May 14, 2007
On May 17, Mumia Abu-Jamal once again comes into court petitioning for a new trial from the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
Abu-Jamal has been on death row ever since he was arrested and framed-up for killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. The signs that he was being framed-up have been well-known since Abu-Jamal was first arrested. A Black Panther member in his youth, Abu-Jamal was a radio personality at the time of his arrest. He was, as the Philadelphia Inquirer put it, “an eloquent activist not afraid to raise his voice.” He was known as the “voice of the voiceless” for his radio program where he regularly exposed police brutality and other misconduct against the black population.
It is undisputed that Abu-Jamal tried to intervene on the night the police stopped his brother’s car and beat his brother on the street, but there was no physical evidence introduced at his trial that showed Abu-Jamal was involved in the shooting. As a part-time cab driver he carried a legally registered gun – but there was no evidence his gun delivered the bullets that left police officer Daniel Faulkner dead and Abu-Jamal himself wounded.
Abu-Jamal was denied the right to represent himself in court. The reluctant, incompetent lawyer who was assigned to represent him was allowed only $150 to interview witnesses. He was later disbarred, and has since filed a affidavit in support of Abu-Jamal, detailing his own errors in representing him.
Abu-Jamal was prosecuted by a District Attorney who was later reprimanded for withholding evidence in another trial.
Judge Sabo, who presided at Abu-Jamal’s trial, was a life member of the Fraternal Order of Police. He removed all black jurors but one from Abu-Jamal’s jury. By 1995, he had sentenced more men to death (31) than any other sitting judge in the country. All but two of these men were black. At the time of a post-conviction hearing for Abu-Jamal, Sabo was heard to comment that he was “going to help ‘em fry the nigger.”
Abu-Jamal was legally lynched for his uncompromising opposition to racism and police brutality. The only reason his death sentence has not been carried out is because his lynching has been opposed and protested by millions of people all over the world. He has written several books while in prison, the latest of which is “We Want Freedom,” a tribute to the Black Panther Party. In asking for a new trial on May 17, Abu-Jamal and his lawyers will be supported in briefs filed by the National Lawyers Guild and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.