Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal denied
Death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal for a new trial, which was before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, was denied on October 30.
The order was signed by Justice Ronald Castillo, who as district attorney played a key role in denying a new trial to Mumia 10 years ago. At that time, Castillo signed all the prosecution's briefs filed against Mumia's appeal to the State Supreme Court.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, a respected African-American journalist, has been on death row since 1982.
In the early 1980s, Mumia was a respected radio journalist, an outspoken defender of the black urban commune MOVE and president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.
In December 1981 he was driving a taxi at night to earn some extra income. At about 4am on the morning of December 9, he got out of his cab, seeing that his brother's car had been stopped by police and his brother was being beaten. Mumia crossed the street towards his brother; he was shot and critically wounded.
Police officer Daniel Faulkner was also shot, several times. Mumia survived after a two-hour operation. Faulkner died, and Mumia was promptly charged with his murder, despite the fact that four independent witnesses from different vantage points had described seeing a much heavier man who shot Faulkner run down an alley and escape.
Witnesses who initially stated that a man other than Mumia had shot Faulkner changed their stories after being interviewed by police, some having been threatened and some bribed, as they later admitted.
Ballistic evidence at the trial showed that events could not have taken place as the police claimed, but was not properly interpreted because Mumia's defence team lacked the funds to pay for ballistics experts.
In its ruling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in the words of one of Mumia's supporters, Dr Robert Rockwell, "(1) accepts the bogus claim of police officers made two months later that Mumia 'confessed' but none of them thought to report it at the time, (2) lets stand the removal of jurors on the grounds of race after the US Supreme Court has outlawed the practice, and (3) holds the blatantly pro-prosecution judge was fully justified in barring key evidence from both the trial and the post-conviction hearings".
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge has promised to quickly sign a new death warrant.
Supporters of Mumia around the US have been planning and carrying out demonstrations.
According to the NY Mumia Coalition organiser, Safia Bukhari, "This decision is an outrage. We plan to fight the racist so-called 'justice system' all the way. This Judge Castillo, who signed the order, has a major conflict of interest. Not only was he instrumental in the denial of Mumia's original appeal, he was responsible for making an instructional video tape that kept African-Americans off juries in Philadelphia for years."