[Ppnews] Cuba - Mumia Abu-Jamal Appeals to US Supreme Court

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 18 13:50:38 EDT 2008


Mumia Abu-Jamal Appeals to US Supreme Court

HAVANA, Cuba, Sept 18 (acn) African American journalist and activist 
Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on death row since 1982, will urge the US 
Supreme Court to establish if his life sentence for murder was 
motivated by racial prejudices.

Last July, a Philadelphia Federal Appeals Court rejected a petition 
for a new trial on Jamal's guilt or innocence. Another court had 
already rejected the petition in March.

The decision to appeal to the Supreme Court was revealed to the 
Inter-American Press Service by the head of Jamal's defense team, 
Robert R. Bryan, an article on Granma newspaper reads.

The African American journalist was given a 26-year prison sentence 
after he was found guilty for the death of a white police 
officer.  Human Rights activists in the United States, who also 
oppose the death penalty, cast doubt on the evidence presented to 
condemn Abu-Jamal, who always vindicated his innocence.

Racism still prevails in the United States and it should not have 
room in the US legal system, said Bryan when the appeals court 
rejected the petition for a new trial last July.

Bryan added that the people are frequently executed in the United 
States due to the incompetence of their defense attorneys. The 
prosecutor at the 1982 trial practiced racism when he picked the jury 
he said and noted that they will not rest until Mumia is freed.

The appeal at the Supreme Court will focus on a series of aspects, 
including the fact that black citizens were excluded from the jury in 
the first trial. Several investigations reveal that white juries are
more likely to support the death penalty.

However, the Supreme Court might not consider the case; the nine 
judges at that instance only consider between 1 and 2 percent of all 
the appeals presented each year. The chance that the Supreme Court 
could consider Jamal's case lies on the verdict issued by the 
previous court, which was a divided decision as to the issue of 
racism; therefore, the Supreme Court could assume the case to solve 
such a difference.

If the Supreme Court takes the case and issues a favorable verdict, 
the appeals court would have to reconsider a petition for a new trial 
on the guilt or innocence of Abu-Jamal.

However, the judges who rejected the petition considered that 
Abu-Jamal deserved a new trial, at least to consider if the death 
sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment, without the benefit 
of parole. Although that fact put aside the threat of an immediate 
execution, it still is a verdict that can be revoked.

The prosecution is not pleased with the decision either and it could 
ask the Supreme Court to favour the upholding of the death sentence 
for Abu-Jamal; though the head of the Philadelphia prosecutors, Hugh 
Burns, said that he had not taken a decision to act in that respect yet.

Burns also said that he does not think that racial prejudices existed 
during the first trial and that "it is not possible" that significant 
mistakes may have been committed on that occasion.

If the Supreme Court does not take the case of Abu-Jamal and favors 
the petition by the prosecutors of upholding the death penalty, the 
countdown for the execution will be resumed.

Mark Taylor, a Theology professor at the Princeton University and 
coordinator of the Educators Group for Mumia Abu-Jamal, said that the 
case is potentially embarrassing for many top government officials in 

Pennsylvania's governor Ed Rendell, who could order the execution of 
the African American journalist, was the head prosecutor when Mumia's 
case was processed.

Meanwhile, Ronald Castille, president of Pennsylvania's Supreme 
Court, tried to keep Abu-Jamal in prison while he acted as a 
prosecutor when that court issued its verdict on the case.

Professor Taylor stressed the need to keep educating the US people 
about the details of the case and its significance for issues like 
the death penalty in the United States, racism, police brutality and 
the situation of the US prisons.

Last week, thousands of citizens staged a demonstration in Denver to 
demand the release of all US political prisoners. Gathered across 
from the building that hosted the national convention of the 
Democratic Party, demonstrators listened to a message in the voice of 
Abu-Jamal from his prison cell, in which he blasted Washington's 
foreign policy and its protection of foreign tyrants.

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