[Ppnews] Mumia Abu Jamal Legal Update

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 8 15:36:27 EDT 2009

Legal Update

Date:         June 6, 2009
From:        Robert R. Bryan, lead counsel
Subject:    Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row, Pennsylvania

Introduction  In recent months there have been 
significant legal developments concerning my 
client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been on 
Pennsylvania's death row for nearly three 
decades.  We are presently litigating on his 
behalf in both the United States Supreme Court 
and the trial court, the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia.

Mumia's life on the line in this monumental 
struggle.  He is in the greatest danger since his arrest in 1981.

Like so many on death row, Mumia has been a 
victim of poverty, racial bigotry, fraud, 
inadequate legal representation, and an unfair 
trial.  The trial judge was a racist who referred 
to my client as a "nigger" whom he was going to 
help the prosecution "fry."  Prior case lawyers 
failed to investigate and present pivotal issues 
both at trial and in the post-conviction process, 
thereby limiting what could be considered by the 
Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of 
Appeals.  Below is a brief summary of case developments.

U.S. Supreme Court, Washington  There have been 
two separate cases pending in the Supreme Court 
concerning Mumia.  One involves strictly the 
death penalty, while the other concerns the 
prosecution's use of racism in jury selection.

Abu-Jamal v. Beard, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 
08-8483  This case related to the Philadelphia 
District Attorney's use of racism in selecting 
the jury that decided both the question of guilt 
and whether my client should die.  The prosecutor 
used 66.67% of his available strikes to exclude 
African Americans from sitting on the jury.  A 
judge in the lower federal court determined there 
was clear evidence that the prosecutor's strikes 
of black people was race-based and thus 
unconstitutional.  The dissenting justice in a 
2-1 decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 
Third Circuit, found overwhelming evidence of 
racism by the prosecutor.  (Abu-Jamal v. Horn, 
520 F.3d 272 (3rd Cir. 2008).)  He explained that 
the “core guarantee of equal protection, ensuring 
citizens that their State will not discriminate 
on account of race, would be meaningless were we 
to approve the exclusion of jurors on the basis 
of . . . race. . . . I respectfully dissent.”

On April 6, 2009, the Supreme Court declined to 
hear our case. This came as a profound 
disappointment and shock, even though the court 
rejects 98-99% of cases presented for 
review.  Mumia's case was exceptional, especially 
in view of the powerful dissenting decision from 
the U.S. Court of Appeals.  Our strong 
constitutional position was bolstered by briefing 
from the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, which I had 
invited into the case to address the racism 
issue. Tragically the court turned its back on it 
own case law which held that racism in jury 
selection offends the U.S. Constitution and 
mandates a new trial. Our extensive briefing had 
laid out the overwhelming evidence establishing 
the prosecutor's race-based behavior and the 
racially-charged atmosphere of the trial.  On May 
1, I submitted a Petition for Rehearing which has been rejected.

Beard v. Abu-Jamal, Sup. Ct. No. 08-652  We are 
still litigating in the Supreme Court inm an 
entirely separate case in which the prosecution 
is seeking to overturn the victory achieved last 
year in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third 
Circuit.  In that ruling the court ordered a new 
jury trial on the question of the death 
penalty.  Both sides have gone back and forth in 
briefing in the Supreme Court.  Due to 
developments in another case with a similar 
issue, it may be several months before Mumia's 
case is decided.  If we win, then there will be a 
new jury trial.  In the event of an adverse 
decision, the prosecution would push for a quick execution.

Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia, Commonwealth 
v. Abu-Jamal, Nos. 1357-1359  On April 20, 2009, 
we filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief in 
the trial court, the Pennsylvania Court of Common 
Pleas.  At issue is the fact that Mumia was 
convicted on the basis of unreliable and 
incomplete expert ballistics testimony presented 
by the prosecution during the 1982 trial.  We 
have also moved for discovery of all related 
evidence possessed by the prosecution.

Other Developments in Europe and the United 
States  In this country the support and activism 
of the National Lawyers Guild has been crucial on 
our work on behalf of Mumia.  The cry for justice 
in the case of Mumia continues to be particularly 
strong in Europe.  As an example, on May 17, 2009 
a feature article datelined Paris appeared in the 
San Francisco Chronicle.  The piece is reprinted 
at the the end of this Legal Update and available 
online with photographs at: 
It describes the activism of committed French 
human-rights activists on behalf of Mumia which 
has drawn considerable attention in the U.S.

