Posted April 7

Mumia: “Unshakeable determination”
Court: Annulment of death penalty upheld and new sentencing hearing ordered for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Granma daily staff writer—

"MUMIA ABU-JAMAL is the best-known prisoner on death row in the United States. The international movement to win his freedom has been given fresh hope since last December, when a U.S. federal court judge annulled the death penalty that he has faced since 1982, a sentence for a crime that he did not commit: the killing of a white police officer," this reporter wrote in 2002, as part of an interview with the black U.S. journalist and civil rights activist.

Now, those same words may be repeated. On March 27, news agencies reported that a U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia upheld the annulment of the death penalty for former Black Panther Party member Mumia Abu-Jamal.

A three-judge panel from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that a new sentencing hearing must be held for Abu-Jamal within 180 days. Prosecutors could appeal that ruling and prolong the process another year or two.

The panel could have reinstated the death penalty, which was thrown out in 2001, a decision that was immediately appealed by the government, and which resulted in this new ruling.

For those of us who have followed Mumia’s case, plagued with irregularities on the part of the legal system and with a marked tinge of racism, this most recent decision in a step forward in the case’s complex judicial framework.

A new jury could decide that Mumia should be executed for the death of police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, or that he should be sentenced to life in prison — and this is after he has already been locked up for 25 years!

Nevertheless, even though prosecutors could again appeal and try to get the death penalty reinstated, this latest ruling makes it possible for the defense to try to win a new trial.

In the 2002 interview, Mumia said, "I am still innocent. A court cannot make an innocent man guilty." And he noted that the overturning of his death penalty meant "another year of struggle, another year of battle, not for life in a cage, but for freedom."

And the question came up – the same this reporter would ask him now: "What hope do you have based on this most recent ruling? Do you think the evidence presented in your defense would be reconsidered?" His response at the time was, "I try not to confront the hope. It is something abstract. It is better to work toward your goal, because hope is just an emotion," he said.

International solidarity efforts will continue to fight to free Mumia. Many well-known world figures have joined in this struggle for justice, such as Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Alice Walker, Paul Newman and Danny Glover.

Meanwhile, Abu-Jamal continues with his "unshakeable determination" and convinced that "justice depends on the people," because "with the people, justice is inevitable," he said in 2002.

Translated by Granma International