United States: Black journalist on death row denied justice again


Renowned progressive journalist and veteran anti-racist campaigner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who faces the death penalty over a police killing he denies, is set to live out his life in prison after a new trial was denied by the US Supreme Court on April 6, CNN.com said that day.

Abu-Jamal was charged over the shooting a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. Convicted in a flawed trial, he has been on death row since 1983.

A former member of militant African American group, the Black Panther Party, at the time of his arrest he was president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and worked to expose police brutality.

In 1981, Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother, William Cook, in a late-night traffic stop. Abu-Jamal, working as a taxi driver at the time, came on the scene after hearing gunshots and was shot and wounded by Faulkner. By the time other police arrived, Faulkner had been shot dead.

Abu-Jamal was arrested and charged with the murder, although eyewitnesses, who claim the police refused to accept their evidence, have since stated that they saw the real shooter flee the scene.

Abu-Jamal was denied the right to represent himself, and was even barred from attending much of his own trial on ground that he represented a security threat.

The evidence used to convict Abu-Jamal was highly selective and doubt has since been thrown on the validity of much of it — including the validity of a supposed confession by Abu-Jamal. The key prosecution witness has since been accused of being a police informant.

After the latest ruling, Abu-Jamal's chief defense attorney, Robert Bryan, said of the original trial: "I've never seen a case as permeated and riddled with racism as this one. I want a new trial, and I want him free. His conviction was a travesty of justice."

Freemumia.com said in 2001 court stenographer Terri Maurer-Carter came forward and stated that in before Abu-Jamal's trial had begun, she heard his judge, Albert Sabo state: "Yeah, and I'm going to help them fry the nigger".

Sabo handed down more death penalties in his career than any other Pennsylvanian judge.

While Abu-Jamal's conviction was upheld by the recent Supreme Court ruling, a ruling by a three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit US Court of Appeals last year ruled that he should get a new sentence hearing because of flawed jury instructions in the original trial.

This means that Abu-Jamal's fate is now in the hands of prosecutors who will decide whether to give him a new death penalty hearing or let him receive an automatic life sentence.

In 2000, Amnesty International called for Abu-Jamal's release, declaring that the case did not comply with international standards of justice.

The European parliament passed a motion in support of Abu-Jamal in 1998. Former Cuban president Fidel Castro, former South African president Nelson Mandela, the Japanese parliament and 22 members of the British parliament have also spoken out in support of Abu-Jamal.

His supporters are circulating petitions urging US Attorney-General Eric Holder to intervene.

Abu-Jamal remains a prominent progressive journalist and regularly produces his "Live From Death Row" segment for the US Pacifica radio network, in which he speaks out against racism and oppression resulting from the capitalist system.

The US currently holds around 3400 death row inmates in its prisons, according to the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

[To find out more, or get involved in the international campaign for Mumia Abu-Jamal's freedom, visit http://www.freemumia.com.]