Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mumia Abu-Jamal Rally on April 24 Spotlights May 17 Oral Arguments



photo caption: PROUD TO BE A RACIST? Stickers on the helmet of one of the biker counter-protesters outside the Friends Center in downtown Philadelphia.


Mumia Abu-Jamal Rally on April 24 Spotlights May 17 Oral Arguments

On April 24 in Philadelphia, hundreds gathered to support black death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in a 1982 trial that Amnesty International has deemed unfair (see report).

At noon, supporters organized a “Honk for Mumia” at City Hall (photos), then in the evening, supporters gathered a few blocks away, for a guest speakers and a viewing of Framing an Execution. Guest speakers included Danny Glover, Linn Washington, Jr., Ramona Africa, and Sgt. DeLacy Davis of Black Cops Against Police Brutality.

April 24 also marked the release of a new website and newspaper published by "Journalists for Mumia," unveiling for the first time in the US, a newly discovered crime scene photo from Dec. 9, 1981 that reveals police manipulation of ballistics evidence. The photo has already been published in the new German book on Mumia’s case (see review and interview).

The April 24 events publicized the upcoming oral arguments before the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on May 17, for which, supporters are organizing a mass demonstration (flier). The court will consider four different issues that have been certified for appeal, and then decide whether to grant a new trial, affirm the life sentence, or re-instate the death sentence (KAOS radio show).

After the May 17 date was set for oral arguments, the Philadelphia DA filed a motion asking the entire Third Circuit Court to recuse itself from the case. Mumia’s attorney felt the DA’s move was meant to delay the hearings, and to move the case to a more conservative circuit. On April 20, the court ruled in favor of Abu-Jamal in two ways. The court (1) ruled against the recusal and (2) agreed to give each side one full hour to present their arguments.

The evening event at the Friends Center (a few blocks from City Hall) was met by over a hundred police officers protesting the event for Mumia, which was a culmination of recent intimidation tactics by the Fraternal Order of Police. A benefit event in New York City had to change locations after extensive NYPD harassment. An NYPD website later boasted that the rally was "Bitch Slapped." Then, the April 24 event in Philadelphia had to change locations after police intimidation, as documented by journalist Linn Washington , who noted that the “anti-Abu-Jamal barrage of emails and telephone calls unleashed on the Clef Club included declarations perilously close to terroristic threats.”

The Fraternal Order of Police and their allies have continued to target the French cities that have honored Mumia. In 2003 he was declared an honorary citizen of Paris—the first time since Pablo Picasso was similarly honored in the 1970s. Then last year on April 24, the Paris suburb St. Denis named a major street after Abu-Jamal. Located in the Cristino Garcia District of the city (named after an anti-Franco Spanish Republican), Rue Mumia Abu-Jamal leads directly to the largest sports arena in Europe: “Nelson Mandela Stadium.” Government resolutions were passed condemning France, criminal charges were filed against the French cities, and the FOP has continued to harass representatives that did not vote for the anti-Mumia resolutions.

In response, Mumia supporters have launched several campaigns: faxing letters for Mumia to U.S. House of Reps, circulating a letter demanding that John Conyers of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary open formal hearings to reconsider the House Resolution, and contacting Donald Payne (recently harassed by the FOP) to thank him for not voting for the resolution.

Also, two new academic papers have been written on Mumia by Tameka L. Cage and Paul Robeson Ford.

Related links: December IMC feature on Mumia, Philly Journalist’s series on Mumia, Trial Transcripts on Anti-Mumia Site, Mumia on Alberto Gonzales, Prison Radio archive of Mumia essays, Educators for Mumia, NYC Free Mumia Coalition

Homepage:: http://Abu-Jamal-News.com




All work by photojournalist Hans Bennett
hbjournalist@gmail.com www.insubordination.blogspot.com

Monday, April 16, 2007

INTERVIEW: Abu-Jamal Attorney Responds to Philly DA


INTERVIEW: Abu-Jamal Attorney Responds to Philly DA

----Is the DA afraid the Third Circuit will grant a new trial?

Hans Bennett interviews Abu-Jamal attorney Robert R. Bryan

As reported in two recent Associated Press articles (April 6 and April 16), the Philadelphia District Attorney has filed a motion asking the entire 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to recuse itself from black death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case on grounds that Gov. Ed Rendell, whose wife serves on the court, was district attorney during Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial. The DA argues that if the court rules unfavorably for Abu-Jamal, the defendant could then argue that the ruling was a result of bias from the court, and as the Associated Press wrote, the DA allegedly “wants to leave Abu-Jamal no grounds for any future appeal.”

Assistant District Attorney Hugh J. Burns Jr. wrote in his motion that since “Mr. Rendell was the elected district attorney at the time in question, and so would have been responsible for the supposed 'routine' racially discriminatory practices of Philadelphia prosecutors, Abu-Jamal's accusations necessarily implicate Mr. Rendell personally,"

This request followed the March 22 announcement that Abu-Jamal would have oral arguments in Philadelphia on May 17, where the court will consider four different issues that have already been certified for appeal. Supporters have already begun organizing a mass-demonstration in Philadelphia on May 17, and many feel that the DA’s request is actually designed 1) to delay the oral arguments and 2) to move Abu-Jamal’s case to a more conservative circuit that will be less sympathetic to the issues being presented for a new trial.

Abu-Jamal’s attorney, Robert R, Bryan, strongly opposed this move by the District Attorney and filed his response with the court on April 13.

In this interview (conducted on April 16), Bryan responds to this recent move from the DA and provides background on the issues being considered on May 17.

San Francisco attorney Robert R. Bryan has appeared as chief counsel in numerous murder cases and specializes in death-penalty litigation. He is a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court, California, New York, Alabama, various federal courts, and is the former Chair of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Washington, DC.

