The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

A letter from the attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Jun 16, 2008

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a black activist and outspoken journalist and radio broadcaster who has been in prison for 27 years for a crime it’s obvious he didn’t commit. He remains in prison despite numerous protests worldwide – most of them in other countries, much to the shame of this one. He is held under horrible conditions, including, for example, not being allowed to present new evidence, whether or not it would exonerate him.

Following are some excerpts from a letter sent out by Robert Bryan, lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal, regarding the most recent ruling on his case:

“As widely reported in the media, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited decision on March 27, 2008.... We view the opinion of the three-judge panel as a mixed bag with some good, some very wrong ...

A new jury trial has been ordered by the federal court on the question of whether Mumia should be sentenced to life or death, due to the trial judge’s unconstitutional and misleading instructions to the jury. It is a positive step in any capital case when a court finds that the death penalty was wrongfully imposed. Mumia is pleased with this part of the ruling because it could help others on death rows across the U.S. The prosecution now has various options including seeking reconsideration by the federal court and petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to have the death sentence remain intact.

It was a great disappointment that the federal court rejected our quest for a reversal of the conviction and a new trial on the question of guilt and innocence. To say that Mumia and I are unhappy with this would be an understatement, for the decision flies in the face of the United States Constitution and case precedent. The facts are that the prosecutor did engage in racism during jury selection, and made a false and misleading argument to the jury which turned the concept of reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence on its head. The trial judge was biased and bigoted, even stating in reference to my client that he was “going to help ‘em fry the n----r.” Unfortunately the court used against Mumia the failings of the lawyers who represented him in state post-conviction and federal habeas corpus proceedings. Their mistakes should not serve as an excuse to rationalize away the fundamental constitutional violations that occurred in this case....

The District Attorney appeared livid that the federal court had ordered a new penalty-phase jury trial. At a press conference on March 27, 2008, the day of the decision, she vowed that her office will continue pursuing the execution of my client....

The issues in this case concern the right to a fair trial, the ongoing struggle against the death penalty, and the political repression of a courageous author and journalist. Based upon three decades of successfully litigating murder cases involving the death penalty, I am convinced that we can win an acquittal upon a new jury trial. My goal is his acquittal upon retrial. I intend to see Mumia go home to his family. I will not rest until that occurs.

Mumia is still on death row and in great danger. His life is hanging in the balance. We must remember that racism, fraud, politics, and unfairness are threads that have run through this case since the beginning....

Finally, we are grateful for all those who do so much to bring the injustice in this case to public attention, whether it be through demonstrations, writing to newspapers, meetings, or circulating information on the Internet. This is all important. We are of one voice in this campaign for justice: Free Mumia!

Yours very truly,

Robert R. Bryan