Life in the Balance
Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal
[AI Index: AMR 51/001/2000] a new Amnesty
International report, highlights inadequate legal representation,
legal proceedings that fail to reach minimum international standards
for fair trials, and possible bias of the appeal courts New York
International today called for a new trial in the case of Mumia
Abu Jamal on the basis that his original trial was deeply flawed.
is not about an issue affecting the life of just one man. This
is about justice which affects us all. And justice, in
this case, can only be served by a new trial," Amnesty International
many years of monitoring the case and an exhaustive review of
the original documents, Amnesty International has concluded that
the proceedings under which Mumia Abu-Jamal was tried, convicted
and sentenced to death fail to reach the minimum international
standards for fair trials.
International has chosen this moment to publish the results of
their painstaking review of the case because Abu-Jamal's life
and the fairness of the judicial system are now, more than ever,
in the balance," the organization said. Without a new trial, the
federal courts are Mumia Abu-Jamal's final opportunity to have
many of the troubling issues in his case addressed.
the 1996 Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act severely
limit the federal courts' ability to guarantee a defendants' rights.
Amnesty International fears the act has increased the number of
executions that were in violation of international laws and standards
governing the use of the death penalty.
organization is also alarmed that the Philadelphia Fraternal Order
of Police Officers is actively campaigning for the execution of
Mumia Abu-Jamal. "Police officers and their representatives should
be impartial enforcers of the law. Amnesty International understands
the anguish officers must feel when a fellow officer dies in the
line of duty but their attempt to pressure the judicial system
to execute Mumia Abu-Jamal is inappropriate," the organization
case illustrates broader problems in the judicial system, particularly
those that involve the administration of the death penalty. "Given
the contradictory and incomplete evidence in the trial transcript,
Amnesty International cannot take a position on Abu-Jamal's guilt
or innocence," Amnesty International said. "In calling for a new
trial we are not ignoring the pain of the relatives and colleagues
of Officer Daniel Faulkner, for whom we have the greatest sympathy."
Mumia Abu-Jamal's inadequate legal representation at his 1982
trial, the fact that the judge appeared more concerned with expediting
the trial than with ensuring justice, the politisation of the
judicial process, and the possible bias of the appeal courts has
lead Amnesty International to conclude that only a new and fair
trial could prevent the execution of a man who has not been proved
guilty in a fair trial," Amnesty International stressed.
prosecution of Mumia Abu-Jamal was built upon three pillars: the
testimony of eyewitnesses; ballistics evidence; and an alleged
confession by the accused. After a thorough study of original
trial documents, Amnesty International has determined that the
veracity of each of these three pillars is in sufficient doubt
to make a new trail essential.
The three prosecution eyewitnesses substantively altered their
description of what they saw between their original statements
to police and their trial testimony.
The witnesses were confused and unclear about the height of
the shooter, what clothes he was wearing, in which hand he held
the gun, and whether he ran away from the scene.
The alleged confession, reportedly crucial to the jury's decision
and sentencing, was first reported more than two months after
The alleged confession directly contradicted the contemporaneous
notes of one of the alleged witnesses to the confession (a police
officer) that "the negro male made no comments." This evidence
was not put before the jury.
There is also evidence that witnesses were offered inducements
to alter their testimony in favour of the prosecution's version
of events. This evidence was not put before the jury.
Lack of adequate ballistic tests to determine whether Abu-Jamal's
gun had recently been fired. It was not determined, for instance,
whether there was residue on his hands from firing a gun.
information and background Amnesty International opposes the death
penalty in all cases as a violation of human rights. The organization
is therefore calling for a new trial in which should preclude
the re- imposition of a death sentence.
Abu-Jamal, black, was convicted and sentenced to death in July
1982 for the murder of white police officer Daniel Faulkner on
9 December 1981. He has consistently maintained his innocence.
Amnesty International can take no position on the guilt or innocence
of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
organization has expressed concern however, over the activities
of a government counter- intelligence programme which appeared
to list Abu Jamal among its targets. Amnesty International is
also concerned that political statements attributed to him as
a teenager were improperly used by the prosecution in its efforts
to obtain a death sentence against him. ENDS.../
International, International Secretariat,
1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom ****************************************************************
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