21 March 2014

Mumia Abu-Jamal Is an Innocent Man

Cops, Congress Ax Nominee Over Mumia’s Case

On March 5, the Senate sank Barack Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile as assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. What was supposed to be a done deal ran aground when seven Democrats joined the Republicans in opposing the selection. The kiss of death for Adegbile, the current senior counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, was his tenuous connection to black political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Adegbile had a leadership role in the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), which represented Mumia at the time that his death sentence was overturned in late 2011.

Our concern is not who fills what post under the attorney general, the top cop overseeing the apparatus of racist repression. Rather it is the renewed outpouring of the lies that have condemned Mumia, an innocent man, to three decades on death row and now life in prison. A former Black Panther, MOVE supporter and award-winning journalist, Mumia was framed up for the killing of a Philly cop and railroaded to death row in 1982 on the basis of his radical political views. The prosecution’s case against him rested on phony ballistics, a concocted “confession,” police intimidation of witnesses and racist jury rigging. The confession of another man, Arnold Beverly, that he was hired by the mob and cops to assassinate Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, whom Mumia was falsely accused of killing, has never been allowed into state or federal court.

In the article “Drive to Execute Mumia Halted” (WV No. 993, 6 January 2012), we observed: “The state forces that have tried for decades to silence this powerful voice for the oppressed are certainly not going to forget him.” Indeed, the campaign against Adegbile was spearheaded by the Fraternal Order of Police; Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the Philadelphia cop; and Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams. Together with Pat Toomey, a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, the Democrat Williams penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece (24 February) that not only slandered Mumia as a “cop killer” but condemned anybody challenging the racist bias inherent in the capitalist courts. Other Democrats, such as Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware, piled on to the smears of Mumia, attributing his vote to the issue of “respecting” law officers.

The Democratic Party machine in Philadelphia, of which Williams is a part, engineered the frame-up of Mumia from the start. Central to this effort was Ed Rendell, who was the local district attorney at the time Mumia was arrested and was later elected mayor and then Pennsylvania’s governor. On the national stage, Rendell went from being a prominent operative in Hillary Clinton’s failed bid for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination to playing a key role in Obama’s electoral victory.

When Mumia was set to be executed in August 1995, protests of tens of thousands internationally helped stay the executioner’s hand. By the time Adegbile got involved in Mumia’s case, those mass mobilizations were a thing of the past. Contrary to the hallucinations of Toomey, Williams and others, Adegbile was no activist proclaiming Mumia’s innocence and fighting for his freedom. In fact, one response of liberal civil rights groups like the NAACP to the attack on Adegbile was to plead Mumia guilty: “The Senate failed to see through a shameful disinformation campaign that intentionally tries to hold Mr. Adegbile responsible for a terrible crime committed by a defendant when Mr. Adegbile was only 8 years old” (naacp.org, March 5).

As a lawyer, Adegbile simply contributed to an LDF appeal citing racial discrimination in Mumia’s jury selection and to a brief challenging jury instructions given at the hearing that sentenced Mumia to death. The federal court of appeals ruled twice that the sentencing instructions were unconstitutional, a decision that the Supreme Court under the conservative John Roberts refused to overturn. As Mumia noted in his March 6 broadcast, Adegbile came under attack “because he dared to do what defense lawyers are legally and constitutionally required to do: defend their clients.”

With consummate hypocrisy, Obama protested that the defeat of Adegbile’s nomination “solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice.” Quite the opposite, as Obama should know. Leftist attorney Lynne Stewart was convicted of providing “material support to terrorism” in 2005 on the basis of her outspoken defense of a client imprisoned on terrorism charges. At the urging of Obama’s Justice Department in 2010, the original sentence for Stewart was quadrupled to ten years. While now standing by Adegbile, in 2009 Obama gave the boot to “green jobs” adviser Van Jones when a media campaign unearthed his past advocacy for Mumia.

What gores the ox of the forces of racist reaction is that Mumia was and remains a powerful voice for the voiceless. As a 15-year-old spokesman for the Philadelphia Black Panther Party, Mumia exemplified those the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover had in mind when he declared: “The Negro youth and moderate[s] must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.” Mumia survives and continues to speak out from prison hell on behalf of all the oppressed. While some may wring their hands over the defeat of Obama’s nominee, those fighting for Mumia’s freedom should seize this opportunity to expose the racist vendetta that has kept this innocent man under the shadow of the gallows and behind bars for over 32 years.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1042, 21 March 2014)

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