Jul 19, 2004
Mumia Abu-Jamal, a 50-year-old black man, has been on Death Row in Pennsylvania for twenty years for a crime he didn't commit. He was convicted in 1982 of killing a cop and was sentenced to death. State authorities are now using a June 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision, trying to move forward his execution. The Court ruled that prisoners can be executed for crimes that occurred before 1988, even if today they wouldn't be.
Abu-Jamal's case happened on the night of December 8, 1981, when he was driving a taxi cab. He came upon a cop beating up his brother. Mumia Abu-Jamal stopped his cab and started to intervene. Shots rang out, and he and the cop were shot. Witnesses said another man had done the shooting and run off. Abu-Jamal had no weapon that had been fired – and the cops carefully forgot to test him for gunshot residue.
Abu-Jamal had been a thorn in the side of the system for years. He was Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia when he was 17. He became a newspaper and radio reporter, exposing police and FBI attacks on the black nationalist organization MOVE in Philadelphia. All this made him a target for the cops on that fatal night.
At his trial, he was given an inexperienced lawyer who had never tried a death penalty case. The judge allowed him only $150 to conduct a pre-trial investigation, while the prosecutors interviewed over 125 witnesses.
A campaign has been carried out in defense of Abu-Jamal for years, both in this country and abroad. His legal defense is appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding racist jury selection practices, to the Court of Common Pleas over new evidence of innocence and fraud on the part of the prosecutors, and before the U.S. District Court with regard to a racist statement by his trial judge.
The so-called "justice system" in this country is quite capable of ruling against him, despite the merits of the case. Unless considerable outside pressure is brought to bear, Abu-Jamal will wind up in the execution chamber.
It's important that we not forget Mumia Abu-Jamal and all the other prisoners on death row in conditions like his.