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  WHY MUMIA MATTERS         ABOUT EMAJ

 WHO IS MUMIA ABU-JAMAL?

Mumia is a revolutionary journalist.

Mumia has been writing since age 15, first as Minister of Information for the Philadelphia Black Panthers (1969-1971), then for numerous Philadelphia radio and print venues, including National Public Radio. His journalism was featured in mainstream venues, but he refused to forget those whom corporate media routinely neglect. He was especially noted for covering police harassment of the MOVE organization, while other journalists ignored it. His writings, today, after 30 years in prison, now fill eight books and thousands of radio and print columns in publications ranging from homeless “street news” papers to Forbes magazine and the Yale Law Review.

Mumia served nearly 30 years on death row.

Mumia was confined for these years on Pennsylvania’s death row before federal courts ruled “unconstitutional” the death sentence he received at age 27 for the shooting death of Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner. He now is serving a “Life Without Parole” sentence in Pennsylvania’s general prison population.

Mumia is America’s most internationally renowned political prisoner.

Mumia is known worldwide as a political prisoner, because of the political context of his arrest, sentencing and imprisonment. He was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced in the era of rampant police brutality, and also of activists’ resistance, under former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo. In that period, Mumia uncompromisingly reported on police brutality and racism, exposing officials’ brutal assaults on the MOVE family and organization, and on other national and international revolutionary movements. When he was found already shot at the scene of Officer Faulkner’s shooting, police brutally beat Mumia beyond recognition, then charged him with the officer’s shooting. He has been imprisoned ever since, on the basis of a trial that systematically denied him due process, involving prosecutors’ withholding of evidence, racial bias in juror selection and a judge’s rampant bias. Further, higher courts have routinely rejected Mumia’s numerous appeals on the basis of exceptional rulings that denied him the courtesy of court precedents that often were extended to others who lodged the same appeals on the same grounds.

Mumia is a framed man.

A charge of killing a police officer is the hardest rap to beat, even when innocent, especially for a revolutionary activist of color. Nevertheless the arguments for Mumia’s innocence are some of the strongest makeable. He has maintained his innocence from the very beginning and to this day. Independent journalists researching his case have set forth cogent grounds that Abu-Jamal was framed (e.g. Patrick O’Connor, The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2010). Amnesty International, in its extensive analysis of the case in 2000, called for “a new trial,” holding that original trial “was irredeemably tainted by politics and race and failed to meet international fair trial standards.” Even a lawyer writing for the mainstream American Lawyer magazine, who was prone to call Mumia “guilty,” nevertheless still summarized at length the evidence for a police frame-up, announcing, “I’m joining the ‘Save Mumia’ movement, here and now” (Stuart Taylor, Jr., American Lawyer, December 1, 1995).

Mumia's case - a primer of what many others suffer.

Mumia’s case is a veritable primer on the kinds of abuse suffered by the black, brown and poor in the U.S. today. What happened to Mumia foregrounds starkly what many suffer in police encounters, in dealings with prosecutors, in trial and appellate courts, and in U.S. jails, prisons and detention centers.

Consider these links, below, between Mumia’s own experience and what is suffered by others in the U.S. today:

(1) Like so many others’ bodies, Mumia’s body was subject to a brutal beating by police, on the street and in his ambulance on way to the hospital, before any determination of guilt was even attempted. He was black, brown, poor – and so, vulnerable and beaten. Before that, he was subject to numerous cases of “stop and frisk” harassment.

(2) As seen by all too many of the poor, today, who stand before judges, the prosecutors suppress evidence that might work in favor of defendants. In Mumia’s case, the fact of a fourth person being at the crime scene, who was the likely perpetrator (Kenneth Freeman) was never considered by Mumia’s jury. The prosecutor in Mumia’s case acknowledged during another trial that this fourth person was present at the crime scene where Mumia was arrested and beaten.

Both police and prosecutors also suppressed an independent journalist’s photographs of the crime scene. Taken by Pedro Polakov, these were the first photos taken at the scene. They disprove key points in the state’s case and raise numerous other questions undermining the coherence of prosecutors’ case. These were never made available to the defense or jurors despite the photographer’s offering them to both police and prosecutors.

