Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced on Wednesday, Dec. 7, that he would NOT seek a new sentencing hearing to execute innocent death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal. On October 11, 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court, affirming two federal court decisions in the same case, effectively ruled that the sentencing portion of Mumia’s 1982 trial was a violation of the U.S. Constitution. This mandated that Williams either conduct a new sentencing hearing OR place Mumia Abu-Jamal in the general prison population to serve a life term without possibility of parole. Williams and Pennsylvania officials chose the latter, thus eliminating the possibility of Mumia’s being executed.
Mumia’s attorneys and supporters are now focused on the fight for a new trial before a new jury where evidence of Mumia’s innocence can for the first time be presented in full public view. Mumia’s 1982 racist frame-up trial has been widely condemned, with organizations ranging from Amnesty International, the European Parliament and the NAACP to heads of state in France and South Africa demanding a new trial.
Winning a new trial for anyone convicted of murder is no easy task. Mumia’s legal team must meet an extremely high legal standard. This includes presenting “compelling and not been previously litigated new evidence” that could not have been “previously discovered through due diligence.” A special investigator and associated team has been hired to begin this difficult and arduous process.
We have reached the end of one struggle and the beginning of another. But, better to fight on for Mumia’s freedom in the context of a threat of execution NOT hanging over his head.
In truth, the recent Supreme Court action, essentially affirming previous decisions of the Federal District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that Mumia’s death sentence was unconstitutional, was a political decision as well as an affirmation of the “letter of the law,” one that was 30 years in coming and one that never would have come had it not been for a massive national and international effort on Mumia’s behalf.
A Philadelphia, if not national decision, was obviously made at the highest levels to avoid a new sentencing hearing where evidence of innocence could have been presented that would have exposed the entire racist and frame-up nature of Mumia’s 1982 trial.
Such a hearing, the DA likely judged, might have led to a level of public outrage and exposure of the criminal “justice” system sufficient in itself to force a new trial despite formal legal restrictions to the contrary. The risk to an institution where the racism inherent in U.S. society, expressed in the actions and mentality of corrupt police officers, judges, prosecutors and reactionary laws, makes justice for the poor and oppressed an impossibility, was too great to contemplate. Mumia’s trial and “conviction” classically revealed all of the elements of a rigged racist and classist judicial system. Philadelphia officials chose to avoid any further risk to its credibility.
One fact is certain. After 30 years of insisting that justice has been done – that Mumia’s rights were fully protected – the State of Pennsylvania has been proven, through state institutions of its own choosing, to have violated the U.S. Constitution. Mumia has been unconstitutionally held in a tiny death row cell, in virtual isolation from all family and friends – all physical contact barred – for thirty years.
This constitutional violation was scored by Mumia’s legal team almost three decades ago when Mumia’s first appeal included the simple assertion that the presiding Judge Albert Sabo violated the law by falsely instructing the jury regarding their deliberation. This is the same “hanging judge” Sabo who stated before two witnesses in his private antechambers that he was “going to help ’em fry the n****r.”
Sabo falsely told the jury that in order to not execute Mumia and instead arrive at a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, they had to be unanimous with regard to considering any and all mitigating circumstances. Contrary to Judge Sabo the law states clearly in the Supreme Court’s 1988 Mills v. Maryland case, that a single juror is sufficient to place any mitigating circumstance sufficient to negate a death penalty decision, before the jury for its consideration.
Sunday, December 11 at 2:00 pm is set for a mass meeting to open a new phase in the struggle for Mumia’s freedom. Join us at the Laney College Forum, Oakland, CA at 2 pm. (one block from the Lake Merritt BART station). Speakers include: Angela Davis, Ramona Africa, Barbara Becnel, Jeff Mackler, Boots Riley, Crystal Bybee, Bishop Desmond Tutu (via video) and Michelle Alexander (via video). Admission free for Peralta students. All others $10 sliding scale. See attached flyer.
In Philadelphia, a parallel meeting featuring Cornel West is set for Friday, Dec. 9, 7:30 PM at the National Constitution Center.
On the West Coast contact Jeff Mackler for further information: 510-268-9429 jmackler@lmi. net. In Philadelphia contact: 267-760-7344