By the MOBILIZATION FOR MUMIA COALITION
In the latest attempt to further deny freedom to Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office has contemptuously refused to release the files they were ordered to make public by Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker.
On April 24, Abu-Jamal’s 63rd birthday, his attorneys presented an appeal before Judge Tucker asking that the Philadelphia district attorney’s office release all documents relevant to former DA Ronald Castille’s involvement in Mumia’s case, which Tucker ordered just days later, on April 28.
Judge Tucker ruled that the DA’s office must produce and turn over all records and memos regarding Castille’s involvement in Abu-Jamal’s case: pre-trial, trial, post-trial, and direct appeal proceedings; communications between Castille and his staff; and any public statements Castille made about Mumia’s case during or after his tenure as district attorney of Philadelphia. These records were to be handed over to Mumia’s attorneys by May 30.
Instead, the DA’s office submitted an intentionally deficient response to Tucker’s order at the end of the workday on May 30 with a two-page cover letter denying any “direct involvement” by Castille, and 54 pages of front-page court filings that were already part of the public record on the case.
They offered nothing new, nothing that couldn’t be found by perusing court records. In other words they are still going to great lengths to hide the truth.
Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have 15 days to challenge the DAs coverup.
Abu-Jamal’s case was one of 16 petitions considered by the court on April 24 by 14 prisoners with similar legal issues. All the cases are based on a June 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Williams v. Pennsylvania that found it was a violation of a defendant’s constitutional right to due process when a judge presides over a case in which they had had prior significant or personal involvement as a prosecutor.
The Williams case was adjudicated by Castille while he was on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court even though he had prosecuted the defendant as Philadelphia District Attorney years earlier.
Abu-Jamal’s April 24 court proceeding was based on the post-conviction petition filed Aug. 7, 2016, by attorneys Judith Ritter and Christina Swarns charging that his appeal process denied him due process.
Ronald Castille was Assistant Philadelphia DA at the time of Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial and Philadelphia District Attorney when his office opposed Abu-Jamal’s direct appeals in 1988.
He was responsible for producing a jury selection training video for prosecutors with instructions on how to evade the historic Supreme Court decision on Batson v. Maryland, against racial bias in jury selection.
In the infamous DATV “Jack McMahon training tape” prosecutors are told: “Blacks from low-income areas are less likely to convict … you don’t want these people on your jury.” Castille suppressed the existence of the tape and his own responsibility for it.
According to Philadelphia activist Pam Africa, “If we are not vigilant, the long history of corruption and suppression of evidence in the Philadelphia DA’s office could stand in the way of Mumia’s files from seeing the light of day.”
Corruption and cover ups are nothing but business as usual for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, an office that represents the city in the prosecution of criminal offenses, and is the chief law enforcement officer and legal officer of the city’s jurisdiction.
Given the notorious history of that agency, close to 100 human rights activists and community members seeking justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal converged on the DA’s office just hours before the May 30 deadline.
Despite an unnecessary and eventually unsuccessful effort by dozens of heavily armed police to use metal barriers to enclose and limit the protest, demonstrators held a press conference and rally outside the DA’s office calling for the release of all the files and demanding an end to decades of corruption.
More information can be found through Mobilization4Mumia on facebook or by contacting mobilization4Mumia@gmail.com.
Photo: Pam Africa of the International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal. By Marty Goodman / Socialist Action