By JEFF MACKLER
The fight to free innocent political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal took a dramatic step forward on Sept. 8 when a seven-minute video-taped confession to the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner was submitted to the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia.
The confessed killer, Arnold Beverly, states in the video that he, not Jamal, murdered Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981. Beverly says that the murder was carried out in collaboration with corrupt Philadelphia police and organized crime.
The tape was submitted to presiding judge Pamela Dembe along with a 15-page brief arguing why Mumia’s request to present this new evidence and related substantiating material met various statutory time limits. The prosecution had argued in a preliminary hearing before Dembe last month that the confession was not submitted in a timely manner and was bogus.
Mumia’s defense team counters that the 90-day time limit was met by Mumia since the full details of the Beverly confession were unknown to him until his new defense team reviewed the full written record of the case.
Obviously stunned by the new revelation, Federal Court Judge William H. Yohn, who also has jurisdiction over the case, as well as Judge Dembe and Pennsylvania state prosecutors, have sought to justify the exclusion of this new evidence by resorting to interpretations of various reactionary laws-including the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the notorious 1993 Supreme Court Herrera decision.
The doctrine in these holdings asserts that, absent a constitutional violation, proof of “innocence is no defense,” and that federal courts do not have jurisdiction over new facts. These are deemed to be in the sole purview of state courts.
In Mumia’s case, the factual findings of racist state court judge Albert Sabo, who presided over Mumia’s 1982 frame-up trial, must be presumed to be correct under these new laws. Mumia’s defense submitted an affidavit last month from a court stenographer who overheard Sabo state in regard to Mumia’s case, “I’m going to help them fry the nigger.”
Mumia’s tormentors insist that there is a time limit to the admission of confessions to murder and that Beverly’s confession was submitted beyond this limit. The notion that Mumia could be executed while the real killer may at some time be subjected to prosecution and execution for the same crime highlights the absurdity of the criminal justice system.
It is today clearer to additional millions of Americans that justice does not prevail within the U.S. court system.
Indeed, the fight for Mumia’s freedom rests not with the hope that somehow legal technicalities will be applied to Mumia’s advantage but in our capacity to build a powerful and united mass movement that compels Mumia’s release. His execution must be made too costly a political price for his would-be executioners to pay.
For copies of the Beverly video tape, send $12 (includes postage) to Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, 3425 Cesar Chavez, San Francisco, CA 94110, (415) 695-7745.