February 19, 2008
No ruling yet on new trial

Pennsylvania Court rejects a Mumia Appeal

By LeiLani Dowell

The struggle to free world-renowned journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal continues after Pennsylvania’s racist courts again ruled against him on Feb. 19, rejecting an appeal filed by his lawyers on his behalf.

However, his supporters are still awaiting a separate, major ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that will determine if he is granted a new trial, has his conviction overturned, or sees the death sentence reinstated.

Abu-Jamal was convicted, in a political frame-up and a thoroughly corrupt trial, of killing police office Daniel Faulkner in 1982.

The appeal that was rejected on Feb. 19 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had challenged a 2005 ruling against a Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition filed on the case.

The PCRA petition was based on affidavits by Yvette Williams and Kenneth Pate, who stated that two of the key witnesses who testified against Abu-Jamal during his original trial had later confessed to them that they had been lying. Williams testified that she had shared a jail cell with Cynthia White, who said the Philadelphia police had coerced her, with death threats and monetary compensation, to falsely accuse Abu-Jamal as the killer. Pate testified that his stepsister, hospital security guard Priscilla Durham, told him the police peer-pressured her into falsely claiming that Mumia boasted while at the hospital about killing Faulkner.

Despite the fact that these new revelations of witness tampering only became known shortly before the PCRA petition was filed in 2003, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe dismissed the petition on the grounds that it was “untimely.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is led by former Philadelphia District Attorney Ron Castille, who has refused to recuse himself from the case despite the fact that, during his tenure as district attorney, he fought against Abu-Jamal’s appeals.

After the ruling Hans Bennett, co-founder of Journalists for Mumia, interviewed several prominent figures in the struggle to free Abu-Jamal. Robert R. Bryan, lead counsel for Abu-Jamal, stated: “We were not surprised since that court has a history of not addressing the racism and fraud that has dominated the prosecution since its inception over a quarter of a century ago. By dismissing the appeal on procedural grounds, the court avoided dealing with the compelling facts establishing that the prosecution of my client was based upon lies, half-truths and bigotry.”
Other recent developments in Abu-Jamal’s case include the release of photographs taken at the scene of the shooting that reveal police manipulation of the scene and discredit testimony from prosecution witnesses. The photographer had offered the pictures to the prosecution during the original trial, but was never called.

Organizers in the struggle to free Abu-Jamal are asking people to reach out to their networks with updates on his case. Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal said, “I urge readers to please help fight the media bias by going to Abu-Jamal-News.com to see the new photo evidence, download the information and spread the word at this urgent time in Mumia’s case.”