[Pnews] Mumia Abu Jamal's Action for New Appeal Rights

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Dec 24 10:17:56 EST 2018

MumiaNYC-owner at yahoogroups.com

*Mumia Abu Jamal's Action for New Appeal Rights*

By Rachel Wolkenstein, December 21, 2018

On December 3, 2018, Judge Tucker closed the record in Mumia’s pending 
action and said he would issue a decision at a later date, stating that 
reaching a decision was complicated and difficult.

Only four days later Judge Tucker re-opened the legal argument and 
ordered both Mumia’s lawyers and the DA to submit memoranda of law 
regarding the relevance of Cannon 3C of Judicial Conduct to the issues 
in Mumia’s case and as set forth in /Williams v Pennsylvania/, 136 S. 
Ct. 1899 (2016).

This is about whether and to what extent the judicial ethical rules 
requiring recusal when there is an /appearance/ of judicial bias or 
impartiality are relevant to Mumia’s case. And to what extent these 
rules fit with the “objective” fact standard set in /Williams v. 
Pa/.  Remember, /Williams/ states that judicial bias and conflict of 
interest violate a defendant’s due process rights on appeal when it is 
established a judge had a previous “personal, significant involvement in 
a critical prosecutorial decision” in the same case. The /Williams 
/decision was a more specific application of the more general legal 
principles requiring due process on appeal and that the appearance of 
judicial bias requires recusal. This judicial ethical standard is not 
generally applied. The history of Castille as DA and then as PA Supreme 
Court justice is evidence of this.

Those new legal briefs were filed on December 17.

Mumia’s lawyers already raised this issue in the two amended PCRA 
petitions, and it was argued by Sam Spital of the NAACP Legal Defense 
Fund in the court proceeding on October 29. The relevant facts are based 
on the documents released by the prosecution and are the same facts and 
documents that underlie the /Williams /argument: Castille’s bias in 
trying to get capital defendants who were convicted as “police killers” 
executed as quickly as possible.

Mumia’s lawyers are using the same “new evidence” to argue two closely 
related legal theories to make the case that Castille should have 
recused himself, and his failure to do so violated Mumia’s due process 
right to an unbiased appeal process. Since Mumia didn’t get this 
unbiased appeal process, he is entitled to new rights of appeal before 
another panel of PA justices.

The factual evidence is the letter from Castille to then Governor Robert 
Casey urging him to set an example and sign execution warrants for 
“police killers.” There is also supporting evidence including Castille’s 
communication with State Senator Fisher to change the law compelling the 
governor to sign death warrants, etc.

The new filing attaches the full transcript of the October 29 court 
hearing and cites Judge Tucker’s favorable comments that they consider 
to be supportive. (The last ten pages of the transcript have a blank 
stripe from top to bottom, which was in the printout from the Clerk of 
the Court. All attempts to get these legal filings from Mumia’s lawyers 
were fruitless.)

Mumia’s lawyers’ legal brief does not include any reference to or quotes 
of the public statements Castille made that show his bias, including 
those the U.S. Supreme Court included in the /Williams/ decision or the 
supporting arguments in the briefs filed in Mumia’s 1996 and 2002 
recusal motions.

Also notable is the argument made in opposition to the DA, that the bias 
Castille had in criminal cases applies only to a “narrow category of 
cases.” They conclude their brief stating, “Mr. Castille as DA, chose to 
single out a narrow category of cases—and only one narrow category of 
cases—to which he implored the Governor to send a ‘clear and dramatic 
message.’ A reasonable observer could question Justice Castille’s 
impartiality with respect to that narrow category of cases, not to any 
other category of cases in which Justice Castille had only “tangential 
contact when he was the DA.” (p.9 of the memo of law)

In my opinion, the argument of Castille’s bias to those convicted as 
“police killers” should not have been made into an argument that 
implicitly (at a minimum) is that Castille was not biased against those 
other than “police killers.” This is a disservice to Mumia and other 
prisoners who are challenging judicial misconduct.

We will see what Judge Tucker does. In any event there will be an 
appeal, by DA Krasner if Judge Tucker rules in favor of Mumia and by 
Mumia if there is a denial of his PCRA petition.

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