Mumia: why we must win his freedom
by David Lethbridge Mumia Abu Jamal was framed for a murder he did not commit. He has been sitting on death row for 18 years. Very soon, if his defence attorneys are not successful, he will be murdered by the State of Pennsylvania. Mumia must be freed, and we must demand that freedom. Today, there is a worldwide movement to free Mumia. Many famous individuals and organisations have rallied to his defence. Among them are Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King III, Whoopi Goldberg, Hurricane Carter, Howard Fast, Alice Walker, Sting, Rage Against the Machine, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Jello Biafra, the Congressional Black Caucus of the United States Congress, Paul Newman, Danny Glover, Stephen J Gould, EL Doctorow, hundreds of labour unions, the Quebec Civil Liberties Union, and the Communist Party of Canada. It is significant and important that these individuals and organisations, and many, many others, have stood up and spoken out. But ultimately only the voices of millions of people such as you and me can save Mumia's life and secure his freedom. Mumia Abu Jamal was framed because of his political activities. At the age of 15, in 1969, Mumia joined the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary organisation devoted to the defence of the African American community. Mumia wrote columns for the Panther newspaper, and produced pamphlets, interviews, and educational materials. During the early 1970s, most of the Panther leadership was either murdered by the police, or imprisoned. Mumia continued his journalism, becoming a radio commentator on social issues. In 1980, at the age of 26, he received the prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in Radio Journalism. Known as "the voice of the voiceless", he focussed on the issues of police brutality, police corruption, and political oppression, which was particularly rife in Philadelphia. In November 1982, Mumia was charged with the killing of a Philadelphia police officer. After a controversial trial presided over by Judge Albert Sabo, "the prosecutor's friend", he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Since then, a vast array of evidence has accumulated casting doubt on the original trial and the verdict: * Most of the alleged witnesses to the killing have either changed their statements or have revealed that they were coerced by the police into testifying against Mumia. * The medical examiner's report states that the one recognisable bullet fragment found in the officer's body was fired from a .44 magnum, while Mumia's weapon was a .38 calibre. * A "confession" by the badly-wounded Mumia in hospital shortly after the shooting was not reported by the officer who allegedly heard it until almost three months later. * Judge Sabo, who has condemned more people to death than any other judge in the USA, repeatedly violated Mumia's constitutional and legal rights during the original trial. Sabo then presided over the 1995 appeal trial, predictably clearing himself against the defence claims of his errors of fact and judgement. * The 1982 jury included only two black jurors. An affidavit filed later by one juror stated that during the trial, three white jurors met as a bloc to discuss how to insure a guilty verdict. The US Supreme Court has ruled such meetings constitute grounds for verdict reversal. * Mumia's original state-appointed defence lawyer, Anthony Jackson, admits to not having prepared the case, and was later disbarred for incompetence in an unrelated case. * The prosecution hid important facts and witnesses from the defence. For example, an officer who reported that Mumia did not make a confession was falsely claimed by the prosecution as being unavailable for trial, when in fact he was at home in Philadelphia. Federal District Court Justice William Yohn is now reviewing Mumia's petition for habeas corpus relief based on defence allegations of 29 constitutional errors. If Justice Yohn agrees with the defence petition, a new evidentiary trial will be called. If he disagrees with the defence petition, Mumia will be executed — murdered by the State — quite possibly within the next few months. President Clinton's disgraceful and barbaric 1996 "Effective Penalty Act" legislation is already speeding up the assembly line of death. The most urgent and essential task is to write a letter demanding Mumia's freedom to The Honourable Justice William H Yohn, Jr., c/o Leonard Weinglass, 6 West 20th Street, Suite 10A, New York, NY, USA, 10011.
But that is not enough. Public forums need to be organised in every community. Letters should be written to newspapers and magazines. Mumia's case should be brought up within every trade union and resolutions passed demanding Mumia's freedom. Church groups and social organisations should be encouraged to call for Mumia's freedom. Presentations should be made before city councils seeking a resolution to make Mumia an honourary citizen of the community. It is time now to build the movement to Free Mumia! To receive a copy of David Lethbridge's detailed analysis of the Mumia case, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to People's Voice, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org