Workers Vanguard No. 917

4 July 2008


Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Now!

New Legal Papers Filed

On June 27, Robert Bryan, lead attorney for death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, filed a petition to the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals for en banc review—i.e., for the full court to reconsider the March 27 decision by the three-judge panel of the court that affirmed Mumia’s racist frame-up conviction. That decision condemned this fighter for black freedom to either life imprisonment or a new sentencing hearing that could reinstate the death sentence that was overturned in December 2001 by federal District Court judge William Yohn. Shortly after the court’s ruling, the D.A.’s office announced it will be appealing to reinstate the death sentence.

A Black Panther Party spokesman in his youth, then an award-winning journalist known as the “voice of the voiceless” and a supporter of the Philadelphia MOVE organization, Mumia was framed up for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. For more than 25 years, the cops, prosecutors, bourgeois politicians and their media jackals have howled for Mumia’s blood, because they see in him a voice of defiant opposition to all forms of racist discrimination, the spectre of black revolt. Our fight for Mumia’s freedom is part of our struggle against black oppression, which is rooted in American capitalism.

With its March 27 ruling, the Third Circuit joins the many courts that have discarded established precedents in favor of special “Mumia rules” in order to keep Mumia in prison hell. The panel of three judges unanimously gave license to the prosecutor’s unconstitutional argument to the jury that it could convict Mumia because he’d have “appeal after appeal after appeal.” The judges also upheld the outrageous conduct of Judge Albert Sabo during Mumia’s post-conviction relief (PCRA) proceedings from 1995 to 1997, as well as his findings. Confronted with the massive violation of Mumia’s due process rights, the court grotesquely ruled that no matter how unfair the proceedings, a federal court in a habeas corpus appeal is barred from ordering a new PCRA hearing. In other words, for Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica and Judges Robert E. Cowen and Thomas L. Ambro, there are no due process rights in such proceedings.

Making a mockery of the Supreme Court’s 1986 Batson decision, which prohibits the exclusion of jurors based on race, the court dismissed the overwhelming proof of racist jury-rigging that marked Mumia’s 1982 trial, where the prosecution used eleven of its 15 peremptory challenges to get rid of black jurors. Enunciating a new rule—adopted from the prosecution’s arguments—the Third Circuit decision held that Mumia’s claim must be rejected because he and his attorneys failed to provide evidence of the racial composition of the entire pool of prospective jurors for the trial. This is truly Kafkaesque. Efforts by Mumia’s attorneys to develop the record on the jury’s racial composition were repeatedly blocked by the Pennsylvania courts and prosecutors. Sabo quashed a subpoena for the Philadelphia County Commissioner of Jurors. He also dismissed a motion for discovery of the name, address and race of each member of the jury pool on the spurious grounds that such discovery motions are not permitted in PCRA proceedings. The state’s successful efforts to suppress this evidence are now the basis for the court’s refusal to even consider it.

It was on the question of jury exclusion that Judge Ambro dissented, arguing that Mumia should receive a new hearing in federal district court where the prosecution would be required to justify its exclusion of black jurors. Ambro’s dissenting opinion, which Mumia’s attorneys and others have hailed as “remarkable,” is the basis for Mumia’s current appeal. It must be noted, however, that Ambro accepted the same false premise as the others, that Mumia’s attorneys failed to provide sufficient proof of the composition of the jury pool. Like his two colleagues, Ambro also ignored the highly regarded studies submitted to the court that showed an overwhelming pattern of racist jury-rigging in the Pennsylvania courts at the time of Mumia’s trial.

Just as the courts adopt special “Mumia rules” to keep him locked away, they have refused to even consider the mountain of evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including the confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Officer Faulkner. In a separate appeal in the Pennsylvania state courts, on February 19 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court turned down Mumia’s request for a hearing to present evidence that key witnesses in his frame-up trial perjured themselves under police coercion (see “Mobilize Now to Free Mumia! Pennsylvania Court Rejects Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Appeal—Federal Court Decision Due,” WV No. 909, 29 February). Mumia’s attorneys announced they will seek review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Immediately after the Third Circuit decision, the Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—and its fraternal defense organizations internationally held emergency protests. The PDC also called for international united-front protests under the slogans: “Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Innocent! Free Mumia Now! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!” Protests were held in April in Oakland, London, Toronto, Sydney, Chicago, Los Angeles and Mexico City. These protests brought together individuals and organizations representing diverse political viewpoints—trade unionists, anti-racists, death penalty abolitionists, gay rights activists, leftists and others—united behind the struggle to free Mumia. The PDC and its international fraternal defense organizations also organized Class-Struggle Contingents in a number of protests called by other groups. In addition to the united-front slogans, the contingents also marched under the slogans: “There Is No Justice in the Capitalist Courts! Mobilize Labor’s Power—For Mass Protest!” (see “Protests Demand: Free Mumia Now!” WV No. 914, 9 May).

Central to the united-front protests and Class-Struggle Contingents was the understanding that the fight for Mumia’s freedom must be based on the recognition that he is innocent—the victim of a racist political frame-up. Among the numerous materials produced by the PDC to publicize the abundant evidence of his innocence and politically arm Mumia’s supporters in the struggle to revive the mass movement necessary to win his freedom are The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal—Mumia Is Innocent! (July 2006) and the Fact Sheet pamphlet, Big Lies in the Service of Legal Lynching (January 2008). These are available at: A recent book by J. Patrick O’Connor, The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, also details much of the evidence of Mumia’s innocence. O’Connor’s book unequivocally states that Mumia is innocent of the shooting of Officer Faulkner and that he was framed up. We welcome this contribution to Mumia’s fight for freedom, which stands out from earlier books by Daniel Williams, David Lindorff and Michael Schiffmann, each of which offer that Mumia may have been Faulkner’s killer.

The power that can make the courts yield is the power of the multiracial working class, which must be mobilized independently of the capitalist state and its political representatives, whether Democrat, Republican or Green. Our strategy of class-struggle defense is diametrically opposed to that of the liberals and reformists, who promote dangerous illusions that the courts can provide justice to America’s foremost class-war prisoner. These illusions, codified in the subordination of the demand for Mumia’s freedom to the call for a “new trial,” have demobilized what was once a mass movement. Why mobilize on the streets or in the unions if Mumia can get justice from the courts?

The hundreds who mobilized for the recent protests must be turned into thousands upon thousands determined to spike the capitalist rulers’ plans to reinstate Mumia’s death sentence or bury him in prison for life. All efforts on Mumia’s behalf must be redoubled. America’s rulers must be made to understand that there will be a massive social price to pay if Mumia is not freed. Free Mumia! Abolish the racist death penalty!