Partisan Defense Committee Press Release
21 February 2008
Partisan Defense Committee P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013
Contact: Kevin Gilroy (212) 406-4252
Pennsylvania Court Rejects
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Appeal
Federal Court Decision Due
Mobilize Now to Free Mumia!
On February 19, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court once again slammed shut its doors to death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Citing procedural rules that bar as untimely the use of evidence discovered after trial and appeal, Pennsylvania’s highest court turned down Mumia’s request for a hearing to present evidence that key witnesses in his frame-up trial perjured themselves under police coercion. Still pending in the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals is Mumia’s appeal from a denial of his application for habeas corpus seeking to overturn his conviction. Oral argument in that appeal was held last May, and a decision, either upholding the death sentence, condemning Mumia to a life behind bars or ordering a new trial or additional legal proceedings, could come any day.
A Black Panther Party spokesman in his youth, and later a renowned journalist and supporter of the Philadelphia MOVE organization, Mumia was framed up for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner on 9 December 1981, and he was sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. Partisan Defense Committee counsel Rachel Wolkenstein, who was a member of Mumia’s legal team from 1995 to 1999, stated, “What the court again refused to hear is a small piece of the mountain of evidence of Mumia’s innocence. The proof of Mumia’s innocence, which includes the confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot officer Faulkner, is detailed in the PDC Fact Sheet pamphlet, Big Lies in the Service of Legal Lynching” (http://www.partisandefense.org ).
Wolkenstein explained, “The evidence barred by the Pennsylvania court cuts to the heart of the prosecution frame-up. 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 while bleeding nearly to death on the Jefferson Hospital Emergency Room floor, Mumia screamed out a confession to Faulkner’s murder.” She continued, “The evidence barred by the court was the declarations by Yvette Williams, who was in jail with Cynthia White in December 1981, and Kenneth Pate, step-brother of Priscilla Durham, a Jefferson Hospital security guard who testified at Mumia’s trial to hearing the bogus confession.” In her 28 January 2002 declaration, Williams stated, “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.” In his 18 April 2003 declaration, Kenneth Pate recalled that Durham told him of pressure by the cops to say Mumia confessed, but confided to him that “All I heard him say was: ‘Get off me, get off me, they’re trying to kill me’.”
Wolkenstein pointed out that “the pretext for the court’s decision is Pennsylvania’s version of the epidemic of laws adopted across the country--chief among them Bill Clinton’s 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act--cutting off the right of appeals for the thousands on death row. Pennsylvania’s law was adopted shortly after Mumia’s first post-conviction relief (PCRA) hearings in 1995, precisely to cut off his appeal rights.” Wolkenstein continued, “It is one of the many ‘Mumia rules’ that have been used to keep this innocent man on death row. Recalling the infamous 1857 Dred Scott case, court after court—state and federal—have declared that this fighter for black freedom has no rights which they are bound to respect.”
Pam Africa, coordinator of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, stated, “I am not shocked by this decision. The PA Supreme Court has never ruled fairly in Mumia’s case, especially with former Philadelphia DA Ron Castille’s participation. This should wake people up to see the injustice in Mumia’s case.” Castille, chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, was the district attorney opposing Mumia’s first appeal, and was later one of the members of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court who turned down Mumia’s appeal of the denial of his PCRA in 1997.
According to Wolkenstein, “The current appeal shot down by the court was filed in 2003, shortly after the same court used the same rules to refuse to even consider the confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed officer Faulkner.” Wolkenstein explained, “Beverly stated that he and another man were hired to kill Faulkner because Faulkner interfered with graft and payoffs to allow prostitution, drugs and gambling in the Center City area. This, and a treasure trove of supporting evidence, was filed in federal and state courts along with Mumia’s own statement that he had nothing to do with the shooting. But these courts refuse to hear the evidence because it underscores that the frame-up of Mumia is not an aberration, the working of one racist judge or a few rogue cops, but the workings of the racist capitalist justice system.” She added, “Neither the evidence barred by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, nor other parts of the vast evidence of Mumia’s innocence, is even before the Third Circuit.”
Gene Herson, Labor Coordinator of the PDC, stated, “The racist capitalist rulers want Mumia’s legal lynching because they see in him the spectre of black revolt, because of his determined opposition to the racist oppression of black people which is a bedrock of American capitalism. There is no justice in this system for people like Mumia, for fighters for black freedom, for labor militants, for opponents of the capitalist system and its Democratic and Republican parties.” Herson stressed the need to mobilize the social power of the labor movement, along with all fighters against racist injustice, behind Mumia’s cause: “The only pressure that will have an impact on the capitalist rulers and their courts is the fear of the consequences of executing Mumia or entombing him for life. It took a campaign of international mass protest, crucially including trade unionists, to stay the executioner’s hand when Mumia was under a death warrant in 1995.” Herson pointed to the call by the PDC and other organizations for day-after emergency protests in the event of a negative decision by the Third Circuit and to a planned national protest in Philadelphia on the third Saturday after (http://www.partisandefense.org/events/index.html). He emphasized, “These protests must serve as a springboard to revive mass protest behind the call: Mumia is innocent--Free him now! Abolish the racist death penalty!”
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The PDC is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which champions cases and causes in the interest of the whole of the working people. This purpose is in accordance with the political views of the Spartacist League.