Op-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: Mumia Abu-Jamal — Closer to Freedom

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Pennsylvania political prisoner who spent more than 20 years on death row and who remains on lockdown for a crime I do not believe he committed — and which he and thousands of his supporters all around the world insist he did not — recently moved closer to exoneration and freedom.

I am one of the legions of supporters who have maintained that he was framed in the murder case by crooked cops and a crooked prosecutor, and tried by someone nicknamed the “hanging judge” simply because he was an outspoken and effective opponent of police corruption in a city at a time when such evil practices were common.

I even protested in 1995 on these pages against the silence of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) when Mumia was scheduled for execution on the anniversary of the birthdate of the Black World newspaper publisher, the Rt. Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, while the NABJ was convening and partying in Philadelphia.

That execution date was stayed, as were all others, until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that his death penalty was unjustly obtained, and rather than fight to execute him, the state dropped its death penalty appeal, which might have led to a possible new trial of his unjust conviction itself.

Well, on Dec. 16, after two years of litigation, the state’s Supreme Court dismissed a challenge by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and Maureen Faulkner, the widow of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner who was killed on Dec. 9, 1981, ruling that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas must review several boxes of compelling new evidence of bribery and discrimination in jury selection discovered in the case.

There were boxes, on top of boxes of suppressed evidence discovered that former District Attorney Ed Rendell and his allies suppressed for decades. They will now, finally be examined in open court. Evidence which could result in a finding of innocence.

“They were allegedly found in the back room behind a stairwell in a mid-level floor in the DA’s Office,” Dr. Johanna Fernandez, associate professor of history at Baruch College CUNY and an authority on Abu-Jamal’s case told this writer.

“These boxes have potentially exculpatory evidence: a letter written by one of the key witnesses of the prosecution literally asking, ‘Where’s my money?’ And a series of documents suggesting that the prosecutors were tracking the race of the jurors, (revealing) that they were attempting to illegally discriminate in the jury selection.”

Abu-Jamal was convicted by an all-white jury, and his former prosecutor served on the state Supreme Court, unjustly dismissing several of his appeals of those injustices. You can’t make this stuff up.

“There was judicial bias in this case, and because there was judicial bias, that a prosecutor turned judge should’ve recused himself in Mumia’s case, but didn’t,” Fernandez continued, Judge Leon Tucker ordered the courts “to open up all of the appeals in Mumia’s case, going back to the 1990s, because this judge sitting in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reviewed and denied all of Mumia’s appeals because he had a dog in the fight, and he had prosecuted Mumia, so of course he wasn’t going to impartially review the violations.”

The defense insistence, going back 39 years, that Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed, that the witnesses were bribed and intimidated and that he is, in fact, innocent of the charge for which he was convicted have much more weight after this latest series of court rulings. He may finally be able to prove in court that he is indeed innocent.

“Correct. That’s the most important thing right now before us,” said Fernandez. “The review of evidence that suggests that witnesses were bribed, and the jury was selected carefully, so as to convict him because of its prejudices. It was an all-White jury, to ensure conviction.”

The just ordered evidentiary hearing is the first step to a new trial. Abu-Jamal’s legal team has consistently argued since he was arrested that he was really convicted of being an outspoken, pro-Black journalist, and not because he committed murder.

“Mumia has always said that he will be in prison until the people won’t accept his imprisonment anymore,” Noelle Hanrahan, founder of the Prison Radio Project, one of Abu-Jamal’s earliest defenders said in a statement to this writer.

“We must demand that corruption be revealed, and that the voices of its victims must be heard. We know that Mumia was imprisoned because he was a Black Panther, and we know that is unjust, and we cannot allow the truth to be buried, or for voices like Mumia’s to be silenced,” Hanrahan said.

Mrs. Faulkner, the dead officer’s widow, “has stated on the record that she believes Mumia Abu-Jamal will be freed if he ever gets a new trial,” a fair trial, Hanrahan continued.

The FOP’s strategy is to get the state attorney general to prosecute the case and to file every imaginable petition against Abu-Jamal and his defense team to forestall his inevitable release.

“The original trial was so outrageously corrupt at every stage that there is little hope for a win in retrial. They simply want to delay a new trial until Mumia dies in prison,” she said.

Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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