United States  Many people have heard about the 
support for Mumia by the National Lawyers Guild, 
headquartered in New York with chapters across 
the country, but know little of the 
details.  Since its founding in 1937 the NLG has 
provided legal support to a wide range of legal 
and social movements, starting with drafting New 
Deal legislation and aiding in the formation of 
the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) 
and the United Auto Workers (UAW).  It has 
actively supported labor rights and played a 
central role in defending individuals targeted by 
the House Un-American Activities Committee.  NLG 
lawyers, legal workers and law students 
participated in the Civil Rights movement and 
opened "people's law offices" in the South.  In 
the 1990s and into the new millennium the 
organization's scope widened to include 
protecting individual rights against the 
increasing dominance of corporations, legal 
defense at mass demonstrations, and training 
lawyers about developments in the law such as 
newly developing anti-terrorism legislation.  The 
NLG aggressively opposes the death penalty, and 
many of its attorneys specialize in capital 
defense work.  That included the legal effort to 
save Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were executed 
June 19,1953 in New York.  Each year the NLG 
features a "Student Day Against the Death 
Penalty," and actively assists 100 student 
chapters in hosting public education events to 
raise awareness of the multitude of problems with 
the death penalty and to work toward its 
abolition.  Law professor members and students 
have hosted hundreds of events featuring leading 
capital defense attorneys and former death-row 
inmates, and the NLG provides an organizing kit 
to students to help facilitate events against capital punishment.

Mumia's case has been a national priority of the 
NLG for over two decades.  For many years he has 
served on the Board of Directors as Jailhouse 
Lawyer Vice President.  At the annual conventions 
numerous resolutions have been passed seeking a 
new and fair trial and over the years the NLG has 
co-sponsored events around the country related to 
his case.  Three years ago I invited the Guild to 
file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief 
on his behalf.  Thereafter a brief was submitted 
on the issue of the death penalty and other 
issues by Heidi Boghosian, NLG Executive 
Director, a member professor from George 
Washington University, Washington, D.C. and 
others in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third 
Circuit. Further, Ms Boghosian, an outstanding 
lawyer, has been active is assisting me in the 
representation of Mumia for many years, and has 
joined me in a number of client meetings.  Mumia 
has enormous respect and trust for her and the NLG.

Germany  In Berlin on March 27, the prestigious 
Akademie der Künst (Academy of Arts), located two 
doors from the U.S. Embassy at the Brandenburg 
Gate, hosted an outstanding panel discussion on 
Mumia as a journalist, author, and political 
prisoner.  It originated from the efforts of the 
writer Sabine Kebir, PEN, and Nicole Bryan.  The 
audience filled the auditorium.  Participating in 
the human-rights event, was:  Madame Danielle 
Mitterrand, former First Lady of France; Klaus 
Staeck, President of the Akademie; Johano 
Strasser, President of PEN Germany; Günter 
Wallraff, a well known author; Gerhart Rudolf 
Baum, former Minister of the Interior, the 
Bundestag (parliament), and United Nations 
representative; and me.  A video of the entire 
event is available on the Internet, at: 
The commitment of supporters in Germany is a 
model of activism, especially those in Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen.

France  The movement for Mumia in France is 
excellent.  It is led by the Collectif "Ensemble 
Sauvons Mumia Abu-Jamal" (Together We Will Save 
Mumia Abu-Jamal), composed of approximately 80 
organizations.  In Prison My Whole Life, the 
outstanding film on Mumia, is being shown in 
theaters throughout the country and continues to 
draw acclaim at film festivals.  In Paris on 
March 15, it was awarded the Grand Prix and the 
Planete Prix at the Film Festival of Human Rights 
(Le Festival International du Film des Droits de 
l'Homme).  In my two speeches at the awards 
ceremony, I accepted the prizes not only on 
behalf of Mumia, but also "for all the men, women 
and children who are on death rows around the 
world."  The movie was also featured at the 
Amnesty International, a past winner of the Nobel 
Peace Prize, is a sponsor of the film.  Claude 
Guillaumaud-Pujol, author of Mumia Abu-Jamal: The 
Voice of the Voiceless, and I spoke after each 
presentation.  The movie was also featured in the 
Lyon International Film Festival last 
October.  Mumia is grateful to Jacky Hortaut and 
the many supporters in France who do so much in the cause of justice.

Netherlands  On April 3 and and 4, In Prison My 
Whole Life was shown at Amnesty International's 
Movies That Matter film festival in The Hague and 
Amsterdam.  Nicole and I participated in both 
events.  There was a panel discussion following 
each showing in which Arlette Stuip, who attended 
Goddard College with Mumia, Ms. 
Guillaumaud-Pujol, and I discussed the case and answered questions.

Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense in the 
U.S.  Our legal effort is the front line of the 
battle for Mumia's freedom and life.  His legal 
defense needs help.  The costs are substantial 
for our litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court and 
at the state level.  To help, please make your 
checks payable to the National Lawyers Guild 
Foundation (indicate "Mumia" on the bottom 
left).  All donations are tax deductible under 
the Internal Revenue Code Code, section 501(c)(3), and should be mailed to:
Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012

Conclusion  It is outrageous and a violation of 
human rights that Mumia remains in prison and on 
death row.  His life hangs in the balance.  My 
career has been marked by successfully 
representing people facing death in murder 
cases.  I will not rest until we win Mumia's case.  Justice requires no less.

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, CA 94123-4117

Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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