Mumia Abu-Jamal first began writing Mr. Bryan in 1986 and in 1991 formally asked him to take his case. The attorney had to decline at that time due to a full schedule of other capital case commitments. In 2003 Mr. Bryan was again approached, and finally agreed to become lead counsel for Mr. Abu-Jamal. He can be contacted via email:

RobertRBryan@aol.com

Hans Bennett: Last week, you filed a response to the DA's request to have the 3rd Circuit Court recuse itself? What's this all about?

Robert R. Bryan: I was surprised that the Philadelphia District Attorney actually asked for the disqualification of every judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. This seems really over the top. On Friday, April 13, I filed a response aggressively opposing this effort by the DA. One of my concerns is that the prosecution not be allowed to use this ploy to delay oral argument which is set for May 17.

Mumia has been locked up for over a quarter of a century and on death row for 24. This day for oral arguments has been a long time coming and we do not want justice delayed. That is the bottom line. Also, I feel that this court can be fair. The grounds presented by the DA for disqualification of every judge are baseless and absurd.

I have been doing death penalty work for three decades and this is a novel approach. Of course, in some cases a judge might not be fair and must be disqualified. An example would be when I reopened in New Jersey the Hauptmann-Lindbergh Trial of the Century on behalf of Anna Hauptmann, the widow of Richard Hauptmann. He was executed in 1936 for the kidnap-murder of Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr.; that was long before I was born. In the 1980s I uncovered evidence suppressed by the government establishing that Mr. Hauptmann was in fact innocent. We were litigating the case in the U.S. District Court, Newark. I asked for the recusal of the judge assigned to the case in the belief he could not be fair because his father had been involved in the initial 1932 Lindbergh kidnap investigation as a police chief.

Recusal is statutorily required where a judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed facts, or where there is the appearance of impropriety. However, I do not see those conditions in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, where the DA wants to disqualify not just one judge, but rather the entire court.

Bennett: Has the three-judge panel even been selected yet?

Bryan: No. We do not at this point know whom the three judges will be to hear and decide the case. For the District Attorney to be asking for disqualification under the circumstances seems absurd.

Bennett: In December, 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals shocked many by agreeing to consider two claims not “certified for appeal” by Judge Yohn in 2001. Do you think the DA is threatened by the 3rd Circuit because they may fairly consider the issues and grant your client a new trial?

Bryan: The prosecution seems intent on doing just about anything to avoid that result: a new trial not riddled with racism. The DA's efforts seem not only for the purpose of delaying the May 17 oral argument, but is also a transparent attempt to maneuver the case into being heard by really conservative judges from other circuits. This court, the Third Circuit, has a reputation for being fair and evenhanded, much more than some of the other courts. That is all Mumia and I want—fairness.

The United States is divided into different circuits. This particular circuit is known for being just, particularly when there have been constitutional abuses and has been willing to grant relief. It is clear what the DA is trying to do. The prosecution wants Mumia's case out of the Third Circuit and heard instead by judges from elsewhere who are more conservative and less concerned about constitutional violations, particularly with death penalty cases such as this.

A word of caution. Being in the Third Circuit certainly does not guarantee a favorable outcome. What Mumia and I want is that his case be fairly heard and adjudged. If that occurs then we have a good chance of being granted a new trial, since the constitutional violations are so egregious. Racism and unfairness are threads that have run through this case since the beginning.

Bennett: In 2003 a state court ruled against considering court stenographer Terry Maurer-Carter's affidavit. Since this time, have you been able to include her affidavit in the current federal appeal, despite the state ruling?

Bryan: Ms. Maurer-Carter came forward in August, 2001 with startling new evidence. She revealed that during the 1982 trial she overheard Judge Albert Sabo state, in reference to Mumia, that he was going to help “fry the nigger.” Her sworn declaration was immediately filed in the U.S. District Court. Three weeks later on September 17, 2001, a motion was filed federally in an effort to expand the judicial bias claim, contending that the newly discovered evidence established the judge “was racially prejudiced” against Mumia. The evidence also was submitted to the state court, and then as part of a petition I filed March 8, 2004 in the United States Supreme Court. The issue we presented was whether it is permissible under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments for a judge to preside over a capital murder trial in which he was overheard stating in reference to the accused that he was going to help “fry the nigger. Just quoting those horrible words of Judge Sabo sends chills down my spine.

Bennett: You have included her statement in your current 3rd Circuit appeal, in particular regarding the fourth issue being considered: Judge Sabo's unfairness at the 1995 PCRA evidentiary hearings.

Bryan: Yes. We have four issues in this case and this one concerns Judge Sabo's bias, not at the 1982 trial, but during the 1995 post-conviction (PCRA) evidentiary hearing. I am stuck with that limitation since the lawyers previously on the case did not as a matter of law accuse Judge Sabo of bias at the trial. The judge who was deciding whether or not to grant a new trial in 1995 was the same person who presided over the 1982 trial in which my client was convicted and sentenced to death. Judge Yohn assumed as part of his federal rulings in 2001, that in denying relief Judge Sabo was impartial and fair. Now we know that was not true. When it came to Mumia Abu-Jamal, Judge Sabo made a bigoted remark that he was intent on seeing my client “fry”, to be executed. The constitutional principles of due process, fundamental fairness, and equal protection of the law, had taken a holiday from his courtroom. As you know, Mumia has been on death row ever since the trial.

Aside from the numerous violations of my client's constitutional rights detailed in our briefs, we also have this evidence that Judge Sabo said he was going to help the prosecution kill my client, referring to him in the most racist and despicable manner imaginable.

Sabo's “fry the nigger” comment is interrelated with what we are arguing on May 17, but it is not the sole basis of the argument that Judge Sabo was unfair at the 1995 hearing. But it is now part of it and we put it in because it was raised shortly following discovery, and was presented to the U.S. District Court. So I feel it is legitimately there before the Court of Appeals.

