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Thousands Protest as Execution Date Set for Activist

By Tim Wheeler, People's Weekly World, 10 June 1995, pg. 9

NEW YORK - More than 1000 demonstrators circled Pennsylvania Station June 5, chanting "Fee Mumia Abu-Jamal," to protest the Aug. 17 execution date of the former Philadelphia Black Panther Party leader.

Similar picketlines and rallies were held the same day in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., as well as other cities across the country, said Safiya Bukhari, spokesperson of the Coalition to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal which led the march in mid-town Manhattan. "Mumia Abu-Jamal has not had a triaI in whicb he was able to put forward evidence of his innocence," she told the World.

"This morning at 10 a.m. we filed a motion for a new trial in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia." They were filed by attorney Leonard Winglass and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

The protests were an emergency response to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge's signing of a death warrant, setting the day of Mumia Abu-Jamal's execution by lethal injection for Aug. 17. So far, 40,000 petition signatures have been sent to Gov. Ridge demanding that Jamal not be executed.

Sen. Carol Mosley Braun (D-Ill.), Rep Ron Dellums (D-Calif.), actors Danny Glover, Mike Farrell and Whoopi Goldberg and singer Harry Belafonte have appealed against his execution. The African National Congress of South Africa sent a message urging that he not be executed.

The frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal began in the early morning hours of Dec. 8, 1981 when he was driving a cab in downtown Philadelphia to supplement his income as a journalist. He spotted a police officer beating a young Black man spread-eagled against his car. When Jamal went to investigate, he discovered to his horror that it was his younger brother, Bill Cook, who was being beaten. A scuffle ensued.

The police officer, Daniel Faulkner, was fatally wounded. Jamal was critically wounded with a gunshot in the abdomen. But the prosecution was never able to prove that the bullets that killed Faulkner came from Jamal's firearm which he was licensed to carry. Furthermore, prosecution witnesses gave contradictory accounts of what happened. Four witnesses stated they saw a third man shoot Faulkner and then run from the scene.

Jamal was tried in an atmosphere of racist intimidation. His only defense was a court-appointed attorney so incompetent that he has since been disbarred. The court approved $150 to investigate the case. Judge Albert Sabo presided. He is known as the "King of Death Row" because he has sentenced 31 people to death, all but two of them Black or other minority men and women - more than any other sitting judge in the United States.

Sabo limited cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, stating at one point. "You don't have to prove that every witness is a liar on the stand." Judge Sabo also went along with the prosecution drive to exclude African Americans from the jury. Only two of the jurors wre Black. Part of the motion filed in Philadelphia Monday is for the exclusion of Sabo from hearing the appeal.

Jamal was a founder of the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party and was beaten and arrested in 1968 by Philadelphia police for protesting an appearance there by Alabama Gov. George Wallace who was running for president.

Jamal later became a journalist covering the police siege and firebombing of the MOVE commune in Philadelphia Aug. 8, 1978. He was elected chair of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and won a Peabody Award for outstanding journalism.

Calls or faxes should to to Judge Legrome Davis, Supervising Judge fo the Criminal Section, chair of the Post Conviction Review Appeal, at (215) 686-9534 or (215) 86-2865 (fax). Calls and letters should also go to Gov. Thomas Ridge, Main Capitol Building, Room 225, Harrisburg, PA 17120; (717) 787-2500 (phone) or 783-3369 (fax).

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