on December 6, the day of the 
large protest in Philadelphia, almost 27 years 
after Abu-Jamal was arrested for the December 9, 
1981 shooting death of white police officer 
Daniel Faulkner, and later convicted in a 1982 
trial that 
International has declared a "violation of 
minimum international standards that govern fair 
trial procedures and the use of the death penalty".

There were 
actions inside the US and around the world, 
including Mexico, Venezuela, Germany, France, 
England, Switzerland. Several US events screened 
the new DVD video titled 
for Mumia's Freedom: a report from Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, over 200 protesters gathered 
outside the District Attorney’s office across the 
street from City Hall. Journalists for Mumia’s 
report from the demonstration features an 
interview with persecuted Civil Rights Lawyer 
Lynne Stewart, and footage of Pam Africa speaking 
outside the DA’s office about the 
discovered crime scene photos taken by press 
photographer Pedro Polakoff, and the DA’s role in 
hiding them from the defense. The coordinator of 
the International Concerned Family and Friends of 
Mumia Abu-Jamal, Pam Africa cited Polakoff’s 
statements today that he approached the DA’s 
office with the photos in 1981/82 and 1995, but 
was completely ignored by them. Subsequently, 
Polakoff’s photos were never seen by the 1982 
jury, or by the defense. Africa presented the 
evidence to Philadelphia PD Civil Affairs Captain 
William Fisher to deliver to DA Lynne Abraham.

Protesters marched from the DA’s office to the 
Federal Court Building where Abu-Jamal had 
arguments on May 17, 2007. The march stopped at 
the 13th and Locust crime scene where Journalists 
for Mumia gave a presentation focusing on the 
photo by Polakoff that shows a blank space where 
key prosecution witness Robert Chobert testified 
to being parked in his taxi as he allegedly 
observed Abu-Jamal shoot Faulkner.  An 
video of the presentation is available alongside 
the <http://abu-jamal-news.com/docs/d6csi.pdf>special presentation flyer.

That week, Journalists for Mumia was featured by 
Philadelphia’s independent news website 
GeoClan.com. I argued in 
interview that “those advocating Mumia’s 
execution show a disturbing lack of concern about 
the undeniable problems of racism (and all 
documented police / DA / judicial misconduct) 
throughout. At the most fundamental level, the 
‘Fry Mumia’ campaign’s lack of concern is 
.The FOP is appealing to a racist lynch 
mob mentality that has long infected the US, so 
calling this a ‘legal lynching’ is no exaggeration.”

City, Mexico, supporters organized a week of 
actions, including a protest rally outside the US 
Embassy. Linking Mumia’s case to repression and 
political prisoners in Mexico, speakers at the US 
Embassy included ex-Atenco prisoners Edith 
Rosales and César del Valle, as well as a guitar 
performance by Atenco survivor Jorge Salinas, 
whose arms were temporarily paralyzed and hands 
fractured when he was almost killed by police at 
Atenco. Survivors Mariana, Edith y Norma who 
courageously told their story of being raped at 
Atenco. Solidarity statements were read from 
Mexican political prisoners Gloria Arenas Agis 
and her husband Jacobo Silva Nogales, and from 
political prisoners in the Molino de Flores prison at Texcoco, México.

Alvarez, a member of the Venezuelan parliament 
and leader of the farmers struggle in Venezuela 
said in his 
written for the week, that Venezuelan supporters 
had decided “to go the American embassy in 
Caracas to hand to the ambassador a letter to the 
governor of Pennsylvania, demanding that he 
immediately liberate Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

Germany’s, week of solidarity culminated in a 
demonstration where hundreds  marched to the US 
Embassy with slogans like "Freiheit für Mumia 
Abu-Jamal - Weg mit der Todesstrafe überall" 
("Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal - Abolish the death penalty everywhere").

Also demonstrating the international interest in 
this case, the new British documentary film about 
Abu-Jamal, titled In Prison My Whole Life, 
premiered December 8 on the Sundance Channel. 
Previous interviews with 
Francome, and 
Giuggioli Firth, revealed that In Prison features 
an interview with Abu-Jamal’s brother Billy Cook, 
newly discovered crime scene photos. Officially 
endorsed by Amnesty International, 
UK Director Kate Allen said: "We hope that the 
film's viewers will back our call for a fair 
retrial for Mumia Abu-Jamal--and also support our 
work opposing the death penalty in the US and around the world."

Appealing to the US Supreme Court

Both the DA and Abu-Jamal are asking the US 
Supreme Court to consider their appeals of the 
27, 2008 rulings by the US Third Circuit Court, 
when the court denied Abu-Jamal a new guilt-phase 
trial but ruled that there must be a new 
sentencing- phase trial if the DA still wants the 
death penalty. Therefore, Abu-Jamal is appealing 
for a new guilt-phase trial, while the DA is 
appealing to execute him without a new 
sentencing-phase trial. On October 6, 2008, the 
US Supreme Court 
an unrelated appeal from Abu-Jamal.