As you know, I have litigated numerous death penalty cases around the country for three decades. Back when I was trying many cases in the South, I went before some very racist judges. One even jailed me three days for contempt of court for challenging his racism and bias. Incidentally, my client was cleared—acquitted of murder and all related charges. With all the racism I have witnessed, never have I been before someone who was so arrogant about his or her racism as to just openly talk about it. Mumia’s case occurred not in the South, but in Philadelphia, which, aside from the police department, is a sophisticated city. Yet, in this case Judge Sabo refers to Mumia as a “nigger” and boasts about helping the prosecution ensure that he is executed. This is the big gorilla in the room that must be addressed; it cannot be ignored.

Bennett: It's remarkable that Judge Pamela Dembe ruled in 2001 that even if Maurer-Carter was correct, it simply does not matter. She said that since it “was a jury trial, as long as the presiding judge's rulings were legally correct, claims as to what might have motivated or animated those rulings are not relevant.”

Bryan: I feel that as a matter of law Judge Dembe was wrong, and of course rejecting that she employed faulty judgment. The subsequent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which I took to the United State Supreme Court, was likewise based upon illogical reasoning. Nevertheless, as I mentioned earlier, this issue was also presented during the same period in the U.S. District Court. The sworn declaration of Terri Maurer-Carter was promptly filed federally.

It is interesting that Ms. Maurer-Carter’s husband was a police officer and she an official court stenographer who has received awards for the excellence for her court-reporting work. She is just a normal personal, not political, but what Ms. Maurer-Carter overheard really bothered her. I have great respect for her, that she had the courage to come forward with this information. Ms. Maurer-Carter could have remained silent and stayed out of this, and she and her family would certainly feel safer at night.

Bennett: Do you have an estimate of you how long it will take for the 3rd Circuit Court to make the ruling on a new trial?

Bryan: It is difficult to say. The court has a goal of having an internal draft decision within 60 days following assignment or all supplemental briefing. Yet, if a judge on the panel wishes to concur or dissent, he or she should submit the opinion within 45 days after a second judge’s approval of the majority decision. These are only targets the court sets for itself so it could reach a decision much quicker, or longer. I hope to have a ruling before the end of the summer, but that depends upon what happens internally with the court; it could be sometime in the fall. I do not think it will sit on this case for a long time. This is a court not known to procrastinate and hold up the wheels of justice.

Bennett: What rulings could the court make?

Bryan: I will give you the two extremes of what might happen: (1) If the court decides that Mumia deserves a new trial, the judges might order a retrial. (2) If the court rules against us on everything, it we would be looking down the barrel of an execution and need to petition the United States Supreme Court. Of course, there are various rulings the court could make between these two extremes, such as sending the case back to a lower court for further hearings, only ordering a retrial on the issues of life or death, etc.

The issues in this case are of great constitutional importance. In additional to the work by associate counsel Professor Judith L. Ritter and me, there has been support from highly respected legal organizations. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has written a friend of the court brief on the “racism-in-jury-selection” issue. There was also a brief filed by the National Lawyers Guild, which has been joined by the National Conference of Black Lawyers, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute of Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the National Jury Project. That is quite a list of human rights-oriented organizations arguing that this case cries for a new and fair trial not riddled with racism, as it was initially.

Bennett: What can supporters around the world do to best aid your battle in the courts?

Bryan: People need to openly express their concern for human rights, opposition to the death penalty, and demand what we are after in this case: a completely new trial, at the conclusion of that trial, my client could go home to his family. That is the bottom line, and that is what’s driving me and the legal team: Mumia’s ultimate freedom.

That being said, I consider it very important that people's voices are heard in many ways, like peacefully demonstrating, writing letters to newspaper editors, op-ed pieces, news articles. It is really like what you, Hans, are doing: just getting the word out publicly about the injustices that have occurred in this case—letting the facts speak for themselves. That is what people can do. Of course we need financial support for the legal effort, and there is a fund strictly for the legal defense, the Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal (see below).

The big thing is that that people's voices are heard. I was in Berlin, Germany, in January and spoke to an audience of well over two thousand people. The audience’s boisterous reaction to my remarks was overwhelming—they recognized the importance of Mumia to the cause of people’s basic rights. There is also much activism in many other countries, such as France, England, Spain, Italy. Mumia Abu-Jamal has become a worldwide symbol in the struggle against the death penalty, and against human rights abuses.

When arrested Mumia was a prominent journalist who was known as the Voice of the Voiceless, because he spoke out against governmental abuses and corruption. The authorities thought when they prosecuted and put him on death row, they would silence him. Ironically he is heard by more people today through radio and print than he was when free. Mumia does not write about himself, but rather about big issues like women's rights, racism, wrongs committed by the U.S. and other governments in Iraq, how we treat prisoners at places like Guantanamo, the education of young people, and poverty.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s goal is to kill Mumia, to see him put him in the death chamber, strapped down, and murdered in the name of the law. The hope of the state is to silence Mumia once and for all.

We all need to understand that the racism and unfairness continues through the present and we are trying to change that.

Bennett: Anything else to add?

Bryan: The Batson issue, which concerns racism in jury selection, is very important. It was not just in my client's case, but it was actually the modus operandi of lawyers in the District Attorney’s Office to remove people from the jury who were black and poor. This rendered the trial unfair. The U.S. Supreme Court as well as the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have spoken on this issue, ruling that this type of behavior by prosecutors is constitutionally unacceptable.

Bennett: How long have you and Mumia know each other?

Bryan: Mumia started writing me in 1986 and we eventually got to know each other, but I had to turn down the case because I was too busy with other death penalty work. When he came back to me just over four years ago, I could not say no, because it was too important and he needed help.

Mumia has reminded me that what we are all doing is far bigger that just his case. It relates to everyone on death row, and is about people everywhere who are unfairly treated, political prisoners around the globe. We need to bear in mind that a victory for Mumia Abu-Jamal will help other people. That is Mumia's concern. He hopes that what we are doing in his case will help other death row inmates, and put a spotlight on the things wrong with legal systems everywhere. The racism needs to be exposed, brought out to the light of day, and changed. We are about making change for a lot of people.

