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U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Mumia Death Penalty: Struggle for his Freedom Continues


The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 11 rejected the fourth effort in 30 years by Philadelphia prosecutors to execute innocent death row political prisoner, award-winning journalist and murder frame-up victim, Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The court ruled that the sentencing instructions given to the jury at Mumia's 1982 trial, presided over by "hanging judge" Albert Sabo, violated the U.S. Constitution and its own decisions rendered in the 1988 case of Mills v. Maryland. In essence, the high court affirmed the same rulings twice decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and once by the Federal District Court.

In all of these matters Pennsylvania prosecutors sought to uphold Judge Sabo's flawed and contorted instructions to the jury wherein they had to be unanimous with regard to each and every mitigating circumstance in order to consider any sufficient to overcome the imposition of the death penalty. Long ago, the Supreme Court's Mills decision, aimed at making death penalty verdicts difficult to obtain, held that a single juror was sufficient to consider any mitigating circumstance sufficient to negate the death penalty.

Mumia was represented in the proceedings by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund and by Professor and attorney Judith Ritter of Widener Law School. While the decision ends the immediate threat of execution, the door is still open for Mumia's murder. But to pursue the death penalty for the fifth time, the State of Pennsylvania must now conduct a new sentencing hearing with a new jury that is limited to determining whether to impose a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole or execution by lethal injection. Pennsylvania District Attorney Seth Williams and the Fraternal Order of Police, despite massive evidence to the contrary, continue to insist that Mumia shot Police Officer Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981.

As we go to press, however, it appears that state officials, and the slain police officer's widow, Maureen Faulkner, are not prone to continue their efforts to execute Mumia. But this is less due to any deference to Mumia's innocence than it is to their well-merited fear that the sentencing hearing allows for the introduction of massive evidence of innocence originally barred from consideration by Judge Sabo, the same judge who, in sworn testimony by a court reporter overheard Sabo, in the presence of another judge and before entering the courtroom state, "Yeah, and I'm going to help 'em fry the n****r."

Should a, now likely, new sentencing jury be selected, it would technically be barred from reversing the original jury's 1982 guilty verdict. But the presentation of evidence of innocence previously barred might be of such magnitude as to compel a new judge to revisit the case and consider a new trial. Similarly, an incensed jury, in addition to rejecting a prosecution demand for Mumia's execution, might itself, and contrary to its limited mission, indicate its contempt for the original verdict and thus open the door even wider to a new trial

State officials now have 180 days from October 11 to decide whether to pursue this new sentencing hearing and risk the potential associated damage to the legal system's very credibility, or whether to let the matter of execution drop and accept a sentence of life imprisonment.

Pennsylvania's hate-filled persecutors are likely to avoid making a final decision until the 180-period is exhausted, thus keeping Mumia in his tiny death row cell where he has been barred from any human contact for 30 years. After this final insult, Mumia must be returned to the general prison population, thus ending his cruel and racist isolation.

Meanwhile, Mumia's struggle for freedom is far from ended. His attorneys have announced the hiring of a professional investigator to assembly a team to search for new evidence sufficient to demand a new trial. To meet the legal standard for such a trial the new evidence must be "compelling and not previously litigated" as well evidence that could not have been previously discovered through due diligence." Mumia's legal team is highly motivated to meet these difficult legal standards. If they are successful they will file for yet another Post Conviction Relief Act hearing to resume the struggle for Mumia's freedom.

Finally, an ongoing legal effort remains in progress and is currently pending before Pennsylvania courts. This concerns the fact that the state's original ballistics evidence submitted at Mumia's 1982 trial has been found to be fundamentally flawed, if not falsified by police officials. If the courtŐs agree, the possibility remains that this might be considered sufficient to re-open the case, assuming that is, that the same racist criminal "justice" system that has ruled against Mumia on spurious grounds for decades, has a change of heart, an unlikely variant.

Yet, Mumia's U.S. supporters and across the globe remain dedicated to his freedom and fully understand that the continuing legal battle must be supplemented by the continued building of broad, national and ongoing mass mobilizations and political battles demanding Mumia's freedom. A coalition of several longstanding Mumia solidarity groups, initiated by the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, is planning a mass rally in his defense set for Friday, December 9, marking the 30th anniversary of his incarceration. Set for Philadelphia's National Constitution Center at 7:30 PM, featured speakers include Cornell West, Ramona Africa, Arundhati Roy and Michelle Alexander (via video), Mark Lamont Hill, Pam Africa, Immortal Technique, Vijay Prashad, Amina Baraka, Christina Swarns (Mumia co-counsel), Martina Correia (sister of Troy Davis) and others. See for further information.

A solidarity rally in San Francisco with Ramona Africa and others, sponsored by the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, is set for Sunday, 2 PM, December 11 in San Francisco, 518 Valencia Street, 510-268-9429.

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! End the Racist Death Penalty!