(3) As experienced by many defendants of color, in Mumia’s trial the D.A. used 11 of its 15 “peremptory challenges” to target black jurors for removal from potential service on Mumia’s jury. This left Mumia, from a community that was overwhelmingly black, with a “jury of his peers” that was fully two-thirds white. Five years after Mumia’s trial, a video training tape came to light detailing D.A. strategies intentionally to keep black jurors off juries when there are black defendants.

(4) Along with many others, Mumia has suffered harsh constraints of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 that regulates the appeals process above the state level. This 1996 act, passed when some of Mumia’s strongest challenges to Pennsylvania’s courts were in process, limited federal powers of review over state court decisions. This effectively blocked Mumia’s chances, and those of others, in their attempts to gain relief for even their strong claims. Many of the 198 currently on Pennsylvania’s death row, and among the more than 3,000 on U.S. death rows, have been at the mercy of state courts ever since this 1996 Act. But Mumia has suffered this limitation acutely in his state, having his appeals denied repeatedly while others’ appeals have been granted for the same claims! A federal judge on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals himself noted this fact. The repeated practice of this denial to Mumia came to be called “the Mumia exception.”

(5) Along with numerous others throughout Pennsylvania, Mumia faced a biased judge who had an unusually high number of his capital trial decisions reversed. That judge, Albert Sabo, also had been a member of a police union (the Fraternal Order of Police) and was heard in a court anteroom by a court stenographer to say of his work at Mumia’s trial, “Yeah, and I’m gonna help ‘em fry the n_____ .”

(6) Like all too many who go to trial without good defense counsel, Mumia was convicted in the absence of basic forensic evidence. The bullet that killed Officer Faulkner could not conclusively be matched to Abu-Jamal’s gun. The police also failed to perform routine tests on Abu-Jamal’s hands, which would have determined whether he had even shot a gun that night.

(7) Finally, and again like the experiences of many others in Philadelphia, Mumia’s arrest and trial conviction were secured in an era when city police corruption was rampant. Less than two years before Mumia’s trial, the Department of Justice, in an unprecedented move filed a lawsuit against the Mayor and 21 city and police officials for abuse that “shocks the conscience” (the lawsuit’s words). The officers who arrested and later brutalized Mumia came from the 6th District, which was under yet another federal investigation for police corruption, approved by the U.S. Attorney General under Ronald Reagan. As a result, fully a third of the 35 officers involved in Mumia’s case, including the top officer at the crime scene, inspector Alfonzo Giordano, were subsequently convicted of corruption, extortion and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.

Mumia writes, speaks, and resists, as "a voice of the voiceless."

Mumia has been a writer and speaker for the voiceless of nearly every continent, even while suffering the weight of his own, onerous confinement and injustice. In this, he has displayed a passion and erudition on behalf of many who are neglected by mainstream media in the U.S. Whether in his eight books or throughout his thousands of columns and commentaries, he writes infrequently about his own case. More often, Mumia turns to indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, Haitians and Zapatistas struggling for liberation, the 2.5 million in U.S. prisons, the 3,000-plus on American death-rows, women under religious or social persecution anywhere, refugees hanging-on to life amid famine and war, the 99 percent routinely exploited by corporate powers, the tortured of U.S. bases in Guantánamo, Abu-Ghraib (Iraq), or Bagram Air Force base (Afghanistan), the teen who dies from a police bullet, the girl who’s treated like her boyfriend’s car, even the L.A. police officers who beat Rodney King and then were exposed, argued Mumia, to double-jeopardy in a retrial – on behalf of all these and more, Mumia has written as an advocate. They are the subjects who matter in his writings. And thus, it is rare to find a rally or a gathering for Mumia Abu-Jamal that does not display a banner or poster that hails him, “voice of the voiceless.” His voice and activism within “Prison Nation,” therefore, are resources for the broader political struggle of resistance to U.S. state violence, and to the many ways that state presumes and exercises a “right to kill” within the nation and in theaters of U.S. global sovereignty abroad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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