[Pnews] State makes last-ditch effort to deny Mumia justice
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 4 11:33:24 EST 2020
State makes last-ditch effort to deny Mumia justice
By Betsey Piette <https://www.workers.org/author/betsey/> posted on
March 2, 2020
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has a long and openly biased history when
it comes to justice for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, having
denied all his appeals over the 37-year ordeal to win his freedom. True
to form, on Feb. 24, four justices on the state’s highest court granted
an extremely rare King’s Bench Petition backed by the Fraternal Order of
Police to move jurisdiction over Abu-Jamal’s current appeal away from
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office.
This ruling, coming just one week before Krasner was due to respond to a
request from Abu-Jamal’s attorneys for new hearings before the state’s
Superior Court, brings a temporary halt to Mumia’s appeal.
Last November the FOP filed a King’s Bench petition in the name of
Maureen Faulkner, widow of the police officer Abu-Jamal is accused of
killing, after a lower court denied her previous request to be a “party
of interest” to the case.
The petition, alleging Krasner is biased in favor of Abu-Jamal, asks the
court to direct state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, not the
Philadelphia DA’s office, to handle upcoming appeals.
*King’s Bench used for ‘extraordinary relief’*
A throwback to British colonial rule, King’s Bench gives the highest
courts extraordinary authority to override the ordinary legal process.
It lets the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appoint a “special master” — most
likely a prosecutor — to investigate whether Krasner’s office has a
conflict of interest in handling Abu-Jamal’s appeals.
This granting of “extraordinary relief” reeks of a cover-up and is all
about thwarting justice.
Last September Abu-Jamal’s attorneys petitioned to send the case back to
the Philadelphia Courts of Common Pleas after new evidence in his case
had been discovered a year earlier in hidden file boxes. The subsequent
FOP-backed filings came after Krasner accepted Mumia’s request. Krasner
was expected to formally approve the petition on March 2.
The Faulkner/FOP King’s Bench petition criticizes Krasner for not being
aggressive enough in opposing a ruling by Common Pleas Court Justice
Leon Tucker granting Abu-Jamal’s right to new appeals. The police group
also claims Krasner was “biased” because he turned over a former
prosecutor’s evidence that they felt should have remained buried.
*‘Where’s my money?’*
Evidence uncovered in the hidden files supports long-held charges by
Abu-Jamal’s legal defense of prosecutorial, judicial and police
misconduct in this case — including witness coercion, racism in jury
selection and withholding evidence favorable to the defense.
One key piece is a letter to Joe McGill, the prosecutor in Abu-Jamal’s
initial hearings, from Robert Chobert, the state’s key witness, asking,
“Where is my money?”
Chobert, a cab driver working with a revoked license, claimed to have
seen Abu-Jamal shoot police officer Daniel Faulkner. However, photos
belonging to the Philadelphia Bulletin proved that Chobert’s cab was not
even at the scene. The King’s Bench Petition actually declares that DA
Krasner should have colluded with prosecutor McGill to bury this evidence.
*The real conflict of interest*
While King’s Bench was not intended for use by an individual or group
simply displeased with a government action, it appears that the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court continues to make exceptions when it comes to
the police. Many justices on this court, including two on the panel that
ruled in favor of the petition, receive FOP funding.
This court’s actions delay Abu-Jamal’s pending appeal, which just
happens to involve charges of misconduct by a former member of the same
court, retired Justice Ronald Castille. His well-established alliance
with the FOP and bias against Abu-Jamal is central to this case.
In 2016, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared it improper for a
prosecutor who had sought the death penalty to later rule, as a judge,
against the defendant’s appeal. That decision involved Castille, who was
Philadelphia DA during the murder trial of Terrence Williams. Later, as
a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, Castille rejected Williams’ appeal.
As Philadelphia DA during Abu-Jamal’s initial hearings for a new trial,
Castille sought to expedite the death penalty in the case. While
campaigning for the higher court bench, Castille ran as a death penalty
advocate with broad support from the FOP. Once on the higher court,
Castille refused to recuse himself from all four of Abu-Jamal’s appeals.
Judge Tucker’s granting of Abu-Jamal’s appeals was based, in part, on
the Williams ruling. Summarizing his decision, Tucker wrote: “If a judge
served as a prosecutor and then the judge, there is a finding of
automatic bias and due process violation.”
When Larry Krasner, a progressive defense attorney, ran for DA in 2017,
many people of color communities and progressive organizations in
Philadelphia had his back. He ran for office on his reputation as a
lawyer who would take on the cops and the establishment.
However, in assuming the functions of Philadelphia district attorney,
Krasner became part of the bourgeois state apparatus that functions to
maintain systemic racism, classism and repression. Upholding Abu-Jamal’s
conviction has been central to the legacy of this office. If Krasner has
demonstrated any clear bias in these proceedings, it’s been for the
benefit of Castille and the FOP.
Krasner shocked and angered many supporters after the election when he
appointed Castille to his transition team. At a Common Pleas Court
proceeding in April 2018, in which Krasner’s office argued against
Abu-Jamal’s appeal, this reporter witnessed members of the FOP and the
Faulkner family thanking Krasner’s community representative for the DA’s
handling of the case.
At several hearings prior to Judge Tucker’s ruling in December 2018, the
FOP, retired prosecutors and members of the Faulkner family packed the
courtroom in obvious efforts to intimidate the judge. At a final
hearing, as it became more evident that the judge might actually
consider Abu-Jamal’s attorney’s arguments, Maureen Faulkner threw a
tantrum and denounced the court.
Now the FOP and Faulkner want to replace DA Krasner with Attorney
General Shapiro, who has established a reputation of bias against
prisoners seeking justice. When Krasner took office in January 2018, he
fired several old guard prosecutors, including some who had been part of
prior DA’s prosecution of Abu-Jamal. Many were subsequently hired by
In a 1997 decision, Commonwealth v. Mulholland, the higher court ruled
against a King’s Bench petition that sought to replace a prosecutor with
one thought to be more favorable. The court called this request
The “Hail Mary” efforts by the FOP in this petition reflect their futile
efforts to prevent the truth in Abu-Jamal’s case from ever seeing the
light of day. Many politicians whose careers were built on their
participation in this case stand to lose.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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