HOORAY!!!: Court Ruling Favors Political Prisoner MUMIA


Appeal ruling favoring Abu-Jamal smacks US Supreme Court

Tue, 04/26/2011  by:    Linn Washington Jr.

The federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in a stunning smack at the
U.S. Supreme Court, has issued a ruling upholding its call for a new
sentencing hearing in the controversial case of convicted cop-killer
Mumia Abu-Jamal.

That ruling issued on Tuesday April 26, 2011 upholds a ruling the Third Circuit issued over two years ago siding with a federal district court judge who had set aside Abu-Jamal's death penalty after determining that death penalty instructions provided to the jury during Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial were unclear.

The U.S. Supreme Court had ordered the Third Circuit to re-examine its
rulings eliminating Abu-Jamal's death sentence.

The nation's high court cited it legal precedent in that directive to
the Third Circuit, a strange order given the fact that the Supreme
Court had consistently declined to apply its precedent to Abu-Jamal's
previous appeals despite those appeals containing ample proof that
court precedent applied.

The Associated Press was the first to report the Third Circuit's ruling that as of the morning of the ruling's release was not posted on the appeals court's website.

Abu-Jamal's lead attorney, Prof Judith Ritter of the Widener Law
School, could not be reached for comment.

The Third Circuit's ruling had required Philadelphia prosecutors to
hold a new sentencing hearing if they wanted the death penalty

If prosecutors opted against holding new hearing then Abu-Jamal's
sentence would be converted to a life sentence which in Pennsylvania
means the inmate has no chance of parole – spending the remainder of
their life behind bars.

Experts contend a new sentencing hearing would be problematic for prosecutors despite the fact that such a hearing could not immediately produce a new trial and the possibility of release for Abu-Jamal.


During such a hearing the defense could present the mounds of new evidence now available that undercut the entirety of the prosecution's original case against Abu-Jamal who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia policeman in December 1981.


Experts expect that prosecutors will appeal the Third Circuit's latest ruling. Prosecutors concede that current and yet unresolved legal issues in this case, attracting unprecedented international scrutiny, will keep it in courts for years.

In early April 2011 the vaulted NAACP Legal Defense Fund publicly
announced joining the Abu-Jamal defense team working with Professor
Ritter. NAACP lawyers joined Ritter last fall during a hearing where
she argued the legal point upheld by the Third Circuit's ruling.

Recently Abu-Jamal recorded yet another birthday (4/24) inside a death row isolation cell. Abu-Jamal and the 222 other Pennsylvania death row inmates spend 23-hours per day everyday isolated inside minimalist cells.

Since 1983 Abu-Jamal's formally languished in the confinement of death
row following his controversial July 1982 conviction for murdering
Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner.

Abu-Jamal, now 57, has spent nearly thirty-years in prison for a crime he's persistently denied committing…a crime that ample evidence conclusively proves did not occur as police and prosecutors have proclaimed.

Authorities, for example, claim Abu-Jamal fired four shots at the
policeman as he lay defenseless on a sidewalk but striking him only
once with a fatal shot in the face.

However, police crime scene photos and police reports make no
reference of any bullet marks in that sidewalk around the fallen
officer that should be there if Abu-Jamal fired three shots into the
sidewalk as authorities contend.

As detailed in an thorough investigative ballistic test released in
September 2010 by This Can't Be Happening, it is impossible to fire
hi-velocity bullets into a sidewalk without leaving any marks. TCBH
test fired each kind of .38-caliber bullets referenced in police
reports about the 1981 crime scene and each of those bullets left
easily visible marks…marks totally contradicting claims by authorities
that Abu-Jamal wildly fired into the sidewalk without leaving bullet

Rulings by federal and state courts denying Abu-Jamal the legal relief
granted other inmates raising the same appeals claims are the least
examined element of this injustice condemned internationally.

The same Philadelphia and Pennsylvania courts that found major flaws
by either defense attorneys, police, prosecutors and/or trial judges
in 86 Philadelphia death penalty convictions during a twenty-eight
year period after Abu-Jamal's December 1981 arrest declare no errors
exist anywhere in the Abu-Jamal case – an assertion critics call
statistiically improbable.

The federal Third Circuit, for example, declined to grant Abu-Jamal a
new trial based on solid legal issues from discrimination by
prosecutors in jury selection to documented errors by trial judge
Albert Sabo, the late jurist who relished his infamous reputation for
pro-prosecution biases.

