By JEFF MACKLER
“It’s a Knock Out Punch,” says Mumia. “We did something that’s never been done before,” says Pam Africa, chair of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
On Jan. 3, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Mariani granted the motion filed by innocent political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal for a preliminary injunction ordering the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to have Mumia examined by a prison doctor within 14 days to determine one issue—whether the administration of the life-saving anti-viral Hepatits C medication, sofobuvir, would do harm to Mumia. This formality is then to be followed within seven days by the administration of the very medication that Mumia has been fighting for since he filed his first lawsuit demanding treatment in May 2015.
The judge’s order affirmed that Mumia has Hepatitis C, a life-threatening liver disease, and needs immediate treatment. The denial of such treatment, wrote Mariani, represents a violation of Mumia’s rights under the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibiting “cruel and usual punishment.” The judge’s order overturned a lower court decision on the same matter. Judge Mariani’s rulings were the first in U.S. history in which a state’s medical protocols for prisoner treatment have been overruled.
Mumia was represented jointly by Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center and independent attorney Robert Boyle. While the judge’s decision applies only to Mumia, Boyle noted that it is bound to effect the class-action lawsuits filed by the Abolitionist Law Center now in progress wherein some 9000 other Pennsylvania prisoners with Hepatitis C have sought the same relief.
Boyle added that the DOC has 30 days to appeal Judge Mariani’s decision. Should Mariani refuse to grant a DOC request for a stay of his order for the purpose of filing an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the DOC may then proceed directly to the Third Circuit.
Boyle cautioned via a Jan. 4 conference call presentation to some 30 key national Mumia activists that while “the law is on our side,” and notwithstanding the ongoing and dangerous progression of Mumia’s illness, past history has demonstrated that, in Mumia’s case at least, the law is sometimes violated with impunity. This was a reference to the infamous “Mumia exception,” wherein U.S. courts for decades have routinely departed from standard legal principles and practices to thwart Mumia’s fundamental legal rights.
A mountain of evidence of Mumia’s innocence on the charges of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981 has been repeatedly excluded from the record by a racist criminal “justice” system intent on punishing one of the nation’s most outspoken and courageous fighters for the rights of all humanity. Indeed, Mumia’s first 1982 trial was presided over by the infamous “hanging” Judge Albert Sabo, who in his antechambers prior to entering the courtroom, in the presence of another judge and a court reporter stated, “Yeah, and I’m going to help ‘em fry the n****r.”
Nevertheless, optimistic as always, Mumia recorded a statement of thanks to his supporters that declared Judge Mariani’s decision to be a “knock-out punch” won by all his supporters.
The DOC’s formal defense of its refusal to administer the life-saving medication to Mumia included the cruel and inhuman argument that should Mumia prevail, the total cost of his treatment along with the treatment of some 9000 other Pennsylvania prisoners with the same Hep C virus would be an estimated $800 million. Indeed, if the Third Circuit rules in Mumia’s favor, the “cost” could be even higher since the court’s jurisdiction includes New Jersey and Delaware as well as Pennsylvania.
Mumia’s victory perhaps inadvertently exposed one of the nation’s most corrupt and profitable industries, the pharmaceutical business. With regard to the 2013 discovery of sofobuvir, for example, the medicine that is estimated to have close to a 95 percent cure rate for Hep C patients, the wholesale acquisition cost to a hospital for the standard 12-week course of treatment for single patient is $84,000, while the estimated production cost is $68 to $136. If ever there was an example of a degenerate social system, that of the United States and its health-care institutions, who argue in court that $68 is too high a price to pay for a human life, would stand out in bold relief.
Nevertheless, Judge Mariani rejected Pennsylvania’s financial cost arguments. His decision also provided substantial reasons why a possible DOC request for a stay of his order would be inappropriate, indicating that Hep C prisoners are in a state of constant deterioration that requires prompt treatment as opposed to a steady medical state in which a delay would not impact their fundamental condition.
Attorney Robert Boyle, who successfully fought for and won the release of political prisoner Lynne Stewart three years ago, expressed concern that Mumia’s supporters continue their mobilizations aimed at winning broad support for Mumia’s immediate treatment and for his freedom in future litigation.
Boyle pointed to new legal avenues now open to Mumia to seek a new trial based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that challenged a death-penalty verdict based on the fact that a state district attorney participated in a prisoner’s prosecution and later, after being promoted to the position of state Supreme Court justice, sat in deliberations regarding the prisoner’s appeal. Ironically, this U.S. Supreme Court decision concerned Judge Ronald Castillo, who was both Mumia’s prosecutor and later his judge.
If the medical protocol precedent set by Judge Mariani is upheld, the result could be enormously beneficial to Hep C patients throughout the nation’s racist prison-industrial complex, that ranks first in the world in the number and percentage of its population in prison and/or under the jurisdiction of the criminal “justice” system.
Mumia’s supporters are urged to call the phone numbers below and to contact the DOC via e-mail to demand that Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and the state of Pennsylvania do not appeal Judge Mariani’s decision and do not further delay administration of the life-saving anti-viral medical treatment to Mumia.
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!
Jeff Mackler is the director of the Northern California-based Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org