Tuesday, June 25 at 11:00am
Superior Court of Pennsylvania
530 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA
The ANSWER Coalition encourages our supporters to attend this important demonstration to support Mumia Abu-Jamal as he faces yet another battle in court. Mumia is a journalist and dedicated fighter for social change who was framed for murder in 1981 and railroaded to death row by the racist court system. He is one of the most prominent political prisoners in the world. Below is a press release issued by leaders of the fight to free Mumia outlining this action and recent developments in his case.
WE CALL FOR THE RELEASE OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL NOW!
On Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 11:30AM supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal will gather outside the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, 530 Walnut Street (17th Floor), Philadelphia, to call for the release of the world renowned imprisoned journalist.
At 1:15PM that day, the Court will hear oral arguments on an appeal filed by Abu-Jamal challenging his resentencing from death to life in prison without parole. At issue is a motion filed by the President of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Judge Pamela Dembe, that failed to notify the defendant or his attorneys of his resentencing. In so doing, Judge Dembe violated Abu-Jamal’s rights to notice of sentencing, to be present and make a statement, and to be apprised of his right to appeal the sentence. These rights are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and by the laws of the state of Pennsylvania. Had Abu-Jamal not discovered and filed a timely appeal to Judge Dembe’s motion, his right to file future appeals would have been irreparably compromised.
The unconstitutionality of Judge Dembe’s undisclosed filing echoes the history of due process violations in the Abu-Jamal case, which spans more than three decades. In the original trial the judge, prosecutor, and police conspired to suppress evidence of innocence and to obtain a conviction. The prosecution's case was built on the specious premise that only three people were present at the time of the shooting, but a fourth person – the probable perpetrator – was seen fleeing the scene after Officer Daniel Faulkner was fatally shot. The police, prosecutor Joe McGill, and presiding judge Albert Sabo suppressed this from both the defense and jury. In addition, the bullet that killed Officer Faulkner was never matched to Abu-Jamal’s gun, and police failed to perform routine tests on Abu-Jamal’s hands, which would have determined that he had not shot a gun that night.
Judicial bias, impropriety and contempt for the defendant also figure prominently in this history. At the original trial, Judge Sabo twice refused to recuse himself: when his impartiality as a former Under Sheriff of Philadelphia County was questioned; and again, when he came out of retirement to hear Mumia’s 1995 Post Conviction Relief Act Hearing—the most important appeals hearing in the case--on the judicial and prosecutorial violations of the very case over which he presided 15 years earlier.
Similarly, in 1998, Judge Ron Castille of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court was asked to recuse himself from the case; in his previous role as Philadelphia DA he presided over numerous challenges to Abu-Jamal’s appeals, including the claim of racial discrimination in jury selection. Castille’s unethical conduct was later exposed because his name and the seal of his office were stamped on the so-called McMahon tapes, discovered in 1997. The tapes were instructional lectures to new prosecutors on how to eliminate jurors unlikely to convict. In violation of Batson v. Kentucky, some instructions suggested elimination on the basis of race, one of Abu-Jamal’s strongest claims for a new trial. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys called for Judge Castille’s recusal in hearing Abu-Jamal’s appeal and petition for a new trial because the judge had received financial contributions and support from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). In a written defense refusing to do so, he explained that four other judges out of the seven-judge panel received FOP funding.
In 2008, acknowledging the unequal application of the law in the case of Abu-Jamal, Judge Thomas Ambro of the Third Circuit Court wrote that the decision to deny Abu-Jamal the so-called Batson claim of discrimination in jury selection “goes against the grain of our prior actions.” In previous cases with exactly the same claims, the court had granted new trial relief to the defendants, but this time it ruled against Mumia in a two to one decision that overturned the court’s own precedents.
In 2011, Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was confirmed unconstitutional when a Supreme Court motion allowed to stand the past rulings of four federal judges who had as early as 2001 set aside the death penalty in this case. In late 2011, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for Abu-Jamal’s release -- "Now that it is clear that Mumia should never have been on death row in the first place, justice will not be served by relegating him to prison for the rest of his life….Based on even a minimal following of international human rights standards, Mumia must now be released….District Attorney Seth Williams [should] rise to the challenge of reconciliation, human rights, and justice: drop this case now, and allow Mumia Abu-Jamal to be immediately released."
Because for more than 28 years Abu-Jamal was wrongly subjected to inhumane conditions on death row, because he is innocent, because he has been consistently denied his Fifth Amendment right to a fair trial, and because of the uninterrupted history of judicial and prosecutorial corruption and police conspiracy in this case, his supporters call for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s immediate release.