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To contribute to the legal defense of Mumia, check should be made payable to the “National Lawyers Guild Foundation.” The NLG Foundation is a tax-exempt, nonprofit charitable organization under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). Donations should be mailed to: Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal, P.O. Box 2012, New York, NY 10159.

The four issues being considered are:

#1. Whether the penalty phase of Mumia's trial violated the legal precedent set by the US Supreme Court's 1988 Mills v. Maryland ruling. This issue was grounds for Yohn’s overturning the death sentence in 2001 and is now being appealed by the DA. Yohn ruled that sentencing forms used by jurors and Judge Sabo's instructions to the jury were confusing. Subsequently, jurors mistakenly believed that they had to unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances in order to be considered as weighing against a death sentence.

#2. “Certified for appeal” by Yohn in 2001, the Batson claim, addresses the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to exclude Blacks from Mumia's jury. In 1986, the US Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that a defendant deserves a new trial if it can be proved that jurors were excluded on the grounds of race.

At Mumia's trial, Prosecutor McGill used 11 of his 15 peremptory challenges to remove black jurors that were otherwise acceptable. While Philadelphia is 44% black, Abu-Jamal's jury was composed of ten whites and only two blacks. From 1977-1986 when current Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell was Philadelphia’s DA, the evidence of racism is striking: from 1977-86, the Philadelphia DA struck 58% of black jurors, but only 22% of white jurors.

#3. The legality of McGill's statement to the jury minimizing the seriousness of a verdict of guilt: “if you find the Defendant guilty of course there would be appeal after appeal and perhaps there could be a reversal of the case, or whatever, so that may not be final.”

In 1986 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against McGill in another case (Commonwealth v. Baker) on the same grounds. When Mumia addressed this same issue in his 1989 appeal with the State Supreme Court, the court reversed its decision on the legality of such a statement—ruling against the claim for a mistrial.

Incredibly, just one year later, in the very next case involving this issue (Commonwealth v. Beasley), the State Supreme Court flip-flopped and restored the precedent. However, this would not affect the ruling against Mumia, because the court ruled that this precedent would only apply in “future trials.”

#4. The fairness of Mumia's 1995-97 PCRA hearings when the retired, 74-year-old Judge Sabo was called back specifically for the hearing. Besides the obvious unfairness of recalling the exact same judge to rule on his fairness in the original 1982 trial, his actual PCRA bias has been extensively documented.

During the 1995 hearings, the mainstream Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that the “behavior of the judge…gave the impression, damaging in the extreme, of undue haste and hostility toward the defense's case.” Concluding the PCRA hearing, Sabo rejected all evidence and every witness presented by the defense as not being credible. Therefore, Sabo upheld all of the facts and procedures of the original trial as being correct.

For more information, visit mumia.org (Philadelphia), freemumia.com (New York City), freemumia.org (San Francisco), or emajonline.com (Educators for Mumia).

For the latest on Abu-Jamal from the independent media, check out Bennett’s new “Voice of the Voiceless” series on Abu-Jamal being published in the months leading up to the oral arguments at: http://hbjournalist1.googlepages.com/ms


Hans Bennett (insubordination.blogspot.com) is a Philadelphia-based photojournalist who has been documenting the movement to free Mumia and all political prisoners for more than 5 years



All work by photojournalist Hans Bennett
hbjournalist@gmail.com
www.insubordination.blogspot.com

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mumia's Oral Arguments Set for May 17



Mumia Abu-Jamal's Oral Arguments Set For May 17
--Pam Africa calls for mass-demonstration in Philadelphia, and holding mainstream media accountable

by Hans Bennett

On May 17, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case of internationally renowned black death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. The court will consider four different issues that it has already certified for appeal. It will then decide to either grant a new trial, affirm the life sentence, or re-instate the death sentence.

Immediately after this date was announced last week, supporters of Abu-Jamal around the world began mobilizing to support Abu-Jamal at the hearings. Explaining the urgency, Pam Africa (coordinator of Abu-Jamal’s support network) says that “Mumia can still be executed. Further, since the Supreme Court is unlikely to hear Mumia's case, this is realistically his last chance to get a new trial. As the history of his case shows, we need public pressure to ensure the court's fairness.”

“We’re asking people to come to Philadelphia and show that the whole world is watching these oral arguments,” said Africa. “I believe Mumia is innocent and am personally calling for his immediate release,” Africa said. “However, I'll work with anyone supporting a fair trial. By demanding a new trial, we can work with those who know the trial was rotten but are unsure of Mumia's innocence.”

Abu-Jamal’s attorney, Robert R. Bryan doubts that his client will appear in court because of a rule that the defendant is not brought in for oral arguments. Africa is upset about this rule because she feels that Abu-Jamal’s presence will help to ensure fairness. She asks, “these people are arguing about his life, and he’s not allowed to be there to make sure everything is done right?”

Africa is also concerned about the limited time given for the presentation of oral arguments. While the 3rd Circuit Court has granted 45 minutes total, Abu-Jamal’s attorney is arguing for at least an hour. Africa argues that “in order to argue this case, you need much more time than that.”

A New Trial?
In 1982, Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in a trial that Amnesty International has declared a "violation of minimum international standards that govern fair trial procedures and the use of the death penalty,"

Calling for a new trial, supporters around the world feel that the original one was tainted by racism, prosecutorial & judicial misconduct, coerced witnesses, suppressed evidence, and a denial of Mumia's constitutional right to represent himself.

His case has attracted activists around the world organizing against racism, poverty, corporate media censorship, mass incarceration, political repression, and the death penalty.