The Third Circuit's 2008 ruling faulting Sabo for his inability to
provide the jury with simple death penalty deliberation instructions
included the contradictory conclusion that Sabo adequately provided
the jury with instructions about a highly complicated legal issue
involving misconduct by the trial prosecutor.

Faulting Sabo for that flawed instruction on prosecutorial misconduct
would have required the Third Circuit to give Abu-Jamal lead a new
trial. But that court sidestepped its duty to justice deciding to just
eliminate Abu-Jamal's death sentence.

Pennsylvania state courts have released three Philadelphians from death row (half of PA's death row exonerations) citing misconduct by police and prosecutors…misconduct that was less egregious than that documented in the Abu-Jamal case. One of those Philadelphia exonerations involved a man framed by police for a mob-related who was arrested six months before Abu-Jamal.

While many feel Abu-Jamal is guilty as charged, millions around the
world question every aspect of this conviction citing facts that
proponents of Abu-Jamal's conviction deliberately dismiss as

This reasoned questioning of Abu-Jamal's guilt is the reason why
pro-Abu-Jamal activities occurred around the world commemorating
Abu-Jamal's 4/24 birthday including people in San Francisco attending
a screening of the "Justice on Trial" movie examining ignored aspects
in the case, people marching for Abu-Jamal's freedom in the Brixton
section of London.

Officials in the French city of Saint-Denis will stage a ceremony rededicating a street they named for Abu-Jamal during the last weekend in April.

The ire erupting over Abu-Jamal's prominence from many advocates of
his execution contains contradictions that are as clear as the
proverbial black-&-white.

The U.S. Congress engaged in color-coded contradiction while approving
a May 2006 resolution condemning far off Saint-Denis for its honoring
Abu-Jamal by placing his name on a small one block long street.

Over a decade before that anti-Saint-Denis outrage over 100 members of
Congress battled to block the U.S. government's deportation of a white
fugitive convicted of killing a British Army officer in Belfast,
Northern Ireland.

That officer's killing occurred during an investigation into the
murder of a Belfast policeman.

Incidentally, the U.S. Congress did not erupt angrily when the City
Council of New York City voted to place the name of that fugitive –
Joseph Doherty – on the street corner outside the federal detentionn
center then housing him.

In 1988 – six years after Abu-Jamal's conviction -- more than 3,000
Philadelphians signed petitions asking federal authorities to grant
Doherty special permission to leave his federal detention cell for one
day to allow Doherty to serve as Grand Marshall of Philadelphia's St
Patrick's Day Parade.

One Philly supporter of suspected cop killer Doherty was the then
President Judge of Philadelphia's trial courts, Edward J. Bradley.

Judge Bradley told a reporter in 1988 that he had no problems as a
jurist reconciling his support for a convicted felon because he
questioned the "fair treatment" Irish nationals received in English

Judge Bradley's concern about fairness for IRA fighters in English
courts is a concern about fairness Philadelphia courts never raise in
the case of former Black Panther Party member Abu-Jamal that evidence
gross unfairness by Philadelphia and Pennsylvania state court judges.

Critics who castigate contributions to Abu-Jamal's defense fund,
especially from Hollywood stars, did not object to one of the white
Los Angeles policemen convicted in federal court for the 1991 beating
of Rodney King raising (and keeping) nearly $10-million in sales from
his book and a fund-raising campaign – monies generated mainly after
that former police sergeant's imprisonment for a civil rights
violation conviction.

One reason why the decades old Abu-Jamal case continues to excite and
infuriate is Abu-Jamal himself.

Abu-Jamal is a charismatic figure who is articulate possessing
intelligence atypical of the mainly illiterate denizens of death row.

While on death row Abu-Jamal's written six critically acclaimed books (including one on jailhouse lawyers), produced thousands of commentaries, learned two foreign languages, earned two colleges degrees including a Masters and developed a loyal support network comprising millions worldwide.

Even the prosecutor at Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial – Joseph McGill –
described him during that trial as the most "intelligent" defendant
he'd ever faced.

And another prosecutor, during Abu-Jamal's tainted 1995 appeals
hearing, said he didn't think "the shooting of Officer Faulkner is
characteristic of this defendant." Abu-Jamal had no record of violence
or criminal acts before his 1981 arrest.

Supporters applaud Abu-Jamal's defense of the downtrodden particularly his poignant criticisms of America's prison-industrial complex that incarcerates more people per capita than any other country on earth.