On March 27, 2008 the US Third Circuit Court's 
three-judge panel of Thomas Ambro, Anthony 
Scirica, and Robert Cowen 
against three different appeal issues, refusing 
to grant either a new guilt-phase trial or a 
preliminary hearing that could have led to a new 
guilt-phase trial for Abu-Jamal. However, on the 
issue of racist jury selection, also known as the 
Batson claim, the three judge panel of split 2-1, with Ambro dissenting.

his appeal of this ruling with the US Supreme 
Court today, Dec. 19. Arguably the key issue will 
be the 1986 Batson v. Kentucky ruling established 
the right to a new trial if jurors were excluded 
on the basis of race. At the 1982 trial 
Prosecutor McGill used 10-11 of his 15 peremptory 
strikes to remove otherwise acceptable black 
jurors, yet the court ruled that there was not 
even the appearance of discrimination. In 
dissenting opinion, Judge Ambro wrote that the 
denial of a preliminary Batson hearing "goes 
against the grain of our prior actions
I see no 
reason why we should not afford Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents."

Separately, the DA is appealing to execute 
without a new sentencing-phase trial, having 
filed their brief on November 14, 
2008.  Abu-Jamal’s deadline to respond to this is January 21, 2009.
On March 27, the three-judge panel unanimously 
affirmed Federal District Court Judge William 
Yohn's 2001 decision "overturning" the death 
sentence. Citing the 1988 Mills v. Maryland 
precedent, Yohn had ruled that sentencing forms 
used by jurors and Judge Sabo's instructions to 
the jury were potentially confusing, and jurors 
could have mistakenly believed that they had to 
unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances 
in order to consider them as weighing against a death sentence.

According to this ruling, if the DA wants to 
re-instate the death sentence, the DA must call 
for a new penalty-phase jury trial where new 
evidence of Mumia's innocence can be presented. 
However, the jury can only choose between a 
sentence of life in prison without parole or a death sentence.

The DA is appealing this 2001/2008 ruling to the 
US Supreme Court, so if the court agrees to 
consider the DA’s appeal and rules in their 
favor, Mumia can then be executed without benefit 
of the new sentencing trial. However, if the 
court upholds the 2001 and 2008 rulings, then the 
DA will either request a new sentencing trial or 
accept life in prison without the chance of parole.

Notably, at the DA's request, during the 
post-2001 appeals, Mumia has never left his death 
row cell or been given general population 
"privileges" such as contact visits with family.

Reacting to the DA’s Appeal

Following news that the DA was appealing to 
execute without a new sentencing trial, I spoke 
Patrick O'Connor,  and 

Lindorff is the author of 
Time: An investigation into the death row case of 
Mumia Abu-Jamal. He says that “the obsession of a 
string of Philadelphia district attorneys, 
beginning with current Governor Ed Rendell and 
ending with current DA Lynn Abraham with killing 
Mumia Abu-Jamal, despite his now having spent 26 
years in the living hell of Pennsylvania's death 
row, is truly repulsive and inhuman. It has 
ruined the live of Daniel Faulkner's widow whose 
life has become a pathetic campaign of vengeance. 
It has cost the taxpayers of Philadelphia and of 
the state of Pennsylvania untold millions of 
dollars. And meanwhile, there is every reason to 
believe that Abu-Jamal was wrongly convicted of 
first degree murder and should never have been 
sentenced to death in the first place. The 
obsession to kill him, which began from the 
moment police first arrived on the scene in 
December, 1981, has led to a decades long 
travesty of and insult to the principles of 
justice, which is continuing to this day.”

William Francome, from the British film 
Prison My Whole Life says that this “shows again 
the political nature of this case. It is my 
opinion that their office would not like to have 
to go through with another sentencing phase of 
the trial, with the attention that it would 
receive. They wish that this case would just 
disappear and that Mumia would be quiet, yet they 
do not want to face the Fraternal Order of Police 
who would be outraged if the DA wasn't pushing 
for a death sentence
The sad thing is that 
amongst the political battles, a man’s life is at 
stake and I find the attempt at reinstating the 
death sentence (which is a completely 
irreversible and inhumane practice), to be abhorrent.”

J. Patrick O’Connor is the author of 
Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal.”  Despite several 
book tours and an important NY Times article when 
Framing was released in May 2008, it has been 
by the mainstream media. O’Connor argues that the 
DA’s appeal is “without merit and represents pure 
gamesmanship by outgoing D.A. Lynne Abraham
last thing the Philadelphia DA's Office wants to 
conduct is a new sentencing hearing, an event it 
continues to put off by filing this latest 
appeal. That's really what this latest appeal is all about.”

The Power of the People

At the December 6 protest, Pam Africa stressed 
that the DA is trying to execute Abu-Jamal 
despite the strong evidence of both an unfair 
trial and innocence. Not having any faith in the 
court system, she argued that justice will only 
come from popular pressure, and made an urgent 
plea for supporters to do all they can at this 
critical hour. In his 
recorded for the international week of 
solidarity, Abu-Jamal thanked his supporters and 
decried the recent denial of a new guilt-phase trial:

“As you’ve seen, the law is but politics by other 
means, and the judges but politicians in judges’ 
robes. It doesn’t matter what the cases say. It 
doesn’t matter what the so-called rules say. 
They’ve never followed them from day one. What 
matters is what you say. What matters is what you 
do. So I thank you all for being there, for 
fighting for what’s right, for fighting for life, 
for fighting for liberty. I thank you all and I love you all.”

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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