Date: Thu, 5 Nov 1998 16:53:44 -0600 (CST)
Death-row appeal denied: Struggle builds to save Mumia. World outcry hits U.S. racism
By Greg Butterfield, Workers World, 12 November 1998
On Oct. 30, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied a new trial to Mumia Abu-Jamal, the African American freedom fighter and political prisoner.
In its 71-page decision, the court whitewashed 16 years of illegal, racist and unconstitutional actions by Pennsylvania courts in railroading the former Black Panther and award- winning journalist to death row.
Gov. Thomas Ridge has said he will sign a death warrant for Abu-Jamal's execution.
"This decision is an outrage," declared Safia Bukhari, a former political prisoner herself and leader of the New York Coalition to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. "We plan to fight the racist, so-called `justice system' all the way."
Within 24 hours of the court's decision, Abu-Jamal's defenders took to the streets in strong, militant demonstrations in Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco.
Protests also took place in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich., Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Tucson, Ariz., Washington, Bangor and Portland, Maine, in dozens of other cities and towns, and on college campuses.
On Nov. 2--Black Solidarity Day--hundreds of Abu-Jamal's supporters again took to New York's streets for a rush-hour picket line outside Grand Central Station.
"Brick by brick, wall by wall," they chanted, "we'll free Mumia Abu-Jamal!"
A national demonstration is set for Nov. 7 in Philadelphia.
`GOV'T-SPONSORED LEGAL LYNCHING'
The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal has shone an international spotlight not only on the struggle of political prisoners in the United States, but on the racist use of the death penalty in this country.
Abu-Jamal has been on death row since 1982. He was convicted in the killing of Daniel Faulkner, a white Philadelphia cop.
Abu-Jamal has always maintained his innocence.
"The new threat to Mumia's life comes at a time when there is a wave of reactionary, Klan-style terror in this country directed against African Americans, Latino immigrants, women's reproductive rights, and the lesbian/gay/bi/trans communities," said Monica Moorehead of Workers World Party.
Moorehead explained: "The use of the death penalty against a Black activist like Mumia is really a U.S.-government- sponsored legal lynching. It's an incitement to the reactionary elements who carried out the extra-legal lynchings of James Byrd Jr., Matthew Shepard and Dr. Barnett Slepian.
"The new movement that is coming out in the streets to fight those attacks will strengthen the struggle to save Mumia Abu-Jamal and end the racist death penalty," Moorehead concluded.
`TIME TO TAKE TO THE STREETS'
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision came as no surprise to Mumia Abu-Jamal or his supporters. Justice Ronald Castille is one of the judges who took part in the ruling. Castille was the prosecutor against Abu-Jamal in an earlier stage of his appeal.
Abu-Jamal's defenders say it is more critical now than ever to bring large numbers of people into the streets--here and worldwide.
In the summer of 1995, when Ridge last signed a death warrant against Abu-Jamal, plans for the execution were halted after a mass mobilization that brought more than 10,000 protesters into Philadelphia's streets.
Abu-Jamal's lawyers will appeal the latest decision in a federal court. But if a death warrant is signed, there's no guarantee that the court will act to stop the execution.
As the widespread emergency response shows, the movement to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and win his freedom is bigger and stronger than ever before. It is young, dynamic, and embraces people of all nationalities, genders and sexualities.
Abu-Jamal's trial in 1982 was a racist charade presided over by "Hanging Judge" Albert Sabo. Sabo has sent more people to death row than any other judge in this country.
The public defender who represented Abu-Jamal in the original trial was not given time or money to prepare a case. Prosecutors dismissed 11 potential African American jurors from the trial. Only two Black people served on that jury--in a city that is 40 percent African American.
The prosecution used Abu-Jamal's political beliefs and membership in the Black Panther Party as reasons why the death sentence should be imposed.
Abu-Jamal's current defense team, led by civil-rights lawyer Leonard Weinglass, has uncovered witnesses and material evidence that show he could not have committed the crime.
For example, the cop who died was shot with a .44 caliber bullet. Abu-Jamal's gun was a .38 caliber weapon.
The police never even tested Abu-Jamal's gun to see if it had been fired.
Some eyewitnesses who testified against Abu-Jamal in 1982 have recanted their testimony. They say police forced them to lie on the stand.
Others who have come forward to testify in his defense had never been called to the witness stand.
A doctor and a police officer, both of whom contradict prosecution claims that Abu-Jamal "confessed" to the killing, were not permitted to testify.
In December 1997, an international people's tribunal in Philadelphia--made up of community members, international political figures, labor unionists and others--reviewed this evidence and found Abu-Jamal innocent.
SILENCING THE `VOICE OF THE VOICELESS'
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was presented this same mountain of evidence. How could the judges deny Mumia Abu- Jamal a new trial?
Abu-Jamal has been a target of the racist Philadelphia cops, the courts and the political establishment since the 1960s, when he became minister of information for the local branch of the Black Panther Party.
He went on to become a renowned radio journalist. He fought tirelessly to expose police brutality. He defended the radical African American group MOVE, which was on the government's hit list.
In Philadelphia, Mumia Abu-Jamal was known as "the voice of the voiceless."
Even on death row, Abu-Jamal has continued to fight racism and injustice. In a weekly newspaper column, in radio commentaries, and in books including "Live from Death Row," he exposes the inner workings of the prison-industrial complex and the inherently racist mechanisms of the courts and the death penalty.
Last year 74 people were executed in the United States. Most were Black and Latino. Nearly half the people on death row are Black.
The Fraternal Order of Police--Philadelphia's police "union"--has made a political crusade of trying to get Abu- Jamal executed. In July the cops took out a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for his death.
Abu-Jamal's supporters answered in October with their own full-page ad, signed by hundreds of national and international activists and leaders. This ad presented the real facts of the case.
Berta Joubert of the Philadelphia National People's Campaign told Workers World: "The police here are trying to clean up their image. They've brought in a new police commissioner from New York, supposedly to end corruption and improve relations with the community.
"But no matter what kind of public facelift they are trying to make, police brutality is still happening. These racist cops have not changed their spots, and they are still out to suppress the movement in Mumia's defense."
MUMIA: `THIS IS A POLITICAL DECISION'
On Oct. 31, Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote from death row at SCI- Greene in Waynesburg, Pa.: "Once again, Pennsylvania's highest court has shown us the best justice that Fraternal Order of Police money can buy. ...
"In recent months the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld death sentences in cases where an impartial reading of transcripts or pleadings would make an honest affirmation all but impossible.
"They have ignored all evidence of innocence, overlooked clear instances of jury taint, and cast a dead eye on defense attorneys' ineffectiveness. What they have done in my case is par for the course.
"This is a political decision," Abu-Jamal added. "A court cannot make an innocent man guilty. Any ruling founded on injustice is not justice. The righteous fight for life, liberty and for justice can only continue."
Herman Ferguson, a former political prisoner and leader of the New Afrikan People's Liberation Front, told the Nov. 2 New York Daily Challenge that the court decision shows the need to develop new strategies "to force the government to grant amnesty to all political prisoners, prisoners of war and people in exile.
"To stop the state murder of Mumia, we must immediately send out a call for massive creative acts of civil disobedience" to shut the country down, Ferguson said.
Now is the time for all revolutionary and progressive people to mobilize and send a message to the racist ruling class and the cops: We won't let you kill brother Mumia Abu- Jamal.
Free Mumia now!
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