3/6/03

Mumia still waiting for due process


By Betsey Piette
Philadelphia

Well over a year since a federal judge vacated his death sentence, political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal remains on death row, waiting for the courts to grant due process and allow evidence of his innocence to be heard.

In December 2001, U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit Judge William H. Yohn, while refusing to grant Abu-Jamal's right to a new trial, overturned his death sentence. But the judge upheld Abu-Jamal's conviction stemming from the 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

The prosecution has since appealed overturning the death sentence. Abu-Jamal's attorneys have appealed upholding the conviction. These appeals are on hold pending the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling on other state appeals.

Abu-Jamal's attorneys, Eliot Grossman and Marlene Kamish, are demanding that the courts hear the massive evidence- overlooked or rejected by the courts in 2001 and 2002--that shows Abu-Jamal was framed by the cops and prosecutors for a crime he did not commit. In particular, the attorneys are requesting the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to allow Arnold Beverly, who has confessed to killing Faulkner, to appear before them and testify.

The Philadelphia district attorney's office has blocked admission of Beverly's confession, claiming they don't find it credible. But the question remains why the district attorney would not therefore jump at the chance to cross-examine Beverly and disprove the former hit man's testimony.

Why don't the prosecutors want to ques tion a person who claims to have killed a police officer in a killing-for-hire masterminded by others still at large?

The appeal in the Pennsylvania Su preme Court also stems from Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe's dismissal of Abu-Jamal's petition for post-conviction relief and/or writ of habeas corpus, previously filed in July 2001. In her August 2001 ruling, Dembe also rejected admission of Beverly's confession, claiming it was not "timely."

However, the 1981 convictions of Felix Rodriguez and Russell Weinberger for the murder of optometrist Clarence Langley were recently overturned when another Philadelphia common pleas judge, Ben jamin Lerner, accepted the confession of two other men who admitted to the crime. In covering this reversal, the Feb. 24 Phila delphia Inquirer pointed to the growing number of murder cases that are unraveling across the country, leading states to declare moratoriums or abolish use of the death penalty. However, the article made no mention of Abu-Jamal's case.

The danger is that the state will attempt to reinstate the death penalty for Abu-Jamal. During his successful Pennsyl vania gubernatorial campaign, Ed Rendell, formerly both mayor and district attorney of Philadelphia, promised to do so if elected.

On Feb. 5, after less than a month in office, Rendell signed his first death warrant, for the execution of Robert Fisher.

Anti-war movement takes up Mumia's case

Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal told Workers World that while the Pen n sylvania Supreme Court has not yet made a decision on the post-conviction hearings, it recently turned down Abu-Jamal's attorneys' requests for oral arguments, and can make a decision not to hear Bev erly's confession or any additional evidence.

"We still have a window of opportunity to demand that the courts do the right thing," said Africa. "We have all the information and we have the voices of world leaders including Nelson Mandela, of legislators including the Congressional Black Congress, and of legal minds including members of the British Parliament--all saying that this man has not received due process under the law."

Africa noted that throughout the drawn-out court proceedings, support for Abu-Jamal has remained strong. International delegations have lobbied on his behalf and the growing anti-war movement has kept his name out there.

Africa thanked "the people at ANSWER" --Act Now to Stop War and End Racism-- "who made sure that Mumia's voice was there at every major anti-war demonstration, speaking out and raising people's consciousness about U.S. foreign policy. The New York Times, Michael Smirconish and Phil Donahue have all attacked ANSWER for this, but this only shows the force of the movement."

She praised the efforts of ANSWER, the New York Committee in Defense of Mumia and the Mobilization to Free Mumia, which have worked to bring information on the case to the ranks of the growing grassroots anti-war movement.

An injury to one is an injury to all

Africa also reported that the Pennsyl vania Supreme Court has accepted, by a vote of six to one, the filing of two notices of joinder filed by the Labor Action Committee and signed by 175 individuals in support of a friend of the court brief.

Written by California defense attorney Michael F. Yamamoto, the brief outlines the massive weight of evidence demonstrating Mumia Abu-Jamal's innocence. The brief is introduced by six unions- Longshore and Warehouse Local 10 (San Francisco), Letter Carriers Golden Gate Branch 24, the National Union of Jour nalists of the United Kingdom (Britain), International Longshoremen's Associa tion Local 1422 representing dock workers in Charleston, S.C., and two independent unions--"Zahyst" and "Uspih," representing bottling plant and public workers in the city of Kiev, Ukraine.

Members of these unions, some fresh from their own battles with the state, filed the brief under the universal labor principle that an injury to one is an injury to all.

The court also ruled that it would not oppose the filing of hundreds of additional joinders by the LAC, and agreed to read and review each one submitted.

Africa urged supporters to sign on to the joinder campaign and to contact the Labor Action Committee, PO Box 16222, Oak land, CA 94610, or ICFFMAJ, PO Box 19709, Philadelphia, PA 19143 for information.

On April 4, International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal will hold a news conference and file additional joinders. On April 24 they will hold an open town meeting outside Philadel phia City Hall to demand due process for Abu-Jamal

International Concerned Family
and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal
Mumia.org

International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
email: iacenter@iacenter.org
fax: 212 633-2889
web: www.iacenter.org
phone: 212 633-6646