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Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. U.S.A.
Book by
Mumia Abu-Jamal
“Jailhouse Lawyers:
Prisoners Defending Prisoners vs.
the U.S.A.”
City Lights Books, 2009
This is the 6th book written by political prisoner Abu-Jamal during his 27 years
on Pennsylvania’s
death row.

order online at Leftbooks.org

Why Mumia is a hero to Young people

An interview with author J. Patrick O’Connor
The Framing
of Mumia
Abu-Jamal

Rainbow Flags
for Mumia

Posted Jan. 28, 2010

Now is the time to act on

Dangerous legal exception for Mumia

On Jan. 19 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that has opened the way for the reinstatement of the death sentence for Mumia Abu-Jamal. The federal court’s ruling, which moved away from earlier rulings regarding sentencing phase regulations, was the latest in a long history of state, local and federal courts changing or even reversing their own legal precedents in the case of this world-renowned journalist and political prisoner.

In fact, throughout over 28 years of legal proceedings in Abu-Jamal’s case, there have been so many instances in which courts reversed earlier decisions made in similar cases in order to rule against the U.S.’s most famous death row prisoner that Linn Washington Jr., a professor of journalism at Temple University, coined the phrase “the Mumia exception” to describe these rulings.

The Supreme Court’s decision granted the Philadelphia district attorney’s petition for a review of a 2001 ruling by Federal Judge William Yohn which overturned Abu-Jamal’s death penalty but not conviction. The Supreme Court went against this lower federal circuit court’s findings as well as the 2008 Third Circuit ruling which granted a new sentencing phase jury trial if the death penalty was to be reinstated in Abu-Jamal’s case. Now the case goes back to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether to reimpose the death penalty without the jury trial.

In the week before the Jan. 19 decision the Supreme Court ruled on Smith v. Spisak, a case that also involved questionable instructions to the jury during the sentencing phase, although the case differs from Abu-Jamal’s in legal and political aspects.

Neo-Nazi and white supremacist Frank Spisak killed three people and then bragged about it in court. Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther organizer, was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981, but has always maintained his innocence, and several prosecution witnesses from his 1982 trial have since recanted their testimony.

Spisak’s lawyers had appealed based on the 1988 Supreme Court ruling in Mills v. Maryland, which addresses confusing jury instructions. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned Spisak’s sentence based on Mills but the U.S. Supreme Court decided the standard did not apply in his case.

It would appear that the court, which had had the district attorney’s appeal of Yohn’s decision before them since 2001, was waiting for a case like Spisak’s so they could justify their reversal in Abu-Jamal’s case, even though the two cases and the two defendants differ as night from day. Even though Abu-Jamal’s case met the Mills standard, the Supreme Court refused to apply it, in what was clearly a decision motivated by politics and not law.
Abu-Jamal’s attorney, Robert R. Bryan, stated, “What occurred in Mumia’s case is different both procedurally and factually from the jury instructions in Spisak.”

A racist frame-up
Abu-Jamal’s supporters, including Amnesty International, members of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, and government leaders from France, Japan, Germany, South Africa and many others, say he was framed by police, that prosecution witnesses were coerced into false testimony by the police, and that ballistics evidence shows Abu-Jamal did not shoot Faulkner.

Abu-Jamal has also been the victim of a racist and notoriously pro-prosecution trial judge, now-deceased Albert Sabo, who ruled at the initial trial in 1982 and then was called back from retirement to preside at Abu-Jamal’s 1995 Post Conviction Relief Act hearing. According to a sworn affidavit by court stenographer Terri Maurer-Carter, Sabo was overheard to say, “Yeah, and I’m going to help them fry the n — — r.”

At a Jan. 20 press conference and rally outside the offices of Seth Williams, Philadelphia’s first Black district attorney, Kevin Price with Friends of MOVE stated, “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision shows that something is clearly broken in the U.S. justice system.

“Mumia’s case contains every type of evidence that existed in other cases where death row prisoners were exonerated — tampered evidence, witnesses changing their testimony, and a clearly racially biased judge. If a case as glaringly unjust as Mumia’s is not thrown out, what does this say for thousands of other innocent people on death row and the millions incarcerated across the U.S.?”

Pam Africa, chairperson of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, said: “Mumia cannot get any fairness in this court system. Seth Williams ran on a platform that when he became district attorney, he would execute Mumia.”

Africa urged people to stay focused and to show their support right now by signing and circulating two petitions calling for civil rights investigations into this case. One petition is directed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the second to President Barack Obama. Both are available at www.freemumia.com and www.millions4mumia.org.

“Time is running out,” Africa stressed. “The time for organizing is now, organizing with all the strength that you have. Tell the people they must get into the streets in order to save this brother who has been on the front lines, from death row, on every issue of social justice that there is.” (San Francisco Bay View, Jan. 20)

These sentiments were echoed by Berta Joubert-Ceci, of the International Action Center, who told Workers World: “The governor of Pennsylvania signed a death warrant to execute Mumia in 1995, but the people mobilized and forced them to back down. We have the power to stop this.”

Chants of, “Brick by brick wall by wall, we’re gonna free Mumia Abu-Jamal!” from protesters outside the district attorney’s office Jan. 20 and the sounds of car horns honking in response to “Honk for Mumia” signs demonstrated that people are ready to fight back.

From Betsey Piette
Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 



 


 

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