Activist Noam Chomsky argues that “Mumia's case is symbolic of something much broader...The US prison system is simply class and race war...Mumia and other prisoners are the kind of people that get assassinated by what's called 'social cleansing' in US client states like Colombia.”

Still on Death Row
In December, 2001 Federal District Court Judge William Yohn affirmed Abu-Jamal's guilt but overturned the death sentence. Citing the 1988 Mills v. Maryland precedent, Yohn ruled that sentencing forms used by jurors and Judge Sabo's instructions to the jury were confusing. Subsequently, jurors mistakenly believed that they had to unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances in order to be considered as weighing against a death sentence.

Mumia's case is now in the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals. DA Lynne Abraham is appealing the death penalty ruling while Mumia is appealing the guilty verdict.

If the penalty ruling is overturned, a new execution date will be set for Mumia. If his ruling is upheld, the DA can still impanel a new jury to rehear the penalty phase, which could then sentence Mumia to death—regardless of the 3rd Circuit ruling.

Because the DA appealed Yohn's death penalty decision, Mumia has never left death row, and is still unable to have such “privileges” as full-contact visits with his family.

The Four Issues Being Considered
In December, 2005, the 3rd Circuit announced the beginning of deliberations and shocked many by agreeing to consider two claims not “certified for appeal” by Yohn in 2001.

Mumia's attorney Robert R. Bryan declared it to be “the most important decision affecting my client since his 1981 arrest, for it was the first time there was a ruling that could lead to a new trial and his freedom.” The courts are now considering the following four issues:

#1. Whether the penalty phase of Mumia's trial violated the legal precedent set by the US Supreme Court's 1988 Mills v. Maryland ruling. This issue was Yohn's grounds for overturning the death sentence and is now being appealed by the DA.

#2. “Certified for appeal” by Yohn in 2001, the Batson claim, addresses the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to exclude Blacks from Mumia's jury. In 1986, the US Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that a defendant deserves a new trial if it can be proved that jurors were excluded on the grounds of race.

At Mumia's trial, Prosecutor McGill used 11 of his 15 peremptory challenges to remove black jurors that were otherwise acceptable. While Philadelphia is 44% black, Abu-Jamal's jury was composed of ten whites and only two blacks. From 1977-1986 when current Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell was Philadelphia's District Attorney, the evidence of racism is striking: from 1977-86, the Philadelphia DA struck 58% of black jurors, but only 22% of white jurors.

#3. The legality of McGill's statement to the jury minimizing the seriousness of a verdict of guilt: “if you find the Defendant guilty of course there would be appeal after appeal and perhaps there could be a reversal of the case, or whatever, so that may not be final.”

In 1986 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against McGill in another case (Commonwealth v. Baker) on the same grounds. When Abu-Jamal addressed this same issue in his 1989 appeal with the State Supreme Court, the court reversed its decision on the legality of such a statement—ruling against the claim for a mistrial.

Incredibly, just one year later, in the very next case involving this issue (Commonwealth v. Beasley), the State Supreme Court flip-flopped and restored the precedent. However, this would not affect the ruling against Mumia, because the court ruled that this precedent would only apply in “future trials.” This suggests that the rulings were designed to specifically exclude Mumia's case from its precedent.

#4. The fairness of Mumia's 1995-97 PCRA hearings when the retired, 74-year-old Judge Sabo was called back specifically for the hearing. Besides the obvious unfairness of recalling the exact same judge to rule on his fairness in the original 1982 trial, his actual PCRA bias has been extensively documented.

During the 1995 hearings, the mainstream Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that the “behavior of the judge in the case was disturbing the first time around—and in hearings last week he did not give the impression to those in the courtroom of fair mindedness. Instead, he gave the impression, damaging in the extreme, of undue haste and hostility toward the defense's case.”

Concluding the PCRA hearing, Sabo rejected all evidence and every witness presented by the defense as not being credible. Therefore, Sabo upheld all of the facts and procedures of the original trial as being correct.

“I'm Going To Help Them Fry The Nigger”
In 2001 another witness—Terri Mauer-Carter—challenged Sabo's integrity, but the State Supreme Court ruled against the defense's right to include her affidavit in their current federal appeal. Mauer-Carter was working as a stenographer in the Philadelphia Court system on the eve of Mumia's 1982 trail when she states that she overheard Judge Sabo say in reference to Mumia's case that he was going to help the prosecution “fry the nigger.”

Journalist Dave Lindorff recently interviewed Mauer-Carter's former boss, Richard Klein, who was with Mauer-Carter when she states she overheard Sabo. A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge at the time, who now sits on PA's Superior Court, Klein told Lindorff: "I won't say it did happen, and I won't say it didn't. That was a long time ago." Lindorff considers Klein's refusal to firmly reject Mauer-Carter's claim to be an affirmation of her statement.

The State Supreme Court ruling was an affirmation of lower-level Judge Patricia Dembe's argument that even if Maurer-Carter is correct about Sabo's stated intent to use his position as Judge to throw the trial and help the prosecution "fry the nigger," it doesn't matter. According to Dembe, since it "was a jury trial, as long as the presiding Judge's rulings were legally correct, claims as to what might have motivated or animated those rulings are not relevant."

Organizing for May 17
Before the May 17 date had been set, Abu-Jamal supporters had already been organizing events for April 24—Mumia’s birthday. The event in Philadelphia will show the film Framing an Execution (narrated by Danny Glover), which analyzes the biased presentation of Abu-Jamal’s case by Sam Donaldson on ABC’s 20/20 in 1999. Afterwards, the forum will discuss new evidence of innocence.

On the same day in France, Abu-Jamal’s international supporters will be joined by a US delegation defending last April’s naming of a street for Abu-Jamal in the Paris suburb of St. Denis.

