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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ils veulent la peau de Mumia

by Cathy Ceïbe

They Want Mumia’s Hide

Translated Tuesday 28 October 2008, by Jeff Skinner

A new judicial attack against the African-American journalist unjustly condemned to death could jeopardize his chances for a review of his trial.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is well and truly in the deadly sights of US justice. It is public knowledge to this day that he was sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of a white police officer, which he always denied, after an unfair trial. Recently, a few modest advances revived hopes for a fair review of his conviction. But the political and judicial fury towards the African-American journalist has again taken the upper hand. On the evening of October 20th, the Philadelphia public prosecutor sent the US Supreme Court an appeal intended to void the judgment of the US Court of Appeals from March 27th. The Court of Appeals pronounced itself 2 to 1 in favor of nullifying Mumia’s death sentence after having acknowledged the jury’s partiality while confirming the sentence of guilt handed down by the jurors. Consequently the commutation from the death penalty to life imprisonment hangs on the prosecutor’s decision to call for the formation of a new jury charged with reaching a verdict on death or life in prison.

Judicial Relentlessness

The prosecution, which has until November 19th to present its motion before the Supreme Court, hasn’t said a word until now. “This judicial relentlessness is managed by the current governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell who, in the capacity of prosecutor during the 1982 trial, was in charge of demanding the death penalty against Mumia Abu-Jamal,” the Unitarian Collective for the Support of Mumia Abu-Jamal notes with outrage. “He promised his voters Mumia’s execution as soon as the appeals were exhausted.” This latest appeal is hardly trivial now that the case “is at a crossroads,” Robert Bryan, Mumia’s lawyer, clarifies. The appeal occurred at the same time as Bryan obtained a further extension (until December 19th) for presenting a submission showing the violation of Mumia’s constitutional rights, namely the racist criteria that prevailed in the selection of a majority-white jury as well as the declarations of Judge Albert Sabo, in charge of the case at the time. This former Philadelphia deputy sheriff and member of the Fraternal Order of Police (an extreme right-wing union) thundered during the trial, “I’m going to help them fry the nigger.”

By submitting to the Supreme Court this way, the prosecution seeks to outstrip the defense. If the highest legal body in the United States, in its ultra-reactionary stance, sides with them, it will de facto reject the reasoning of Mumia’s lawyer on the grounds that it cannot reverse itself. The efforts made over the last few years could collapse like a house of cards. And Mumia’s fate will return to the start: the sentence of death.

Electoral impasse

This attempt to strike back once again illustrates the prosecution’s determination to have the hide of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a continuing symbol of the abolitionist struggle. It reveals the degree of the case’s politicization. As his lawyer recently mentioned on our pages, Mumia’s opinions and commitments against the inequalities of the system and the abuses of the police and justice are behind the conspiracy of which he is a victim.

At this time, the two candidates have begun the final stretch towards the Presidency. Their respective positions on capital punishment leave little hope regarding a positive change in the fate of Mumia Abu-Jamal, still in solitary confinement on Death Row.

For more information or to donate, see the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal at www.mumiabujamal.net

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