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Journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal to be executed after unfair trial

Federacion Internacional de Periodistas (FIP), Caracas. 7 July 1995

ACTION ALERT: International Freedom of Expression eXchange Clearing House

Date: 7 July 1995

UNITED STATES: Journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal to be executed after unfair trial

ORIGINATOR: Federacion Internacional de Periodistas (FIP), Caracas

Source: Equal Justice U.S.A., International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal is to be executed on 17 August 1995 in a North American jail for a crime that he says he did not commit. Abu-Jamal has already spent 13 years in prison. His trial proceedings were full of irregularities. The judge who sentenced him, Judge Albert Sabo, has condemned 31 people to death, and except for two, all have been Black, Latino, or Asian. No other judge in the United States has as many executions on his resume.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a journalist with an extensive history in the fight for civil rights. When he was in high school, he was the editor of the Black Panther Party newspaper. He later worked in community radio, hosting his own programme on WUHY-FM in Philadelphia and at the age of 26 he was elected the head of the Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Black Journalists.

BACKGROUND: On the night of 9 December 1981, Abu-Jamal was driving a taxi when he saw a man being brutally beaten by the police. It turned out to be his brother and he stopped to intervene. In the ensuing altercation with the police, Abu-Jamal was shot in the stomach and a police officer was killed. The gun that fired the fatal shot was never recovered. Abu-Jamal was charged with the murder of the police officer after undergoing surgery at a local hospital. On 3 July 1982, he was convicted of the crime of murder.

At the hearing, the prosecutor emphasized Abu-Jamal's membership in the Black Panther Party, despite the fact that it was 10 years previous, in order to secure the death penalty. It is significant that in another case the Supreme Court reversed the death penalty against a member of a white supremacist group, The Aryan Brotherhood, saying that the affiliation was used as grounds to obtain the death penalty. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court denied Abu-Jamal's petition for an appeal in October 1990, even though it was launched for the same reasons as the aforementioned case.

The are numerous questionable aspects of Abu-Jamal's legal proceedings:

  • 11 potential Black jurors were excluded by the prosecution, as well as one white juror who admitted uncertainty as to whether or not he could impose the death penalty. In contrast, the defense was denied the right to challenge a juror who stated with certainty that he already knew the accused was guilty.
  • Abu-Jamal was denied the right to choose his own lawyer, and then to represent himself. Throughout the trial, his court-appointed lawyer operated most of the time over the protest of his own client.
  • The defense was not allowed to call a witness who said he had seen another man fleeing the scene of the crime, nor to expose contradictions in police testimony.
  • In his instructions to the jury at the death penalty hearing, Judge Albert Sabo failed to state that Abu-Jamal had no previous criminal record.

Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Ridge signed Abu-Jamal's death warrant on 1 June 1995, despite the fact that his Post-Conviction Review Appeal (PCRA) would be filed on 5 June. The execution date is set for 17 August 1995.

Equal Justice USA and International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal have launched an international campaign to keep Judge Sabo off the case, using a Motion for Recusal. Judge Sabo could decide to hear Abu-Jamal's PCRA, the one which would decide that he had exercised a biased influence in the case.


Send appeals to authorities:

  • pressuring the Philadelphia courts to prevent judge Sabo from hearing Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal;
  • asking the Governor of Pennsylvania to grant a reprieve;
  • expressing concern over this case to the United States Embassy in your country.

APPEALS TO: Judge Albert Sabo
1286 Wanamaker
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Tel: +1 215-686-5100
Fax: +1 215-563-1623

Judge Legrome Davis, Supervising Judge of the Criminal Section,
Chair of PCRA Committee
1408 One East Pennsylvania Square
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Tel: +1 215-686-9534
Fax: +1 215-686-2865

Judge Alex Bonavitacola, Administrative Judge 516 City Hall,
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Tel: +1 215-686-3770
Fax: +1 215-567-7328

Governor Thomas Ridge Main Capitol Building, Room 225
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Tel: +1 717-787-2500
Fax: +1 717-783-3369

Please copy appeals to the originator and to members of the media if possible. Also, please contact local authorities, such as parliaments, judges, human rights commissions, etc.

For further information, contact FIP, Av. Luis Roche Altamira, Oficina 501, Caracas, Venezuela, tel:+582 285 6850, fax:+582 285 2794, e-mail: kgil@igc.apc.org. Equal Justice U.S.A./Quixote Center, P.O. Box 5206, Hyattsville, MD 20782, tel: +1 301-699- 0042, fax: +1 301-864-2182, e-mail: quixote@igc.apc.org. International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, P.O. Box 19709, Philadelphia, PA 19143, U.S.A., tel:+1 215-476- 8812.

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of its originator.

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