“In 2001, when Judge Yohn affirmed Mumia’s conviction, he said there was no evidence to show that Mumia is innocent. That is absolutely not true, but Yohn could get away with saying this because the mainstream media did not hold him accountable.” Pam Africa argues that independent journalism and aggressive media-activism are urgently needed to challenge the mainstream media to report accurately about the upcoming oral arguments. “Deceitful mainstream media coverage since November has not presented the extensive evidence of Mumia’s innocence, and this dishonest coverage makes Mumia seem like a cold blooded killer. Only independent media has been putting the truth out about Mumia.”

Among the many stories about Abu-Jamal in the independent press, Africa highly recommends reading about the important new evidence presented in German author Michael Schiffmann’s new book on the case—especially the new discovery of crime-scene photos that expose police manipulation of evidence at the scene.

If supporters are unable to travel to Philadelphia on May 17, Africa encourages people do something in their hometown to publicize the oral arguments and hold the mainstream media accountable in their coverage of the case. “Mumia's case represents all that is wrong with this system. We must take action now before its too late.”


Note from author:
When I spoke with Pam this weekend, she told me about the importance of indymedia in getting out the word. She wanted me to cite her and please encourage folks to check out and distribute these two particular pieces:
German author Michael Schiffmann’s new book reviewed. Pam is really impressed with this book, the new evidence presented and wants it distributed as much as possible. Since the book has not been released in the US, this is the only english language source:

http://insubordination.blogspot.com/2006/11/freiheit-fr-mumia-abu-jamal_24.html

and then also my interview with him giving more depth than just the book review:

http://hbjournalist1.googlepages.com/schiff

Last, but not least, my November essay in Z Magazine just got released to the public (not just subscribers to Z) and is now ready to be spread around:

http://zmagsite.zmag.org/Nov2006/bennett1106.html

An archive of all my articles on Mumia (plus many other articles I have collected by other writers) is available here:

http://hbjournalist1.googlepages.com/ms


For more information, check out mumia.org (Philadelphia), freemumia.com (New York City), freemumia.org (San Francisco), or emajonline.com (Educators for Mumia). For the latest on Abu-Jamal from the independent media, check out Bennett’s new “Voice of the Voiceless” series on Abu-Jamal being published in the months leading up to the oral arguments at: http://hbjournalist1.googlepages.com/ms


Hans Bennett (insubordination.blogspot.com) is a Philadelphia-based photojournalist who has been documenting the movement to free Mumia and all political prisoners for more than 5 years


EN ESPANOL:

Artículo de Hans Bennett sobre la presentación de argumentos orales en el caso del preso político Mumia Abu-Jamal, que incluye citas de una entrevista a Pam África sobre las movilizaciones. --Argumentos orales en el caso de Mumia Abu-Jamal programados para el 17 de mayo
--Pam África llama a una manifestación masiva en Filadelfia. Insta a exigir que los grandes medios de comunicación sean responsables.

por Hans Bennett

domingo, 1 de abril, 2007
El 17 de mayo, el Tribunal de Apelaciones para el 3° Circuito escuchará los argumentos orales en el caso del periodista negro de renombre internacional Mumia Abu-Jamal, quien sigue en el corredor de la muerte. La corte considerará cuatro cuestiones ya certificadas para la apelación. Posteriormente tomará la decisión de concederle un nuevo juicio a Abu-Jamal, avalar la sentencia de cadena perpetua o reimponer la pena de muerte.

Tan pronto que anunciaron la fecha de la audiencia la semana pasada, los partidarios de Abu-Jamal en varias partes del mundo empezaron a movilizarse para apoyarlo. Para explicar la urgencia del momento, Pam África (la coordinadora de la red de apoyo para Abu-Jamal) dice: “Todavía pueden ejecutar a Mumia. Además, dado que es poco probable que la Suprema Corte acceda a escuchar su caso, ésta es su última posibilidad realista de conseguir un nuevo juicio. La historia de su caso demuestra que la presión pública es imprescindible para lograr la imparcialidad de la corte”.

“Pedimos que la gente de todas partes venga a Filadelfia para demostrar que el mundo entero está observando la presentación de estos argumentos orales”, siguió África. “Yo creo que Mumia es inocente y, personalmente, exijo su libertad inmediata. Sin embargo, trabajaré con cualquier persona que apoye un juicio imparcial. El exigir un nuevo juicio nos permite trabajar con personas que saben que el juicio estuvo podrido pero que no saben si Mumia es inocente”.

El abogado de Abu-Jamal, Robert R. Bryan, duda que su cliente aparezca en la corte debido a una regla que establece que el acusado no debe estar presente para los argumentos orales. Esta regla estorba a África porque ella siente que la presencia de Abu-Jamal ayudaría en asegurar la imparcialidad del juicio. Cuestiona: “Ellos están discutiendo sobre su vida ¿y no permiten que él esté ahí para ver que las cosas se hagan como es debido”?

También le preocupan a África los límites de tiempo impuestos para la presentación de los argumentos orales. El Tribunal del 3° Circuito ha concedido un total de 45 minutos, pero el abogado de Abu-Jamal está reclamando por lo menos una hora. África sostiene que para argumentar el caso, hace falta mucho más tiempo.

¿Un nuevo juicio?
En 1982, Abu-Jamal fue condenado por el asesinato de un policía blanco de Filadelfia, Daniel Faulkner, en un juicio descrito por Amnistía Internacional como “una violación de las más mínimas normas internacionales que deben regir los procedimientos de un juicio imparcial y el uso de la pena de muerte”.

Mientras exigen un nuevo juicio, personas que apoyan a Abu-Jamal en todas partes del mundo sienten que el juicio original fue corrompido por el racismo, la mala conducta del juez y el fiscal, los testigos coaccionados, la evidencia suprimida y la negación del derecho constitucional de Mumia a representarse a sí mismo.

Su caso ha atraído a activistas por todo el mundo que se organizan contra el racismo, la pobreza, la censura de los medios corporativos, la encarcelación masiva, la represión política y la pena de muerte.