Abu-Jamal's stance highlighting deprivations of the have-nots predated his arrest earning him the title of "Voice of the Voiceless" during his professional broadcast reporting career from 1975 till his December 1981 arrest.


Interestingly, Abu-Jamal rarely uses his world-wide platform to reference his own plight focusing instead on injustices endured by others.


Capital punishment: America's worst crime

Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on death row for 29 years. Now, a court rules his sentencing unconstitutional. When will we learn?

Amy Goodman  guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 27 April 2011 03.51 BST

    Mumia Abu-Jamal
    Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther party member, has spent 29 years on death row, convicted for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner

    The death penalty case of Mumia Abu-Jamal took a surprising turn this week, as a federal appeals court declared, for the second time, that Abu-Jamal's death sentence was unconstitutional. The third US circuit court of appeals, in Philadelphia, found that the sentencing instructions the jury received, and the verdict form they had to use in the sentencing, were unclear. While the disputes surrounding Abu-Jamal's guilt or innocence were not addressed, the case highlights inherent problems with the death penalty and the criminal justice system, especially the role played by race.

    Early on 9 December 1981, Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over a car driven by William Cook, Abu-Jamal's brother. What happened next is in dispute. Shots were fired, and both Officer Faulkner and Abu-Jamal were shot. Faulkner died, and Abu-Jamal was found guilty of his murder in a court case presided over by Judge Albert Sabo, who was widely considered to be a racist. In just one of too many painful examples, a court stenographer said in an affidavit that she heard Sabo say, in the courtroom antechamber, "I'm going to help them fry the n****r."

    This latest decision by the court of appeals relates directly to Sabo's conduct of the sentencing phase of Abu-Jamal's court case. The Pennsylvania supreme court is considering separate arguments surrounding whether or not Abu-Jamal received a fair trial at all. What the court of appeals unanimously found this week is that he did not receive a fair sentencing. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has decided to appeal the decision to the US supreme court, saying:

    "The right thing for us to do is to ask the US supreme court to hear this and to make a ruling on it."

    As a result of this ruling, Abu-Jamal could get a new, full sentencing hearing, in court, before a jury. In such a hearing, the jury would be given clear instructions on how to decide between applying a sentence of life in prison as opposed to the death penalty – something the court found he did not receive back in 1982. At best, Abu-Jamal would be removed from the cruel confines of solitary confinement on Pennsylvania's death row at SCI Greene. John Payton, director counsel of the NAACP legal defence fund, which is representing Abu-Jamal in court, said:

    "This decision marks an important step forward in the struggle to correct the mistakes of an unfortunate chapter in Pennsylvania history ... and helps to relegate the kind of unfairness on which this death sentence rested to the distant past."

    His other attorney, Judith Ritter, a law professor at Widener University school of law, told me: "This is extremely significant. It's a life or death decision." I asked her if she had spoken to Abu-Jamal yet, and she told me that the prison failed to approve her request for an emergency legal phone call. I was not surprised, given my many years of covering his case.

    He has faced multiple obstacles as he has tried to have his voice heard. On 12 August 1999, as I was hosting Democracy Now!, Abu-Jamal called into our news hour, mid-broadcast, to be interviewed. As he began to speak, a prison guard yanked the phone out of the wall. Abu-Jamal called back a month later and recounted that:

    "Another guard appeared at the cell hollering at the top of his lungs, 'This call is terminated!' I immediately called to the sergeant standing by and looking on and said, 'Sergeant, where did this order come from?' He shrugged his shoulders and said: 'I don't know. We just got a call to cut you off.'"

    Abu-Jamal sued over the violation of his rights, and won.

    Despite his solitary confinement, Abu-Jamal has continued his work as a journalist. His weekly radio commentaries are broadcast from coast to coast. He is the author of six books. He was recently invited to present to a conference on racial imprisonment at Princeton University. He said (through a cellphone held up to a microphone):

    "Vast numbers of men, women and juveniles … populate the prison industrial complex here in America. As many of you know, the US, with barely 5% of the world's population, imprisons 25% of the world's prisoners … the numbers of imprisoned blacks here rivals and exceeds South Africa's hated apartheid system during its height."

    The United States clings to the death penalty, alone in the industrialised world. In fact, it stands with China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen as the world's most frequent executioners. This week's decision in Mumia Abu-Jamal's case stands as one more clear reason why the death penalty should be abolished.

    • Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.