The Guardian April 5, 2000


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 pvc@istar.ca

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