10 October 2008
Supreme Court Bars Evidence of Innocence
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Now!
There Is No Justice in the Capitalist Courts!
On October 6, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal for a new trial based on evidence that critical witnesses lied under police coercion in his original frame-up trial. To the racists in black robes, a court of law is no place for evidence of the innocence of this fighter for the oppressed. Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, MOVE supporter and eloquent journalist known as the “voice of the voiceless,” is an innocent man who has been on death row for 26 years, framed up for the killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. This latest rejection comes after decades of Pennsylvania state and lower federal courts dismissing the mountains of evidence of his innocence and of his racist frame-up by the Philadelphia police and prosecution.
The appeal that was turned down was submitted on July 18 by Mumia’s attorney, Robert R. Bryan. That petition for a Writ of Certiorari on behalf of Mumia was a request for the Supreme Court to grant Mumia’s appeal of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision last February 19, which refused to let him present crucial evidence that key witnesses in his original frame-up trial had lied. The only witness claiming to have seen Mumia with a gun in hand was Cynthia White, a prostitute who was given favors and coerced by the cops to lie. Two months after Faulkner’s death, cops and prosecutors concocted a story that Mumia confessed to the killing as he bled nearly to death on the Jefferson Hospital Emergency Room floor after being shot and beaten by the cops.
The Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—issued a February 21 press release following the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision, emphasizing that the evidence barred by that court cuts to the heart of the prosecution frame-up. Such evidence included a 28 January 2002 declaration by Yvette Williams, who was in jail with Cynthia White in December 1981, stating that “Cynthia White told me the police were making her lie and say she saw Mr. Jamal shoot Officer Faulkner when she really did not see who did it.” Also barred was the declaration of Kenneth Pate, stepbrother of Priscilla Durham, a Jefferson Hospital security guard who testified at Mumia’s trial to hearing the bogus confession. In his 18 April 2003 declaration, Kenneth Pate recalled that Durham told him of pressure by the cops to say Mumia confessed; she confided to him, “All I heard him say was: ‘Get off me, get off me, they’re trying to kill me’.” (The declarations by Williams and Pate are available in full on the Partisan Defense Committee’s Web site (www.partisandefense.org/pubs/innocent/yw.html and www.partisandefense.org/pubs/innocent/kp.html).
Mumia’s attorney Robert Bryan will be filing a second petition for review to the U.S. Supreme Court later this year. That petition will deal with the racist jury-rigging that marked Mumia’s 1982 trial. The prosecution used eleven of its 15 peremptory challenges to get rid of black jurors. In 2001, federal district court judge William Yohn overturned Mumia’s death sentence while upholding the frame-up conviction. Mumia’s attorney as well as the prosecution appealed—the former seeking to overturn the conviction and the latter seeking to reinstate the death penalty. On March 27, a three-judge panel of the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Yohn’s ruling. In July, the Third Circuit Court also turned down an appeal for a full court hearing, letting stand its earlier decision. Mumia now faces the prospect of a new sentencing hearing, in which the only two choices are whether Mumia remains condemned to prison for the rest of his life or is again sentenced to death (see “Third Circuit Court Turns Down Appeal,” WV No. 918, 1 August).
The Supreme Court’s rejection of Mumia’s current petition is an outrage, but it comes as no surprise. The Supreme Court has denied previous petitions by Mumia’s attorneys in 1990, 1999 and 2004. The Supreme Court is the highest court of America’s racist capitalist rulers, the class enemy of workers, black people and all the oppressed. The courts, prisons and police exist to maintain, through organized violence and terror, the rule of the capitalists over working people. We have always advocated pursuing all possible legal proceedings. PDC attorneys Rachel Wolkenstein and Jonathan Piper served on Mumia’s legal team from 1995 to 1999, unearthing much evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including the confession of another man, Arnold Beverly, that he and not Mumia shot and killed Faulkner. But as the PDC has underlined, “We place all our faith in the power of the masses and no faith whatever in the ‘justice’ of the courts.”
The power that can make the courts yield is the power of the multiracial working class. It took a campaign of international mass protest, crucially including trade unionists, to help stay the executioner’s hand when Mumia was under a death warrant in 1995. We fight for a strategy of class-struggle defense, which must be based on the understanding that capitalist society is fundamentally divided between two hostile social classes—the capitalist exploiters and the working class—and that the capitalist state and its courts are organs of repression against working people and the oppressed. Our class-struggle strategy is counterposed to that of the liberals and reformists, who promote dangerous illusions that the courts can provide justice for Mumia, illusions codified in their longtime subordination of the demand for Mumia’s freedom to the call for a “new trial.” This reliance on the agencies of the class enemy, including pathetic appeals to capitalist politicians, has been promoted by groups including the Workers World Party, International Socialist Organization, the Revolutionary Communist Party’s Refuse & Resist, Socialist Action, the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal led by Pam Africa and the San Francisco Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal led by Socialist Action honcho Jeff Mackler.
In the weeks following the Third Circuit Court’s March decision, the PDC and its fraternal defense organizations internationally held emergency protests and united-front demonstrations. Though these protests brought out only hundreds, they point to what is necessary to win Mumia’s freedom: the mobilization of the working class independently of and in opposition to its capitalist class enemy, whether Democrat, Republican or Green. Over 500 organizations and individuals—including trade unionists, students, gay rights activists, leftists, black activists, death penalty abolitionists and others—endorsed these protests, called under the slogans: “Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Innocent! Free Mumia Now! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!”
Mumia’s conviction was a racist, political frame-up of an innocent man, a fighter against racial and class bias, a man who stands for social justice and against U.S. imperialism’s wars of depredation. Since his youth in the Black Panthers, Mumia has endured the hatred and concerted effort of the bourgeoisie to silence him because they see in him the spectre of black revolt. Mumia’s case throws a spotlight on the barbaric death penalty, which is institutionalized state terror directly descended from black chattel slavery and lynch mob terror.
Our fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal is rooted in the struggle to make the multiracial working class conscious of its class interests in the fight against the entire capitalist system, particularly the understanding that in America the fight for black freedom is central to the struggle for the emancipation of labor itself. The PDC’s Class-Struggle Contingents in protests for Mumia organized by other groups this spring expressed the necessity for independent working-class struggle on behalf of Mumia by demanding, in addition to the united-front calls to free Mumia and abolish the racist death penalty: “There Is No Justice in the Capitalist Courts! Mobilize Labor’s Power—For Mass Protest!”
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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 922, 10 October 2008)
Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.