EDUCATORS FOR MUMIA abU-JAMAL
WINTER 2003 A PERIODIC NEWSLETTER
IN THIS NEWSLETTER B
Where Robeson and Einstein Meet (p. 1)
EMAJ Press Conference Statements (5)
Reviews of Lindorff=s book on Mumia=s case (11)
Announcing Mumia=s new book (19)
From the Coordinator:
WHERE ROBESON AND EINSTEIN MEET B
A Context for the Mumia Movement
By Mark Taylor
From my room in Princeton I can look out the window and see the former home of Albert Einstein, the renowned physicist and Nobel Laureate, known for his theories of relativity and the research that led to the development of nuclear energy and armaments. It is a well-known home, often visited by tourists to this small, Ivy League university town.
A FORGOTTEN EINSTEIN?
Princeton shops and bookstores offer a full line of Einstein memorabilia: coffee-table books, photo postcards of the wild white-maned physicist with his pipe, calendars, Einstein=s words for children, the Aquotable Einstein@ for adults, and then the Anew quotable Einstein.@ It can seem like a lot of hype and I have tended over the years to opt out of what seems like misplaced local hero worship.
But I=ve come to discern another Einstein, one less talked about in Princeton. This is the man who, in addition to being an ardent peace activist, was also a socialist, internationalist, an out-spoken critic of McCarthyite Aun-American@ investigations, an active opponent of white racism (considering it as the country=s Aworst disease@), an advocate of the Lincoln Brigade of Americans that fought against Franco in Spain, and a vigorous supporter of the anti-lynching crusade in the 1940s and 1950s. All this earned him a 2,000-page file with the FBI.1
I often try to dream my way back into that time, especially in the 1950s, when this present-day Princeton hero was the target of un-American smear campaigns and FBI investigations. When seeing his Princeton home, I especially ponder a remarkable visit made there by Paul Robeson, another target of the FBI and of elite government interests.
Robeson, the great bass baritone of song and theater, all-American athlete, world-renown activist, socialist and international advocate of freedom, visited the Einstein home in Princeton in October of 1952. He had been born in Princeton, where his father, a former slave, was pastor of the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church. The family later had to leave when a church dispute, powered by racist undercurrents, made it necessary for them to move away.
Einstein had met Robeson in the previous year at a dinner to raise funds for the defense of W. E. B. Du Bois, who had just been indicted for failing to register with the Justice Department as a ASoviet Agent.@ Einstein=s inviting of Robeson to Princeton was a definite act of solidarity with Robeson, in that the renowned activist/singer was undergoing some of the most strenuous persecution, especially after the Peekskill riots, which brought him unemployment and government restrictions on everything from his auto insurance to passports for travel.
Robeson never got to be hyped or celebrated as Einstein is today, though he=s respected as a gifted artist, man of conscience and ardent activist in many circles. Sure, Einstein had a long FBI file and bore much harassment for his own agitating words and actions, but Robeson bore the special abuse that U.S. state power often reserves for effective radical black activists.
After years of joint, political agitation and activism, the two met finally in Princeton. Their visit lasted all afternoon and into the twilight. Robeson saw Einstein as playing a Aleading part@ in the what he called Athe blast for freedom,@ and recorded this about his visit:
It was good, once again, to clasp the hand of this gentle genius. Recalling our previous meetings when I had appeared there in concert and in Othello, Dr. Einstein asked about my life today as an artist, and expressed warm sympathy with my fight for the right to travel.
We chatted about many things B about peace, for Dr. Einstein is truly a man of peace; about the freedom struggles in South Africa which interested him keenly; and about the growing shadows that are being cast over freedom of thought and expression here at home.2
ROBESON & EINSTEIN B THE NATURE OF AN ALLIANCE
Einstein=s and Robeson=s alliance is notable because both were committed, at high personal and professional cost, to building a diverse radical movement for freedom in the U.S. and world. This meant giving active support to all repressed and resisting peoples, but especially to communities of the racially-stigmatized poor. Robeson=s and Einstein=s resistance to racism took the form of reaching out across lines of class division and national boundary, as well as across barriers forged by racism. Their alliance issued less from a liberal desire for pluralism and multiculturalism (helpful as those efforts can be), and more from a desire to meet people=s desires for liberation, for a radical, imaginative, and multidimensional people=s democracy.
It is this kind of movement-building that advances the struggle for freedom, and, as in the cases of Robeson and Einstein, results in the kinds of radical, multiracial, and international alliances that are so feared by elite systems. No wonder both men suffered at the hands of the state, even though it was the black man, Robeson, who often endured the more punitive measures.
Both men also loved and supported the arts, which give their own unique pleasures and also inspire many groups, bringing spirit and vitality to their struggles for justice and liberation. When Robeson and Einstein met, they also visited about music. To grasp why this topic could bind them together, one has only to recall Robeson=s singing to tens of thousands worldwide, in exuberance and with a passion for justice. Einstein=s love of music and the arts was shaped also by a sense that it was Aonly morality in our actions that gives beauty and dignity to life.@3
The point is not to lift up two famous figures of the past for hero worship today. That would be to violate the collective mode of being and action to which Einstein and Robeson were committed. Both men are exemplary of what goes on in the lives of many people, both known and not-so-known, whose lives are structured by commitment to justice and liberation, even when that commitment means a loss of acclaim and respect by the powerful. Both Robeson and Einstein accepted that loss as part of their deeper respect for the dignity of a liberated earth.
Robeson=s and Einstein=s alliance is also significant because it bears witness to a unity of black and white activists committed to fighting U.S. imperialism at home and abroad, resisting imperialism as both a colonialist (or, neo-colonialist) and also a racist regime. That kind of political consciousness in action is a rare and fragile phenomenon. It must be guarded and protected wherever it is found. It can be seen in the best moments of the movement for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MUMIA MOVEMENT
Robeson=s and Einstein=s alliance, centered on a radical, imaginative and multidimensional drive for liberation, has been and is alive in the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal from the clutches of Philadelphia=s criminal justice system.
I hear some say that today=s movement for Mumia is broken, battered, and in ruins. I don=t believe it. It may be true that numbers at recent rallies are less than previous ones, that funds are depleted compared to the past, and that certain divisions have grown in the movement since Mumia rightfully fired the previous legal team for allowing a book to be published about the case in clear breach of lawyer/client confidentiality.
A new book on Mumia=s case, Killing Time by Dave Lindorff, has appeared, and it has renewed debates over Mumia=s legal strategy and about Mumia=s present attorneys. In this newsletter you can read two reviews of Lindorff=s book (see p. 10). There is much in the book that can be used to strengthen the movement and also much to critique.
I want to urge us, however, to keep our focus on the real significance of the Mumia movement. It does not lie in our opinions about the legal strategies of Mumia=s attorneys. It lies, rather, in the imaginative and committed politics of liberation that still pulse in all of us who are part of this movement.
Nor will the real significance of the Mumia movement be found in books about Mumia. It lies more in the texts being penned by Mumia himself.
This is especially true of the writings he has released since September 11, 2001. Those writings address a remarkably diverse set of issues related to the main concerns of our time. Note just some of the topics covered: Bush=s so-called Awar on terrorism,@ the bombing of Afghanistan, the U.S.A. as empire, the Anew colonialism,@ Homeland Security, the continuing U.S. repression of Cuba, the scheming against Iraq, ongoing police brutality in Philadelphia, the death of peacemaker Phil Berrigan, the limits of liberal politics, W.E.B. Du Bois=s view of women, the ongoing repression of Haitian peoples, past slave revolts, and the continuing slow deaths of Mumia=s fellow residents on Pennsylvania=s death row. (A pamphlet of Mumia=s anti-war writings can be printed out in PDF file from www.freemumia.com)
Mumia Abu-Jamal shows by these writings his standing in a black radical tradition in the United States that deploys both an internationalist and national framework for critique of U.S. repression, the kind of critique manifest in Robeson and Einstein. This tradition speaks out of knowledge of the struggling poor both here and abroad. There is a concern with class and empire that does not forget about the realities of structural racism.
Mumia expresses this broad tradition by speaking, to take just one case, to the concerns of Phil Berrigan and his associates in the predominantly white Aanti-militarist@ movement today (those marching and often jailed for demonstrating against the U.S. Army ASchool of the Americas,@ for example), while also addressing the rage of black radicals who revere the memory of Huey Newton and Malcolm X.
This is the broad, multifaceted, international and national, power of a black radical tradition that does not receive enough attention in either left or right wing communities of white malestream America. It is the tradition into which Einstein and Robeson found themselves falling together in invigorating, mutual resistance.
Mumia enriches that tradition further with his frequent writings on nature and against industrial pollution of the environment. Perhaps he has yet to seriously engage another part of what Robin D. G. Kelley terms Athe black radical imagination,@4 namely, that part played by black feminists who were rooted in the struggles of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Anna Julia Cooper, and in groups like the National Black Feminist Organization and the Combahee River Collective of the 1970s, or in individuals like Frances Beal, Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, Barbara Smith, Angela Y. Davis, and many others. Mumia has, however, written about the strong leadership of women like Ramona Africa, Pam Africa, others in the MOVE Organization now in prison, and these, too, are part of women=s leadership role in building black radical traditions of resistance for liberation that are so crucial today. These and other women and their movements have been key architects of the Mumia movement.
The Mumia movement, it seems to me, is one of several, working its way toward a fusion of this rich diversity of concerns in a radical tradition of resistance and liberation. Moreover, Mumia=s writings and struggle are heavy with special drama, due not only to his talent, but also to the place from which he writes. His words issue from the belly of the beast (the neocolonizing, imperial power of the USA), and from a death row cell, where the words of his pen must balance, quite literally, on the boundary between life and death.
I value a voice that advocates so eloquently for all of us, in the tradition of this multifaceted, black radical tradition, and also from one of the bleakest sectors of the U.S. imperium, death row USA. I am not concerned, primarily, about whether Mumia=s legal defense team (past or present) has his legal strategy forged in ways that I understand. Mumia, for the time being at least, has entrusted his legal defense to the team he has assembled. I respect Mumia=s decision, even when I do not understand every move of his lawyers. Especially those of us who count ourselves radical white activists, need to respect black-led initiative, and exercise our leadership and critical initiatives to serve that radical tradition.
What matters most with this movement, perhaps, is that you and I have the opportunity to keep alive a tradition of resistance and liberation, which has a long past. That tradition, as I=ve noted, is certainly not limited to Robeson and Einstein=s alliance. But in their meeting and joint struggle, we are given one notable example of peoples= efforts to fight imperial and racist systems, and to do so in spite of the surveillance, harassment and persecution that come from state power. Let=s help make their tradition live today in every way we can.
I hope this newsletter somehow assists you in picking up the struggle for Mumia Abu-Jamal, in whatever context you carry on your life and work. One of the reasons that the movement for Mumia may seem to some to be weakening is that so many of us have fanned out to work in anti-war, globalization-from-below, Palestine support, and other movements so pressing today. These, too, have been concerns Mumia shares with many of his supporters, and Mumia=s spirit is one of those we carry with us in our work. We have not forgotten him. We are all borne by a tradition of radical resistance, in which many like Robeson and Einstein have joined together to create, daring to believe and think that another world is possible.
As you read this issues of our newsletter, imagine the world where Mumia, and all political prisoners, are free B walking, working, teaching alongside of us to make a world liberated from today=s blight of imperial wars, from the Bush/Ashcroft false security of homeland repression, and liberated, too, from Enron-style ruling elites who give us only more economic exploitation. Yes, imagine the end of all of this B and, then, go to work. See you soon!
EDUCATORS HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE
On April 4, 2002, EMAJ sponsored a press conference displaying U.S. educators continuing support for Mumia Abu-Jamal, and EMAJ=s call that court officials should ALet All the Evidence Be Heard.@ This press conference is the fifth one to be organized by EMAJ since 1995, and was held on a Thursday, April 4th, helping to kick off a whole weekend activity of support for Mumia. The weekend was a fitting way to remember the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., occurring thirty-four years ago. Below you will find the press conference statements of Mark Taylor, Robert Zaller, Sandra Jones, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Robert Zaller, Anna J. Brown. (Also speaking were Pam Africa of ICFFMAJ, Anthony Monteiro of the University of the Sciences of Philadelphia, and C. George Caffentzis of the University of South Maine, but their statements were either only in spoken form or unavailable at press time.) The press conference was held at District 1199 Union Hall, 13th & Locust Street, in downtown Philadelphia. Here are the statements:
MARK L. TAYLOR
Professor, Theology and Culture
Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ
Welcome to this press conference, as we observe on this day the 34th year since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. While we still lament his loss, and the loss of many nameless others who have suffered and died protecting the human and civil rights of the voiceless in this country, we are determined that we will not lose a premier voice of the voiceless today, Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Many of us in EMAJ (Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, formerly Academics for Mumia Abu-Jamal), who have stood by Mumia for years, have used his books in our course, have paid for full-page ads in Philadelphia and New York newspapers, and organized on our campuses. We have done so for various reasons. Some believe Mumia to be innocent and that he should be released now. Others are opposed to the death penalty under any circumstances. Others have no opinion about his innocence, but find unity in viewing his 1982 trial and later appellate rulings as travesties of justice. We remain united in insisting that this is a death sentence that should never have been levied, this is an imprisonment that must end.
Why complain still about that trial, you say? As just one response, read the transcript for yourselves and see how one white male juror, Edward Courchain, openly acknowledged he could not be fair in Jamal=s case. After prosecutors helped him on the stand to rephrase his misgivings, the judge went on to seat that very juror, even over protestations by Mumia=s defense counsel who was trying to exercise a peremptory challenge to refuse that juror. That same juror was then designated First Alternate juror, and then went on to become Juror No. 1, replacing a black female juror, Jeanie Dawley, who was removed by the judge because she wanted to arrange treatment for sick pet after court hours. (The same judge, Albert Sabo, DID postpone a court session to allow a white juror to take a civil service exam.) Both of Mumia=s last two legal teams have pointed this obvious violation of due process out, but it continually is ignored.
There are some who act and think as if in 2002 this work to secure justice and freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal is old business. After all, on Dec. 18, 2001, Federal Judge William Yohn, threw out the present death sentence on Mumia, and ordered a new sentencing hearing. What more could we want?
A lot more. Do we want full exoneration, a reversal of the guilty verdict that came out of the last trial? That would be nice. Many of us believe that, in fact, such a reversal is not only appropriate, but long past due. Right now, though, it would be a lot just to give Mr. Jamal a real chance to be exonerated. He is being prevented even the opportunity to have significant evidence heard.
You say, but hasn=t he had his trial, and had his appeals to various courts of appeals? True, there have, indeed, been many legal motions and maneuvers, but legal motions toward real justice happen only by exposing all relevant evidence to critical questioning in an environment of due process, without bias. The judge of the first trial was not only suspected of bias by the press and by attorneys throughout the Philadelphia and New Jersey area, but then he was allowed to rule on formal appeals claiming he was biased. When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld Sabo=s rulings their deliberations showed few signs of independent review. It merely parroted, almost word for word, Sabo=s narrative. Moreover, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court of elected judges has many connections to law enforcement. Just as significant is the fact that one of the Pennsylvania Supreme Courts justices, served for the prosecution during Mumia=s trial, but failed to recuse himself in the state high court=s rulings against Mumia. No, in spite of a trial and the many appeals and motions, Mumia has yet to experience due process.
When Federal Judge Yohn tossed out the death sentence last December, after the work of two legal teams had marshaled more than 30 claims of violation of Mr. Jamal=s constitutional rights, Yohn chose to rule for Mumia in the weakest possible way, acknowledging only one or many, flagrant violations. He also refused to open up the many other kinds of evidence that are potentially exonerating.
We are here to remind the public that the pipeline is still backed up, i.e. there is still evidence in the pipeline that needs to be unblocked. We are here to say that political leaders in the City, Commonwealth and nation, and their respective judicial administrators, have still not created the conditions necessary for hearing of the evidence.
What evidence isn=t being heard, you say? Consider:
ïŸ ITEM. There is still a need to face up to the existing confession by Arnold Beverly, who says he is guilty of the murder for which Mumia is charged. His confession exists in sworn affidavit and video form. Says Beverly: AI was hired, along with another guy, and paid to shoot and kill Faulkner.@ You might or might not think his confession strong. You might debate how it will play in court, but not to even consider so powerful a kind of testimony, in any formal court proceedings, when a man=s life is at stake, is a travesty of justice.
ïŸ ITEM. There are the new affidavits from Mumia and his brother. Mumia=s affidavit reads, in part: ANow for the first time I have been given an opportunity to tell what happened to me in the early morning hours of December 9, 1981 . . . I never confessed to anything, because I had nothing to confess. I never said I shot the policeman. I did not shoot the policeman. I never said I hoped he died. I would never say anything like that.@ And his brother: AI will testify now. Mumia was not holding a gun. Mumia never intervened in anything between me and the cop. I had nothing to do with the shooting or killing of the police officer. My brother Mumia Abu-Jamal had nothing to do with shooting or killing the police officer.@ These sworn affidavits need to be heard, instead of now standing blocked from judicial review.
ïŸITEM. There is still a need to hear from unheard witnesses who long have stood ready to testify that they were pressured by police agents into testifying against Mumia, even when it meant lying. Veronica Jones and Yvette Williams are two persons so willing, but who have been given no voice before a jury. Instead, they received either Judge Sabo=s dismissal and ridicule, or other authorities= silence. That silencing of information, pertinent to whether a man sentenced to death is guilty or innocent, bruises and abuses the body politic to which we all belong.
ïŸ ITEM. Terry Maurer-Carter, a court stenographer during Mumia=s original trial has submitted a sworn affidavit disclosing that she heard then trial Judge Albert Sabo say, AYeah, and I=m gonna fry the nigger.@ She stands ready to testify. Not to hear her, is to allow the courts of this City and nation to revert to racist slurs and scheming that have scarred the nation for too long. It is one more confirmation of the extraordinary bias in the Judge who oversaw Mumia=s original trial.
To railroad a man toward death or toward life in prison, with all this evidence outstanding, while officials go through legal motions that only THEY say are adequate, is not good enough to serve the motions and movements of people who make up our citizenry, who claim to have some sense of fair play, who want to believe we are working toward some kind of justice for all in this country.
I don=t know if you know it, but in at least two cases recently, people have been acknowledged by political and court officials as being innocent (most famously in the Herrera case in Texas), but executed anyway because all the legal motions as stipulated by the new 1996 Effective Death Penalty Act had been gone through. Mumia must not have his life thrown away in any such way, either by being stretched out on some lethal injection gurney or by being left to live out his life in prison, simply because some officials are satisfied with little legal motions. People and citizens must insist on full exposure of the evidence in fair proceedings.
That is why we are here today. Again, I stress my point: it doesn=t matter whether you or I find the prospective evidence backed up in the pipeline to be convincing or not. The point is to get it unblocked, to stop officials from blocking it, to let all the evidence be heard. Not only justice, but the truth for which we scholars claim to care, demands it.
SANDRA J. JONES
Rowlands University (New Jersey)
Ph.D. from Temple University
We often talk of Mumia Abu-Jamal as being a political prisoner, but we need to stop and look at the meaning of that term Apolitical prisoner.@ We believe that Mumia was imprisoned as a result of his political beliefs, which challenged the numerous levels of corruption found within the system at the time he was falsely accused of the murder of Daniel Faulkner. Yet it doesn=t stop there.
Mumia=s political beliefs are also what continue to keep him behind bars. He has had the courage to resist the unjust, corrupt forces that threaten his very life. He continues to be a threat to our government because with his voice and with his pen, he has challenged the many faces of injustice that have appeared throughout the last 20-plus years of his life that have been stolen from him and his family. It is this threat that Mumia poses to the system that has kept our government officials from granting him a new trial. They know that he is innocent, but they cannot allow him to be free because of the threat that his voice carries for them.
When looking at the costs that Mumia has had to bear as a result of his political views, many may conclude that it is better to be silent, not to speak out against injustice. But I am here to tell you that if you think that your silence will protect you, you are tragically mistaken. Your silence speaks volumes. And it threatens our very lives. Mumia=s writings, at many points, remind us all of the costs of our silence.
We simply cannot be silent, for in our silence, we are enabling the injustices of the system to flourish. Yes, dissent carries a cost in this society, often a very heavy one. We are seeing this increasingly in the terror that our government has instilled in all of us since September 11. The price of dissent has inflated to heights many of us have not seen in our lifetimes. But the costs of our silence are greater still. We can afford to be silent NO LONGER. Mumia is counting on us. just as we have been able to count on him all of these years to speak on our behalf at the expense of his own life. He is willing to lay down his life if necessary in order to expose the truth because he is driven by compassion for the masses of people around the world who are oppressed at many different levels.
Shouldn=t we ALL follow the example of this compassionate, highly-principled man and the example of another man whom we honor today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who, like Mumia, did not let death threats keep him silent? If there was something that you could have done 34 years ago to stop the assassination of Dr. King, would you have had the courage to do it? Or, would you remain silent? While it is too late for us to save the life of Dr. King, it is NOT too late to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal, so we MUST let our voices be heard, today and everyday until we have our brother home with us! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Professor of History, Drexel University (Philadelphia)
The corruption of the judiciary is one of the most salient features of the present moment. In Washington, D. C. we have, for the first time in our history, a regime installed by a judicial coup d=etat headed by the man responsible, at last count, for the execution of 154 American citizens and foreign nationals. From the federal bench we now have the example of Judge William Yohn, whose decision to silence Mumia Abu-Jamal not by inflicting the punishment of death – which, as the regime well knows, would have given him greater voice than ever, igniting a tidal wave of national and international protest – but by immuring him in a life sentence. We are here today to denounce this cynical manipulation of justice and to affirm our commitment to the rule of law.
I do not know what degree of responsibility, if any, Mumia Abu-Jamal bears in the death of Officer Daniel Faulkner. Only a fair trial could establish as much of it as may ever be known, and Mumia has never had one. It is in an attempt to lock up the truth forever, as well as Mumia himself, that Judge Yohn has affirmed the farce that took place twenty years ago as a judicial proceeding. Let us remember its salient elements: A man targeted openly by the former mayor and police commissioner the city; a police department itching for revenge on the man=s political associates; denial of representation and due process; failure to secure a neutral venue; subornation of witnesses and perjured testimony; suppression of defense evidence; a Ajudge@ whose antics shocked even the prosecution and who was later invited to review and affirm his own actions by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, so-called.
This is enough to me. A citizen of this country is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Mumia Abu-Jamal has never been fairly convicted of anything. It is time to afford him the presumption which is rightly his, and to end the scandal of his imprisonment.
The doubt will persist for some of us: did Mumia, in the confusion of a struggle to protect his brother, fire the shot that killed Officer Faulkner? Let us stipulate what the sate has never proved, and say that he did. What punishment would be appropriate for that? Not the penalty of death, which is an affront to all humanity and which the civilized nations of the world have put by. Perhaps, then, the default sentence of life imprisonment affirmed by Judge Yohn? But Mumia has already served twenty years of an unjust sentence, not as part of a life imprisonment but under judicial order of death, in the barbaric conditions of Death Row, under conditions of physical duress and psychological torture that would have broken the spirit of any lesser man and which are specifically prohibited even by international conventions that recognize the death penalty.
It is time to put by the fiction that a new trial can give Mumia justice, for he has already suffered a far worse punishment than a guilty man would deserve. It is time to free Mumia, and to dedicate ourselves to that cause. As long as he remains in prison, a part of us all is locked up with him.
I regret the death of Officer Faulkner. He, too, deserved his day in court, not the rush to judgment and the spectacle of racial and political vengeance that took place instead. A finding of fact would still be worthwhile. But there is only one way at this late date to do justice or at least to compensate as far as may be for injustice, especially in view of the mockery Judge Yohn has made of the law. That is to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Farah Jasmine Griffin
Professor of English Literature (Columbia University, NYC)
In recent months [as of April 2002] we have seen the New York Court of Appeals overturn convictions of three NYPD officers, Charles Schwarz, Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese who were all convicted for their involvement in the torture of Abner Louima. In the case of Officer Schwarz, the appellate court ruled that his lawyer had conflicts of interest in representing him and that the jury was exposed to prejudicial information.
Even as they acknowledge the ongoing possibility that the officers were involved in some degree, pundits as diverse as Alan Dershowitz, Patricia Williams and Nat Hentoff, all hailed the significance of the decision for other defendants. Williams, for example, is quoted in The New York Times as having said AUltimately, this will protect any and all defendants, not just police officers. I completely understand how impatient it must make people feel, given the nature of the case. But it=s not about his [the officer=s] guilt or innocence; it=s about the ability of everyone to have a fair trial.@
In Philadelphia, two months before the three NYPD officers were set free, Federal District Judge William Yohn overturned Mumia Abu-Jamal=s death sentence noting errors in his 1982 sentencing hearing. However, Judge Yohn upheld Mumia=s first degree murder conviction. The New York City officers are now free. At best under the current ruling, Mumia=s sentence will revert to life in prison; his life is still in danger because the State prosecutors may conduct a new sentencing hearing resulting again in the death penalty.
Surely, Mumia deserves the kind of treatment granted to the officers in the Louima case, and for similar reasons. Certainly, there is evidence of Judge Sabo=s Aconflict of interest@ and jurors were of course exposed to Aprejudicial information@ about Mumia=s past political involvement. In addition, new witnesses have emerged and Mumia=s lawyers even have the confession of another man who admits to having killed officer Faulkner. Without question there are more than enough reasons to overturn not just Mumia=s death sentence but also his murder conviction.
Certainly, other defendants would benefit as much (if not more) from an overturning of Mumia=s conviction as they would from the overturned convictions of the NYPD officers mentioned above. Or, do we have one justice system for police officers and another for the rest of us. Mumia represents the rest of us. Now is the time to insist that the state Free Mumia!
ANNA J. BROWN
Professor, Political Science (Saint Peter=s College, Jersey City, NJ)
On a Spring morning comes this news: AUS-made Apache helicopters are now shooting heavy caliber bullets on buildings in Manger Square, meters from the Church of the Nativity . . . You can hear the cries of children and women in the few seconds between the rounds of gunfire.@
We may wish to recall another time when the cries of a woman and child were heard from this place. At that time, a young woman gave birth to a child. In this child dwelled the deepest aspirations and realizations of our humanity.
Perhaps it is our own humanity that we are unwilling to face. Caught within an imperialist dream couched in the language of Athe need for security,@ the response of annihilating the other remains with us two thousand years after the birth of Christ. That the name of the US-made helicopter, whose bullets reign down with a deadly force, is of a people who were wiped out for the sake of land confiscation points to the repetition of lethal patterns.
As a citizen who dwells within the home of the world=s leading imperialist power, I cannot help but direct my gaze from the foreign to the domestic. In so doing, I look to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, particularly on the day we remember the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It may be asserted that a gaze which moves from the slaughter of the Palestinian people, to the slaughter of the Native American people, to the slaughter of an American civil rights leader, and to the current Aliving entombment@ of Mumia Abu-Jamal, is a gaze that sweeps too broadly. Given the State=s adamant refusal to offer Abu-Jamal a fair trial or to admit its own duplicity in his case, however, I believe that I am left with little choice. Refusing to remain complacent, I continue to assign Mumia=s book, Live From Death Row, to my students and to speak out on his behalf.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, when meeting President Kennedy on behalf of African-Americans in June of 1963, claimed that AThe hour calls for high moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.@ This is the hour! This is the time for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal! This is the time to walk away from the lethal trap of inflicting death upon others! Let freedom ring – free Mumia!
Dave Lindorff=s New Book & Reviews
Introductory Note by Mark Taylor: In November 2002 Philadelphia resident and journalist, Dave Lindorff, published his book on Mumia=s case, Killing Time: An Investigation Into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Monroe, MA: Common Courage Press, 2002). His work offers some new perspective on the data of the case, offers some legal arguments of its own, and also offers some controversial critique of many of the groups who work both for and against Mumia. To give you a flavor of the book, EMAJ offers here two of early reviews of the book.
Lindorff=s book also received a quite positive review from Steve Weinberg in The Philadelphia Inquirer (12/17/02), no mean feat considering the negative media coverage that paper so often has given to Mumia. I thought I would give the Inquirer a bit of positive reinforcement (very undeserved, I know, based on their long history of biased coverage of Mumia=s case), so I wrote them a short letter, applauding the review and its publication. Before they printed my letter, they printed two angry denunciations of the review in their next Sunday edition (12/22/02), neither of which engaged any of the claims made on Mumia=s behalf by Weinberg or Lindorff.
Finally, the Inquirer did print my letter (12/24/02), but not before performing a serious hatchet-job, cutting out an entire middle paragraph that contained essential information. Before including the reviews of Lindorff=s book, I include the original version of my letter. The material in brackets [ ] is what the Inquirer left out.
Kudos to Steve Weinberg and the Inquirer for the excellent review of Dave Lindorff=s book, Killing Time: An Investigation Into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (12/17). Based on his investigations into thousands of contested jury verdicts in this country, Weinberg offered a summary claim that still rings in my ears: Athe handling of the Mumia case is a disgrace to the criminal justice system.@
[ Weinberg did not mention two other carefully verified points in Lindorff=s book: (1) that a Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge, Richard Klein (once a city civil court judge) does not deny having heard Mumia=s trial judge, Albert Sabo, say that he was going to help throw the trial, and (2) that the prosecutor in Mumia=<font face=”Times