17 May 2019

“Progressive” D.A. Drops Appeal, Continues Vendetta

Free Mumia Now!

No Illusions in the Capitalist Courts!

On April 17, Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner abandoned his effort to prevent class-war prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal from challenging his frame-up conviction for the 1981 killing of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Last December, Judge Leon Tucker of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas threw out the state Supreme Court decisions from 1998 to 2012 that rubber-stamped Mumia’s frame-up because a judge on that court had given an “appearance of bias.” The judge, Ronald Castille, had been the D.A. during Mumia’s first appeal of his conviction and sentence. Making clear that the decades-long vendetta against Mumia will not end on his watch, Krasner proclaimed that the decision to withdraw his appeal of Tucker’s ruling “does not mean Mr. Abu-Jamal will be freed or get a new trial.” According to Faulkner’s widow Maureen, Krasner promised “that he would do everything within his power to keep my husband’s remorseless killer in prison for the rest of his life.”

Krasner rode into office supported by a host of liberal activists and fake socialists as a “progressive” D.A. and a pillar of the decarceration movement. Krasner had pursued the appeal out of expressed concern that Tucker’s ruling would open the door to challenges by all inmates victimized by Castille’s dual role as prosecutor and judge—and some might then actually be decarcerated. According to Krasner, he can now rest easy because a supplemental ruling by Tucker narrows the scope of his order.

Mumia, a former Black Panther Party spokesman, MOVE supporter and award-winning journalist, has been in prison hell for 37 years—30 of them on death row. His trial for killing Faulkner was a classic frame-up, including evidence tampering, racist jury-rigging, lying prosecutors and a hanging judge. The cops and prosecutors terrorized witnesses and concocted a false “confession.” Mumia was sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. In 2001, a U.S. District Court judge overturned the death sentence and ten years later the Philly D.A.’s office dropped its longstanding effort to legally lynch Mumia, satisfied that he remains condemned to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Among the reformist outfits that celebrated Krasner’s election were Workers World Party (WWP), Socialist Alternative (SAlt) and the now defunct International Socialist Organization (ISO), whose ex-members have largely liquidated into the Democratic Party via the Democratic Socialists of America. After Krasner won the Democratic Party primary in 2017, SAlt’s Philadelphia branch enthused: “Krasner Wins! Keep Building The Resistance!” WWP declared that “Krasner’s election victory was significant.” The ISO hailed Krasner’s campaign as a blueprint for how activists can help elect “progressive” D.A.s nationwide on the Democratic Party ticket and keep the prosecutors “aligned with the perspectives of the movement organizers” (socialistworker.org, 1 October 2018).

The lie that a D.A. can serve the people is a betrayal of workers, black people and immigrants. The entire job of a district attorney, whether traditional or “progressive,” is to wield the repressive powers of racist capitalist “law and order.” Krasner made this clear to his supporters when he appointed Castille to his transition team and gave his army of prosecutors the green light to pursue death sentences.

With Krasner’s tooth and nail fight against Mumia’s struggle to overturn his conviction, a little bit of bloom came off the rose—just a little bit. A February 6 letter to Krasner, signed by WWP’s International Action Center and other organizations, implored him to drop the appeal, grotesquely groveling that he could “be the one to end this pattern of racism in Mumia’s case.” As WWP now tells it, such “pressure on Krasner’s office to do the right thing” convinced the D.A. to reverse course on the appeal (workers.org, 17 April). Truth is, in continuing to oppose Mumia’s fight for freedom Krasner is doing the right thing for the racist capitalist class he serves.

Prosecutors, along with the cops, courts, prisons and military, are a core part of the capitalist state, a machinery of organized violence whose very purpose is to preserve the class rule and property of the capitalist exploiters. The reformists sow deadly illusions that this apparatus to repress the workers and oppressed can be bent to serve their interests.

Even after Krasner went after Mumia’s head, SAlt called on him “to boldly and actively apply the full power of his office to re-balance the scales of justice” and “use the bully pulpit that comes with elected office to build the movements that could force changes to the law” (socialistalternative.org, 20 March). We have no doubt that Krasner will use the full power of his office to keep grinding out new victims of capitalist injustice and the bully pulpit to build his movement—the forces of repression. SAlt’s finding common cause with the top prosecutor in heavily black Philadelphia is no surprise, as it has long embraced cops and prison guards as “workers in uniform.”

We welcomed Tucker’s ruling, which allows Mumia another chance to overturn his conviction, but it is no “historic win,” as WWP declared—Mumia remains behind bars, battling for his freedom in courts that have always been stacked against him. According to Workers World, “Once Abu-Jamal wins just one of these arguments he gains the right to a new trial.” Not so. The courts have a long-established tradition of dismissing prosecutorial misconduct and trial court error as de minimis, Latin for we don’t give a damn, you’re going to rot in prison until you die. Even before Castille donned the judge’s robes, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court discarded its own precedent to affirm Mumia’s death sentence in 1989. The federal courts as well have repeatedly rubber-stamped the Castille court’s decisions and refused to consider evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner.

Since taking up Mumia’s case in 1987, we have advocated pursuing all possible legal avenues, while fighting against any illusions in the courts of the capitalist class enemy. We have fought for Mumia’s struggle to be taken up by the multiracial labor movement—those who create the wealth of this society and who can shut it down. What is necessary to put an end to capitalist exploitation, racial oppression and injustice is for the working class to sweep away the ruling class and its state apparatus and establish its own egalitarian rule.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1155, 17 May 2019)

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