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9/3/06 Legal update from Attorney Robert Bryan
[Note: "help'em fry the ni - - er" was misspelled only to avoid email profanity filters that would prevent this urgent message from reaching some recipients if the text were to be copied for email distribution]
From Mumia Abu-Jamal's Lead counsel, Robert Bryan -
Dear Friends: On October 4, 2006, our Reply Brief in response to the briefs submitted by the district attorney will be filed on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. This is pursuant to a September 1 court order. We continue to aggressively pursue relief for Mr. Abu-Jamal. On July 20, Professor Judith L. Ritter, associate counsel, and I filed a lengthy opening brief supported by voluminous exhibits. A week later NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., through Christine Swarns filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief. A separate amicus curiae brief was filed for the National Lawyers Guild by Jill Soffiyah Elijah of the Harvard Law School, Professor Zachary Wolfe of George Washington University Law School, and Heidi Boghosian, its Executive Director. They were joined by the National Conference of Black Lawyers, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice of Harvard Law School, Southern Center for Human Rights, and the National Jury Project. These amicus briefs greatly strengthen our quest to protect the constitutional rights of Mr. Abu-Jamal and secure a reversal. This case concerns my client's right to a fair trial, and the struggle against the death penalty and the political repression of an outspoken journalist. Racism and politics are threads that have run through this case since his 1981 arrest. The issues under consideration by the court are complex and of great significance under the United States Constitution, include:
1. Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied the right to due process of law and a fair trial under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments because of the prosecutor's "appeal after appeal" argument that called upon the jurors to disregard the right to the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt, and err on the side of guilt.
2. Whether the prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to exclude African Americans from sitting on the jury violated Mr. Abu-Jamal's right to due process and equal protection of the law under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments and contravened the prohibition against racism in jury selection held in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).
3. Whether the verdict form and jury instructions that resulted in the death penalty deprived Mr. Abu-Jamal of rights guaranteed by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to due process of law, equal protection of the law, and not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and violated Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367 (1988), since the judge precluded jurors from considering any mitigating evidence unless they all agreed on the existence of a particular special circumstance.
4. Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied due process and equal protection of the law under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments during post-conviction proceedings as a result of the bias of Judge Albert F. Sabo which included the statement that he was going to "help'em fry the ni - - er".
The case continues to move rapidly. Once the briefing phase is complete, we will present oral argument before a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals. I will notify you when a date is eventually set.
Our purpose is to win this life-and-death struggle, gain a new and fair trial, and see our client walk out of jail a free person. However, Mr. Abu-Jamal remains in great danger. We must redouble our efforts to prevent his execution.
Thank you for your concern in this campaign for justice.
With best wishes,
Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4 San Francisco, California 94123
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal