[Pnews] State makes last-ditch effort to deny Mumia justice

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 4 11:33:24 EST 2020


https://www.workers.org/2020/03/46598/


  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.”

*Whither Krasner?*

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 
Shapiro.

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 
“prosecutor shopping.”

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.

-- 
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