January 1 2002 -Cuba

Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence‘suspended’
A dubious Christmas present

BY JEAN-GUY ALLARD (Special for Granma International)

JUSTICE in the United States is a labyrinth that is easy to enter, but one never knows when, or if, he will find the way out. Just a few days ago, the death sentence against journalist and Black Panther member Mumia Abu-Jamal was rescinded until another court pronounces its verdict, possibly inflicting that sentence for a second time. Why and how? In the belly of the monster, the darkness is so dense that logic is completely out of sight.

If it were not for the massive support for Mumia within the United States and throughout the world, he would have been executed years ago. The United States’ much-trumpeted justice does not function in the same way when the accused belongs to an ethnic minority, when nobody shows any interest in the case. The U.S. president himself demonstrated this when he was governor of Texas and scored a record number of executions.

Let us look at the facts of that decision by Judge William Yohn (synonymous with the English verb "to yawn"), famous for his sluggish thought and action. On December 18 he announced, after 18 months of reflection, his decision to deny Mumia Abu Jamal a retrial, but to revoke his death sentence, concluding a 272-page text with the ruling that the jury had not been duly instructed.

Yohn afforded the state of Pennsylvania, where Mumia is detained, the possibility of handing down a new sentence — including another death sentence — within 180 days, in the absence of which the death penalty would be automatically commuted to life imprisonment.

This is a macabre Christmas gift for a man who has suffered the mire of U.S. justice for 20 years on death row, after being involved in a case fabricated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Mumia was jailed in 1982, in the wake of the death of police officer Daniel Faulkner, who had arrested his brother.

Subsequently Arnold Beverly, a Philadelphia criminal, confessed to the homicide, stating that the Mafia had ordered the crime because Faulkner was interfering in their relations with the police.

However, the courts have always refused to accept that confession confirming Mumia’s innocence, just as they refused to listen to William Singletary, Veronica Jones and Cynthia White, the sole prosecution eyewitnesses, who later admitted that they had testified against Mumia under pressure from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Philadelphia’s police association.

Not to mention the blatantly racist statements made by Judge Albert Sabo, who issued Mumia’s death penalty in 1982, nor the ballistic investigation, which revealed that the 44-caliber bullet that killed Faulkner did not match the 38-caliber weapon allegedly found on Mumia.

A total of 28 elements have been presented by the Black Panther’s defense team in its demand for a new trial. These range from a false confession attributed to the accused, to the disappearance of evidence and the suspicious inefficiency of his initial lawyers, in the course of a trial that lasted only one day!

DISTRICT ATTORNEY IN A HURRY

Less than 72 hours after Judge Yohn’s decision, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham appeared in another court, requesting for an appeal, in order to provoke an ipso facto suspension of Yohn’s ruling.

A worthy accomplice of the Philadelphia police with a sinister reputation, she stated that Mumia never showed any remorse – why should he, when he was not the killer? – that Mumia was a cold-blooded murderer and that Yohn’s decision was not legal.

Abrahams is known as a champion of the racist conspiracy which has made Philadelphia the U.S. state with the highest percentage of prisoners from racial minorities.

In the general hysteria, Faulkner’s widow Maureen, who has headed the FOP campaigns for the last 20 years, went as far as to declare that the elderly judge is a sick and twisted person.

This is a somewhat ungrateful attitude toward a judge who merrily contributed to concealing the truth in the Mumia case for 18 months, by refusing to examine any new evidence or to order what logic would have suggested in the face of such a pile of falsehoods: a new trial.

Michael Coard, the African-American’s lawyer, announced that he too was going to appeal Yohn’s decision, commenting that the judge had admitted the errors committed in relation to jury instructions, but the number of errors committed in the course of the trial itself was much greater.

For Amnesty International USA, which quickly put out a statement, the situation is even clearer. Its executive director, William F. Schultz, stated that only a new trial could serve justice in this case, and that 3,000 other prisoners are awaiting their fate on U.S. death rows, and are, in disproportionate manner, poor and from racial or ethnic minorities.

Since Mumia was imprisoned on December 8, 1981, a movement supporting his release has become worldwide. It is particularly strong in France, Germany and Britain, where large demonstrations on his behalf take place regularly.

Paris recently granted Mumia Abu Jamal the title of honorary citizen, last awarded in 1971, to Pablo Picasso.

On December 20, Raymond Forni, president of the French National Assembly, stated, "I pay tribute to those in solidarity with Mumia Abu Jamal and trust that he will finally receive real justice." Forni visited the African-American leader in prison in August 2000, as did Danielle Mitterrand, president of France Liberté and widow of the former French president.

BUT...WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

The fundamental problem of the U.S. legal system, proclaimed as the most just in the world, is a simple one.

On the one hand, for some time international pressure in favor of Mumia has been so strong that it’s not feasible to execute him. Not for ethical reasons, but basically for a question of image. What use is so much propaganda in movies proclaiming democracy, if an innocent person is executed in such an summary and scandalous fashion?

On the other hand, if Mumia is granted a new trial, all the evidence demonstrating his innocence and thus leading to what would be his "unacceptable" release, would further demonstrate that the U.S. legal apparatus is, for the most part, manipulated by political, economic, criminal or police mafiosi. Or all of them together.

As I see it from Havana, this is yet one more example of a well-known truth. Suffice it to mention the succession of courts that the father of Cuban child Elián González had to face in order to recover his son —with the timid support of the attorney general. And then there’s the shameful treatment given to the five Cuban patriots jailed in Miami, and their trial, entirely manipulated by the anti-Cuba mafia.

So, regarding Mumia, what would be the only acceptable solution for the U.S. judicial machinery? Evidently, the one thought up by the judge, even he is a sick and twisted person, as agent Faulkner’s widow says.

A life sentence would eliminate the case from the debate over the death penalty and quash the international scandal. But it would keep Mumia "inside," condemned to die behind bars, a punishment that would have to satisfy ultra-right police and judiciary.

And, in the same blow, it would definitively bury the debate on the fabricated evidence against the famous African-American fighter.

Doubtless "directed’ by some political authority interested in getting rid of pro-Mumia demonstrations, Judge Yohn attempted to write the final paragraph in this controversial case.

But the plan has been aborted, because Philadelphia’s legal authorities would appear to share the racist fanaticism of its police force.

On one side, the "higher interests" of the most subtly corrupt nation in the world; on the other, the petty interests of a municipal racist gang. And Mumia in the middle, dreaming of Justice with a capital J.

U.S. JUSTICE ON TRIAL

Above everything else, the Mumia Abu Jamal case is a test of the U.S. justice system, whose realities are frightening: suffice it to recall the case of Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), released in 1997 after 27 years in jail for a crime that the state knew he did not commit.

However, Judge Yohn did not deceive any of those who united behind Mumia Abu Jamal years ago, and the fight continues for the definitive release of the African-American militant, and to denounce a judicial system that maintains more than two million individuals in U.S. jails, predominantly members of ethnic minorities.

Sooner or later, humanity will have to judge this spectacular violation of the most elemental human rights.

You can express your support directly to Mumia Abu Jamal by writing letters to him at AM 8335 SCI-Greene, 175 Progress Drive, Waynesburg, PA 15370, USA, or through his website: www.mumia.org