[Ppnews] Strange Bedfellows: The Death Penalty, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the European Parliament

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 12 11:10:57 EDT 2010

Published on This Can't Be Happening 

Strange Bedfellows: The Death Penalty, Mumia 
Abu-Jamal and the European Parliament

Created 10/12/2010 - 08:20
Victor Grossman

Berlin -- What do the USA, China, Iran, Iraq, 
Saudi Arabia and North Korea have in common?

The answer may surprise you.

The European Parliament answered this question on 
October 2nd with passage of a resolution singling 
out that seemingly disparate list for criticism.

The embarrassing common thread among these six 
countries: an obsession with putting lots of 
people to death. The US, its key oil ally Saudi 
Arabia, its major trading partner China, its 
targeted enemies of Iran and North Korea, and its 
puppet ally Iraq all endorse the barbaric 
state-sanctioned practice of the death penalty, 
and lead the world in applying that terrible and irreversable sanction.

In a long, detailed EU Parliament resolution, 
approved almost unanimously by 574 members (only 
25 opposed and 39 abstained), the members from 
all over Europe named people languishing on death 
rows and threatened with execution in several countries.

That EU resolution specifically highlighted two 
American death row inmates: Mumia Abu-Jamal in 
Pennsylvania and Troy Davis in Georgia. Both of 
these black men were convicted of killing white 
police officers in trials marred by ineffective 
defense and gross misconduct by police and 
prosecutors. The twin defects of ineffectiveness 
and misconduct are a common feature in many of 
the three-thousand-plus persons on death rows 
across America, and especially in the nearly 140 
cases that have been overturned thanks to DNA 
testing or other belatedly discovered proof of innocence.

In the Abu-Jamal and Davis cases, federal and 
state appeals courts in America have dismissed 
compelling new evidence of innocence and 
documented legal improprieties violating the 
constitutional rights of these two inmates.

In the Davis case, a federal judge in June 2010 
rejected professions from four persons who said 
they lied during Davis’ 1991 trial and also 
rejected testimony from three witnesses who named 
the real killer, including one witness who 
testified to seeing the real killer shoot the policeman.

Both Abu-Jamal and Davis has consistently maintained their innocence.

True, as this EU resolution pointed out, the USA 
cannot match China, which killed about 5000 
inmates last year, but it is was still near the 
top behind Iran, with 402, Iraq at least 77 and 
Saudi Arabia with at least 69. In the USA the 
number executed was 52. The EU delegates also 
voiced regret at the recent executions of Holly 
Wood in Alabama and Teresa Lewis in Virginia 
despite both women being mentally retarded.

It was noted that 154 countries have abolished 
the death penalty completely or almost completely 
(with occasional exceptions such as for wartime 
treason). In Europe only Belarus has failed to do 
so, while the new constitution of far-off 
Kyrgyzstan just joined the ranks of those 
countries which generally agree, as the 
resolution points out, that “the death penalty is 
the ultimate cruel and inhuman and degrading 
punishment, which violates the right to life as 
enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human 
Rights”, and “detention conditions created by the 
death penalty decision amount to torture that is 
unacceptable to states respecting human rights.”

The EU Parliament resolution reports that 
“various studies have shown that the death 
penalty has no effect on trends in violent 
whereas evidence shows that the death 
penalty affects first and foremost underprivileged people.”

That conclusion in the EU resolution concerning 
the class nature of the death penalty mirrors 
findings of a study on death penalty practices in 
the USA released in April 1932. This study by 
then noted statistician Dr. Frederick Hoffman 
documented how capital punishment was “enforced 
chiefly against Negroes, aliens and the poor, 
while the rich and influential succeed for the 
most part in escaping” execution. Not much has 
changed since then, with 35% of the 3260 people 
currently on death row in the US being black and 
7% percent being Latino, while nearly all, 
regardless of race, are from low-income backgrounds.

The EU delegates, after listing cases in other 
countries where pressure is needed, noted that 
“35 states in the USA still have the death 
penalty, although 4 of them have not held 
executions since 1976” and that while executions 
increased to 52 in 2009, “some states have moved 
against the death penalty through measures 
including a moratorium on executions or its abolition”.

The gradual abolition of the death penalty in the 
USA relates more to money than morality, as 
cash-starved states can no longer afford the 
enormous cost of capital prosecutions and 
specialized death row prison units. The state of 
New Jersey, for example, halted death penalty 
proceedings in 2007 upon discovering that it cost 
$253 million dollars to secure 60 death 
sentences, fifty of which were later reversed by 
courts due to various improprieties.

The double reference to the case of Mumia 
Abu-Jamal indicates the level of concern in many 
European countries about his case, considered 
typical for many others. Abu-Jamal’s case, now 29 
years old, is nearing some kind of decision, 
possibly a fatal one. On November 9, 2010 the 
federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals will 
conduct a hearing to determine if Abu-Jamal will 
again face execution or will spend the rest of 
his life in prison. The court system has already 
rejected all of Abu-Jamal’s appeals seeking to overturn his conviction.

A delegate of Germany’s LEFT party, Sabine 
Loesing, who was particularly active in getting 
this resolution passed, told how happy she was 
that so many from a wide range of political 
parties had voted for the resolution and added 
that she would see to it that the pressure on 
Catherine Ashton, foreign minister of the 
European body, would not let up so that she 
raises the position of the resolution whenever 
she meets with leaders of states – like the USA – 
where capital punishment still prevails.

VICTOR GROSSMAN is an American expatriat living 
in Germany. He contributes occasionally to ThisCantBeHappening!

Source URL: 

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