Commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal: Killing for a Job

On the evening of June 22, 2000, at approximately 8:49 p.m., the life of Shaka Sankofa (né Gary Graham) was snuffed out by the state of Texas. With a sweaty-lipped smirk and a nod, Texas Governor George W. Bush cleared the way for the state’s killing of a young Black man.

The legalized lynching of Sankofa, the 132nd in recent Texas history, was but the latest in a long line of state killings. All of these have but one objective: to propel Bush, the younger, into the White House.

With serious questions about his guilt, and equally serious questions about the competency of his original, court-appointed trial counsel, the Graham (Sankofa) case posed serious questions about the entire Texas death machine.

Sankofa’s trial lawyer has the dubious distinction of having a subsection of Texas death row unofficially named for him: the “Mock Wing.” The wing is so named for Harris County defense attorney Ronald G. Mock, whose 12 clients were shuffled to the Texas death row. With the legalized lynching of Sankofa, seven of his clients have been killed by the state, and five now await death.

Sankofa’s trial took two days, and the lawyer (Mock) called no witnesses during the guilt phase of the trial. In a recent interview, Mock told reporters, in a boast, that he flunked criminal law at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He never called, nor interviewed, two eyewitnesses, that would’ve cleared Sankofa of the May 13, 1981, killing of a 52-year-old white man.

One of his former colleagues, attorney Chester L. Thornton, was quoted in a recent interview describing Ron Mock as the kind of “lawyer who play[s] along with the rules” (The New York Times, June 11, 2000). He served the interests of the judges, perhaps, by rushing cases through the trials, but it can hardly be said that he served the interests of his clients, most of whom are dead.

The strong, rebellious spirit of Sankofa drew hundreds of supporters to the city of death, Huntsville, Texas, to protest in favor of life.

The Sankofa case, which poses the spectacle of the broken Texas death machine killing an innocent young man, is an indictment of a system that is, in essence, one built upon the most premeditated of murders.

Politicians, and their corporate media mouthpieces, make much of the kinds of crimes that rock major U.S. cities, like rapes, robberies, and murders. But, usually, poor folks commit crimes for money. Politicians kill poor folks for their own political advantage: for a promotion; for a job.

Which one is worse?

Who will condemn a criminal political system? Remember Shaka, and like his mighty namesake (of the Zulu Empire), let us build an army, dedicated to life, and to the destruction of the death machine.

On this, one of the most important issues of our time, let us understand that there would’ve been no difference if there was a Democrat at the death-switch in Huntsville. Shaka Sankofa was killed by a deadly political system; not a political party.

Let the movement grow!


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SPONSORED By THE MOBILIZATION TO FREE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL & THE INTERNATIONAL CONCERNED FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL. CO-SPONSORS: Courage Foundation/Assange & Middle East Children’s Alliance, Arab Resource Organizing Center. HEAR Alice Walker, prize-winning novelist; Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers; Jamal Jr, Mumia’s grandson; Chris Hedges, prize-winning journalist