El activista Noam Chomsky postula que “el caso de Mumia es simbólico de algo mucho más amplio [...] El sistema carcelario estadounidense es simple y sencillamente la guerra de clase y de raza [...] Mumia y los otros presos son del tipo de personas que se asesinan en la llamada “limpieza étnica” en estados clientelares de Estados Unidos, como Colombia”.

Sigue en el corredor de la muerte
En diciembre de 2001, el juez federal William Yohn avaló el veredicto de culpabilidad de Abu-Jamal pero revocó la pena de muerte. Al citar como precedente el fallo de 1988 en el caso Mills v. Maryland, Yohn dictaminó que tanto las formas de sentencia utilizadas por los miembros del jurado como las instrucciones al jurado de parte del juez Sabo eran confusas. Posteriormente, ellos erróneamente creyeron que tenían que estar de acuerdo unánime con respecto a la existencia de cualquier circunstancia atenuante para que dicha circunstancia pudiera pesar en contra de una sentencia de muerte.

Actualmente el caso de Mumia se encuentra en el Tribunal Federal del 3° Circuito de Apelaciones. La fiscal Lynne Abraham apela el fallo que revoca la pena de muerte mientras Mumia apela el veredicto de culpabilidad.

Si el tribunal deroga el fallo con respecto a la sentencia, habrá una nueva fecha de ejecución para Mumia. Si avala el fallo, la fiscal todavía puede convocar un nuevo jurado para volver a escuchar la fase de sentencia; luego este nuevo jurado podría darle la pena de muerte a Mumia, a pesar del fallo del 3° Circuito.

Debido a la apelación de la fiscalía al dictamen del juez Yohn con respecto a la pena de muerte, Mumia nunca ha salido del corredor de la muerte, ni ha tenido ciertos “privilegios”, como el de tener contacto físico con sus familiares cuando lo visitan.

Las cuatro cuestiones bajo consideración
En diciembre de 2005, el 3° Circuito anunció el inicio de las deliberaciones, asombrando a muchas personas con su decisión a considerar dos reclamos que no habían sido “certificados para la apelación” por Yohn en 2001.

El abogado de Mumia Robert R. Bryan declaró que ésta fue “la decisión más importante para mi cliente desde su detención en 1981 porque fue la primera vez que se emitió un fallo que podría llegar a un nuevo juicio y luego a su libertad”. Actualmente, las cortes tienen cuatro asuntos bajo consideración:

#1. Si la fase de sentencia en el juicio original de Mumia violó el precedente jurídico establecido por el fallo de la Suprema Corte en el caso Mills v Maryland, 1988. Ésta fue la causa por la cual Yohn revocó la pena de muerte; la fiscal está apelando la revocación ahora.

#2. “Certificado para la apelación” por Yohn en 2001, el “reclamo Batson” se trata del uso de parte del fiscal de impugnaciones perentorias para excluir a los negros del jurado de Mumia. En 1986, la Suprema Corte de Estados Unidos falló en Batson v Kentucky que el acusado merece un nuevo juicio si se puede comprobar que los jurados fueron excluidos por motivo de raza.

En el juicio de Mumia, el fiscal McGill usó 11 de sus 15 impugnaciones perentorias para eliminar candidatos al jurado, los cuales de otra manera eran aceptables. Aunque la población de Filadefia es 44% negro, el jurado de Abu-Jamal se componía de diez blancos y sólo dos negros. Durante los años 1977-1986, cuando el gobernador actual del estado de Pensilvania Ed Rendell era el fiscal de Filadelfia, la evidencia del racismo era impresionante: durante estos años el fiscal eliminó 58% de los candidatos negros al jurado y sólo 22% de los candidatos blancos.

#3. La legalidad de la declaración al jurado del fiscal McGill, la cual redujo la gravedad de un veredicto de culpabilidad: “Si ustedes encuentran al acusado culpable, claro que habrá una apelación tras otra, y tal vez habrá una anulación del caso, o lo que sea, así que tal vez [su veredicto] no sea final”.

En 1986 la Suprema Corte de Pensilvania falló contra McGill en otro caso (Commonwealth v. Baker) por la misma causa. Pero cuando Abu-Jamal presentó el mismo tema en su apelación de 1989 a la Suprema Corte del estado, la corte anuló su propio fallo sobre la legalidad de este tipo de declaración y a la vez falló en contra del reclamo de Abu-Jamal para declarar el juicio nulo.

Asombrosamente, sólo un año después, en el siguiente caso relacionado con este tema (Commonwealth v. Beasley), la Suprema Corte del estado se echó para atrás otra vez y reestableció el precedente. Sin embargo, esta decisión no se aplica al fallo contra Mumia de 1989 porque la corte dictaminó que el precedente se aplica únicamente a “los juicios en el futuro”. Esto sugiere que los fallos fueron diseñados específicamente para excluir el caso de Mumia del precedente.

#4. La imparcialidad de Mumia's Apelaciones de Remedio Post-Condena (PCRA por sus siglos en inglés) en1995-97, cuando el jubilado juez Sabo de 74 años fue nombrado específicamente para presidir la audiencia. Aparte de la patente injusticia de designar al mismo juez para dictaminar sobre la cuestión de su propia imparcialidad en el juicio original de 1982, su patente prejuicio en las PCRA se ha documentado extensamente.

Durante las audiencias de 1995, el periódico Philadelphia Inquirer escribió que “el comportamiento del juez en el caso fue perturbador la primera vez –– y en las audiencias de la semana pasada tampoco impresionó a las personas en la sala del tribunal con su imparcialidad. Al contrario, dio la extremadamente dañina impresión de indebida precipitación y hostilidad hacia el caso de la defensa”.

Al concluir la audiencia PCRA, Sabo rechazó toda la evidencia y también rechazó a cada testigo presentado por la defensa, citando su falta de credibilidad. Por lo tanto, Sabo avaló todos los hechos y procedimientos del juicio original, averiguando que todo estuvo correcto.

