12 October 2012

Court Throws Out Mumia’s Challenge to Life Without Parole

On August 23, class-war prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal filed a pro se motion challenging a secretive court order that sentenced him to life without parole. The sentence, pronounced ten days earlier and mandated by Pennsylvania statute, was expected following Mumia’s removal from death row in December 2011, after the Philadelphia district attorney’s office ended its campaign to legally lynch him (see “Drive to Execute Mumia Halted,” WV No. 993, 6 January). Mumia’s legal papers sought to vacate the illegally imposed sentence, citing violations of Pennsylvania’s own rules of criminal procedure. More significantly, Mumia’s motion raised a challenge to his sentence of life without parole as cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, citing his “almost thirty years in solitary confinement on death row under an illegal and unconstitutionally-imposed death sentence.” On October 1, Philadelphia judge Pamela P. Dembe threw out Mumia’s motion.

Yet again the racist rulers have dispensed with even the pretense of due process in Mumia’s case. The courts had imposed the life sentence without notice to defense attorneys or a formal hearing, trampling on Mumia’s fundamental rights to be present and to be heard. Although the 30-year drive to execute Mumia ran aground, he is now condemned to a living death, entombed in the dungeons of Pennsylvania. Class-conscious workers and fighters for black equality must continue to demand freedom for this innocent man.

Mumia’s motion also raised a general challenge to the constitutionality of life without parole, as well as the practice of isolating those on death row in solitary confinement. As we wrote in “Abolish the Racist Death Penalty” (WV No. 1009, 28 September):

“In our opposition to the death penalty, we are equally committed to the abolition of life without parole, the prisons and all the barbaric institutions of the capitalist state. Our purpose is to arm the working class with the understanding that the cops, courts, prisons and military make up the apparatus for the violent repression of the working class and oppressed in defense of the power and profits of the capitalist rulers.”

Beginning with Mumia’s frame-up and conviction three decades ago on false charges of killing a Philadelphia policeman, the cops and courts have relentlessly tried to silence this “voice of the voiceless,” a leading member of the Black Panther Party in his youth and later an eloquent journalist and supporter of the Philadelphia MOVE group. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Mumia’s torturous journey through the bourgeois courts that it is Judge Dembe who signed the resentencing order and denied his challenge. The same judge rejected the evidence that Mumia’s original trial judge, Albert Sabo, was biased and racist, despite a sworn affidavit that Sabo was overheard saying, “I’m going to help them fry the n----r.” Dembe also rejected the confession of Arnold Beverly that it was he, not Mumia, who shot and killed Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

As the Spartacist League and the Partisan Defense Committee have insisted all along: There is no justice in the capitalist courts. Free Mumia now! 

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1010, 12 October 2012)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.