By JEFF MACKLER
According to the July 12, 1999, Philadelphia Daily News, the state of Pennsylvania intends to sign a warrant in August 1999 for the execution of innocent death row inmate, journalist, and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Pam Africa told Socialist Action that she contacted the article’s author, John Baer, to verify his source. Baer refused to retract his assertion, insisting on its integrity.
(Africa is the coordinator of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.)
Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Ridge signed six execution warrants in the month of July. Baer’s article strongly implies that the governor intends to sign another three, Jamal included, in August.
“Rapid-fire Executions?” was the title of the featured page in the Philadelphia Daily News. The question mark was designed to highlight the author’s view that execution warrants take too long to implement in Pennsylvania because of the appeals process.
“We’ve Had Three Since 1995 But Appeals Still Drag On,” read another headline that discussed the execution of death row inmate Gary Heidnik the week before. Mumia was included in this article as well.
A new death warrant would place Mumia in what is called “Phase II” of the execution process, or suicide watch. He would be denied almost all access to his family and friends and severely limited in his use of the telephone.
As with the signing of Jamal’s 1995 warrant for execution, he will be placed under 24-hour surveillance, relocated to a special cell, and required to ask for each individual sheet of toilet paper, each glass of water.
His cartons of legal materials, correspondence, writing implements, and even clothes will be taken from him.
In 1995, according to Pam Africa, Jamal’s legal team required some 75 days to secure the stay of execution that returned Jamal to his original death row status while his appeal was being considered by higher courts. While current law requires that a stay be granted, the time period required to secure one is not certain.
Mumia’s access to the phone has been critical in the past. It enabled him to deliver his commencement speech last month to the graduating class at Evergreen College It has consistently enabled him to refute the hosts of lies initiated by the corporate media and the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, who have campaigned for his execution.
This new threat to Mumia’s life cannot be taken lightly. The drumbeat of the death machine sounds louder and louder in direct proportion to the new evidence that demonstrates his innocence.
We are witnessing a battle for Mumia’s life that is unfolding on the national and international stage. With each passing day, new forces are won to Mumia’s cause, convinced that his 1982 trial constituted a gross violation of legal procedures, democratic rights, and elementary justice.
Jamal’s legal team has demonstrated to major national and international unions, to the most prominent international human rights organizations, and to millions of people in the United States and worldwide that the criminal justice system has proven incapable of meeting the most minimum standards of fair play.
With each new victory demonstrating the mass support for Jamal’s demand for a new trial, Pennsylvania state officials have ratcheted up their shrill demands for Mumia’s death.
Fearful that their unraveling frame-up will discredit not only the direct perpetrators of Jamal’s false imprisonment but also the broader system of “legalized murder” that operates daily in racist and classist America, Jamal’s detractors have deepened their efforts to secure his prompt execution.
They are hampered in this effort by the continued exposure of their lies. (See articles on page 4.)
To counter this new threat to Jamal’s life, Pam Africa has called on supporters to contact Gov. Ridge immediately to express their opposition to any new execution order.
Contact: Gov.Tom Ridge, Main Capital Building, Room 200, Harrisburg, PA 17120. Phone: (717) 787-2500. Fax: (717) 783-4429.
Socialist Action urges Jamal activists to redouble their efforts to mobilize the broad forces necessary to win Mumia’s freedom. The week of Sept. 19-25 has been set for nationally coordinated protests to increase public awareness of the dangers facing Mumia and to win support from new layers of the population.