“Voy a ayudarles a freír ese nigger”
En 2001 hubo otra testigo —Terri Mauer-Carter–– la cual impugnó la honradez de Sabo, pero la Suprema Corte del estado de Pensilvania falló en contra del derecho de la defensa a incluir su declaración en su apelación federal actual. Mauer-Carter trabajaba como estenógrafa en el sistema de los tribunales de Filadelfia justo antes del juicio de Mumia en 1982. Dice que fue entonces que ella oyó que el juez Sabo dijo, en referencia al caso de Mumia, que él iba a ayudarle al fiscal a “freír ese nigger”.

Recientemente, el periodista Dave Lindorff entrevistó al ex jefe de Mauer-Carter, Richard Klein, el cual estaba con Mauer-Carter cuando ella afirma que oyó el comentario de Sabo. Un juez del Tribunal de Causas Comunes en aquel momento y ahora juez en la Corte Superior de Pensilvania, Klein le dijo a Lindorff: "No diré que esto ocurrió y tampoco diré que no ocurrió. Esto fue hace mucho tiempo”. Lindorff considera que la negación de Klein a rechazar tajantemente el reclamo de Mauer-Carter avala su declaración.

El dictamen de la Suprema Corte del estado avaló el argumento de la juez Patricia Dembe, quien postuló que aún si Maurer-Carter tenga razón con respecto a la declarada intención de Sabo a utilizar su posición como juez para hacer trampas en el juicio y ayudarle a la fiscalía a “freír ese nigger”, todo eso no importa. Según Dembe, dado que “fue un juicio con jurado, mientras los fallos del juez tengan validez jurídica, los reclamos sobre lo que pudo haber motivado o animado los fallos son improcedentes”.

Organizar para el 17 de mayo
Antes de que se fijara la fecha del 17 de mayo, los partidarios de Abu-Jamal estaban organizando eventos para el 24 de abril, el cumpleaños de Mumia. El evento en Filadelfia consiste en mostrar la película Framing an Execution (Armar una Ejecución), narrada por Danny Glover. El documental analiza la presentación tergiversada del caso de Abu-Jamal por Sam Donaldson en el programa 20/20 de ABC en 1999. Después de la película, habrá un foro para platicar sobre nueva evidencia de la inocencia de Mumia.

El mismo día, en Francia, los partidarios internacionales de Abu-Jamal se juntarán con una delegación de Estados Unidos para defender el nombramiento de una avenida en honor a Abu-Jamal en el suburbio parisiense Saint Denis.

“En 2001, cuando el juez Yohn avaló el veredicto de culpabilidad de Mumia, dijo que no hubo evidencia para demostrar sus inocencia. Eso no es cierto en absoluto”. Pam África sostiene que nos urge hacer crecer el periodismo independiente y el activismo mediático agresivo para retar a los medios poderosos a transmitir información verídica sobre los argumentos orales que se presentarán. “La cobertura falsa dada por los grandes medios esconde evidencia extensa de la inocencia de Mumia, y esta cobertura deshonesta presenta a Mumia como un asesino de sangre fría. Sólo los medios independientes han dicho la verdad sobre Mumia”.

Entre muchas historias sobre Abu-Jamal en la prensa independiente, África recomienda que todos lean la nueva evidencia presentada en el libro del autor alemán Michael Schiffmann sobre el caso —especialmente el hallazgo de fotografías de la escena del crimen que demuestran la manipulación policial de la evidencia ahí.

Para los que no pueden viajar a Filadelfia el 17 de mayo, África sugiere que hagan algo donde vivan para difundir información sobre los argumentos orales y para retar a los grandes medios de comunicación a ser responsables con respecto a su cobertura del caso. “El caso de Mumia representa todo lo malo del sistema. Hay que actuar ahora antes de que sea demasiado tarde”.


Nota del autor:
Cuando hablé con Pam este fin de semana, ella habló conmigo sobre el papel clave de Indymedia en difundir las noticias. Ella pidió que la citara para animar a la gente a fijarse en las siguientes piezas y a difundirlas:

La reseña del nuevo libro del autor alemán Michael Schiffmann. A Pam le impresiona el libro y la nueva evidencia que contiene. Quiere ver la más amplia distribución posible. Dado que el libro todavía no ha salido en Estados Unidos, la única fuente en inglés es la siguiente:
http://insubordination.blogspot.com/2006/11/freiheit-fr-mumia-abu-jamal_

También vean a mi entrevista con Schiffman, que profundiza más en el tema”.
http://hbjournalist1.googlepages.com/schiff

Y el último en orden pero no en importancia, mi ensayo publicado en Z Magazine en noviembre ahora está disponible para que el público (no solamente los suscritores a Z) lo lea y lo difunda:
http://zmagsite.zmag.org/Nov2006/bennett1106.html

Un archivo de todos mis artículos sobre Mumia (junto con una selección de varios artículos de otros autores) está disponible aquí:
http://hbjournalist1.googlepages.com/ms

Para conseguir más información, vean los sitios de mumia.org (Philadelphia), freemumia.com (New York City), freemumia.org (San Francisco), y emajonline.com (Educators for Mumia). Para los artículos más recientes sobre Abu-Jamal en los medios independientes, vean la nueva serie de Bennett “Voice of the Voiceless” (La voz de los sin voz), publicada durante los meses justo antes de los argumentos orales: http://hbjournalist1.googlepages.com/ms

Hans Bennett (insubordination.blogspot.com) es un reportero gráfico que ha documentado el movimiento para liberar a Mumia y todos los presos políticos durante más de 5 años.

Todo el trabajo del reportero gráfico Hans Bennett
hbjournalist (at) gmail.com www.insubordination.blogspot.com



All work by photojournalist Hans Bennett
hbjournalist@gmail.com www.insubordination.blogspot.com