Take to the streets Dec. 8
State judge denies Mumia's appeal
By Monica Moorehead
On Nov. 21, Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe turned down an appeal to grant a new post-conviction relief hearing for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal is recognized around the world as a U.S. political prisoner who was railroaded to Pennsylvania death row in 1982.
Abu-Jamal's lawyers, Marlene Kamish and Eliot Grossman, went into state court in Philadelphia back on Aug. 17 to request that Dembe grant a hearing to allow long-suppressed evidence to be heard that should lead to their client's release. This evidence includes a videotaped statement made by Arnold Beverly, a self-confessed hit man for the mob who has admitted on videotape to killing a white Philadelphia police officer--Daniel Faulkner--on Dec. 9, 1981.
Abu-Jamal was framed up for that killing in a sham of a trial presided over by "hanging judge" Albert Sabo, a member of the Fraternal Order of Police. It is no secret that the FOP was out to get Abu-Jamal because he was a long-time, outspoken opponent of rampant police brutality.
During hearings in 1995 and 1996, Abu-Jamal's lawyers at that time, Leonard
Weinglass and Daniel Williams, did not enter Beverly's confession as evidence.
Dembe took the side of the biased prosecutors in making her decision. She stated that her court did not have jurisdiction to grant Abu-Jamal a new trial because his appeal was not filed within a certain time frame required under state law. In other words, the introduction of evidence proving innocence takes a back seat to procedure.
Whether this latest rejection will or can be appealed to a higher state court remains to be seen. Abu-Jamal's case is currently in the first stages of the federal appeals process; the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court turned down his appeals in 1999. William Yohn, the federal district judge assigned to Abu-Jamal's case, has also turned down the death-row prisoner's request to have the Beverly confession added onto his federal appeal.
The original appeal, filed in October 1999 by Weinglass and Williams, requested an evidentiary hearing on behalf of Abu-Jamal. This appeal outlines 19 or more constitutional violations during Abu-Jamal's original trial.
Yohn has already rejected the Beverly confession based on restrictions outlined in the Effective Death Penalty Act signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. This act speeds up executions by gutting the writ of habeas corpus for defendants appealing to federal courts to overturn state court rulings based on suppressed or new evidence proving innocence.
The Dembe ruling is a setback to Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal strategy. But it should come as no surprise in a political sense. The ruling class and its racist, repressive state apparatus have one goal: to legally lynch this revolutionary journalist because of his anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist perspective.
In the aftermath of the Sept.11 attacks on the World Trade Center, it is now more important than ever to keep Abu-Jamal's case highly visible within the political movement.
The U.S. government is using the Sept. 11 tragedy as an excuse to strengthen its state repression by targeting vulnerable sectors in society--thousands of Arab, Muslim and South Asian people are being detained by the FBI, CIA and INS indefinitely under the U.S. "Patriot" Act. These detentions reflect massive human violations of civil liberties and civil rights.
At the same time, over 2 million people, the overwhelming majority of them people of color and poor, are languishing in U.S. jails and prisons. This is nearly 25 percent of the world's 8.5 million prison population, according to "World Prison Populations: Facts, Trends and Solutions," a paper prepared by the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Program Network.
This imprisoned population in the U.S. is the backbone of the ever-expanding prison-industrial complex. This exploitation has become a main focus of many of Abu-Jamal's political columns.
Dec. 7, 8 and 9 have been declared international days of solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal. On Dec. 8, one day before the 20th anniversary of his arrest, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal has called for a mass demonstration in Philadelphia. The protest will begin at noon on the steps of City Hall at Broad and Market streets.
The International Action Center is helping to organize as many people as possible from around the country to descend on Philadelphia on Dec. 8. A leaflet issued by the national office of the New York City-based IAC reads in part, "For 20 years, Mumia's case has symbolically represented resistance against every form of racist and political repression. And today, his case cannot be separated from the reactionary atmosphere created by the U.S. government, which wants to use the tragic situation of Sept. 11 to stifle progressive political dissent.
"As long as one person's civil liberties and civil rights are under attack, all of our civil liberties and civil rights are under attack. This is an important aspect of Mumia's case."
For bus transportation to Philadelphia, contact the IAC at (212) 633-6646.
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Take to the streets Dec. 8