New developments in legal case

July 5th, 2001,
Judge Yohn issued an order that admits British attorney Nick Brown into federal court as one of Mumia Abu Jamal's attorneys! The prosecution had used all kinds of machinations to keep Brown out; many thought it was because of his legal expertise. It didn't work. More details as they are available.

June 14, 2001
Once again Mumia is being denied his counsel of choice

There have been important new legal developments in the ongoing struggle to gain the freedom of award-winning journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been on Pennsylvania’s death row since 1982.

Abu-Jamal faces a legal lynching for the Dec. 9, 1981, murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner—a murder that evidence suppressed by the authorities shows Abu-Jamal did not commit.

On June 7, Abu-Jamal’s new defense attorneys, Marlene Kamish and Eliot Grossman, notified the public and the media that the Philadelphia district attorney’s office is once again violating their client’s constitutional right to be represented by the legal counsel of his choice.

In this particular incident, the legal counsel in question is Nick Brown, a well-respected lawyer and barrister based in London. Brown has been involved in hundreds of criminal and civil cases. The Philadelphia district attorney’s office is challenging Brown’s qualifications to serve in the federal district court.

Kamish said: “It is indisputable that Nick Brown is qualified to be a member of Mumia’s defense team and to appear before the court. In fact, it seems that the real issue for the district attorney’s office is that he is too qualified.”

Authored friend of court brief

Brown was the main author of an amicus or “friend-of-the-court” brief filed on Abu-Jamal’s behalf last year. That brief was signed by 22 members of the British Parliament. The United States Eastern District Court in Pennsylvania dismissed it with hardly an explanation.

This denial was reminiscent of what occurred during Abu-Jamal’s original trial in 1982. Then the same district attorney’s office conspired with “hanging judge” Albert Sabo to deny Abu-Jamal the right to have John Africa, leader of the MOVE organization, sit with and legally advise him.

When Abu-Jamal tried to dismiss his state-appointed attorney, Anthony Jackson, and legally represent himself, he was physically removed from the court proceedings. This was another blatant violation of Abu-Jamal’s constitutional rights.

During this sham of a trial, the district attorney’s office carried out a political attack on Abu-Jamal. It focused on the African American revolutionary’s role as a founding member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s.

The district attorney took this tack because there was no real evidence linking Abu-Jamal to the killing. That Abu-Jamal was sent to death row because of his political beliefs is one of 29 constitutional violations perpetrated against Abu-Jamal during the 1982 trial.

These violations were listed in the original federal habeas corpus petition now before the Eastern District Court.

No word on new hearing

Since the fall of 1999 Abu-Jamal has been awaiting word from this court on whether he will be granted a hearing. His right to an evidentiary hearing, which would allow evidence suppressed during the original trial to finally be heard, is at stake.

In response to this latest legal maneuver against Abu-Jamal, Grossman said: “Opposition to motions for admission of attorneys from outside a court’s jurisdiction are almost unheard of. If the DA’s office is so sure of its case against Mumia, why is it so concerned about who represents him in a habeas corpus proceeding?”

In another important legal development, on May 29 in the federal district court Abu-Jamal’s lawyers filed two legal briefs against Martin Horn, commissioner of the Pennsylvania department of corrections, and Connor Blaine, superintendent of the State Correction Institution at Greene, where Abu-Jamal is imprisoned.

One brief requests that the federal court accept two affidavits signed by polygraph expert Dr. Charles Honts on May 16 and May 18. These affidavits corroborate the results of polygraph tests administered to Arnold Beverly, who confessed to killing Faulkner as part of a mob hit.

Beverly also stated during these tests that Abu-Jamal was innocent of the shooting.

The petition goes on to say that these tests should have been presented by Abu-Jamal’s prior legal counsel during the state post-conviction proceedings in 1995 and 1996. On May 4, the day Abu-Jamal’s new legal counsel was announced, Beverly’s affidavit was made public along with Abu-Jamal’s affidavit stating that he was innocent.

Brief asks state to question confessed killer

The second brief argues for a recommendation that a deposition be taken of Beverly’s testimony in order to “preserve the evidence and protect the witness.” The petition states that “it is disingenuous for the District Attorney to suggest that there is no emergency which requires the prompt taking of Arnold Beverly’s deposition.”

The petition goes on to say that “if the District Attorney’s Office believed its own representations to the District Court and the media that Mr. Beverly’s confession is a ‘patently outrageous story’ and a ‘lie,’ they would welcome rather than oppose being given the opportunity to cross-examine the witness under oath.”

None of these significant legal developments has received national media attention. This confirms the view that the big-business media want to keep Abu-Jamal’s case out of the headlines because it is in the ruling class’s interests to portray Mumia as a “cop killer.”

In fact, Abu-Jamal is a powerful and effective spokesperson and activist against all forms of racist and class oppression endemic to the capitalist system, here and abroad. The media owners understand all too well how vulnerable the United States is on the issue of racism.

What happens to him in the courts is important, but it would be folly to rely on an unjust legal system to win his freedom. This is very well understood by Abu-Jamal and his lawyers.

Therefore, the progressive movement must continue to meet the challenge of reaching out to the masses to build necessary support.

A key point is that the case of Abu-Jamal is not about the persecution of one individual. His case is political in nature. It symbolizes the life-and-death struggle against every form of racist oppression, especially those involving police brutality and the death penalty.

— Monica Moorehead