The case of Mumia Abu Jamal, who was framed with the murder of a police officer, has had some important breakthroughs in the last month including allowing him appeal rights and the finding of six previously undisclosed boxes of evidence in his case. This could result in the dismissal of his case and release from prison after 37 years. We talk with Rachel Wolkenstein, who has served as an attorney and advocate for Mumia since 1990. Wolkenstein explains the significance of his case in the context of racist police enforcement, mass incarceration, the myths of US justice and legal lynching and describes evidence showing Mumia was framed because of his political activism. She argues that Mumia will only get justice if a mass movement demands it.
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Rachel Wolkenstein is a life-long political activist and an attorney for over 40 years defending civil liberties and civil rights, focused on the exercise of First Amendment rights, challenging the injustices of the American judicial system in criminal prosecutions and opposing the racist death penalty. From 1976-2010 she was staff counsel for the Partisan Defense Committee, a legal and social defense organization based on principles of non-sectarianism and class-struggle defense.
Wolkenstein assisted in building a world-wide campaign for former death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and was co-counsel during his post-conviction appeal proceedings from 1995-1999, responsible for much of the new evidence of his innocence and the state misconduct used to convict him and sentence him to death. Since then Wolkenstein has remained a legal and public advocate for freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Wolkenstein was the legal consultant for the 2013 short film Manufacturing Guilt by producer Stephen Vittoria, Street Legal Cinema. In defense of the First Amendment, Wolkenstein filed <em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>amicus curiae briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court, including opposition to the government’s vast expansion of police powers in the “war against terror,” in Rumsfeld v. Padilla.
For the past two years Wolkenstein has been an advocate with the Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson and since September 2014 has been representing co-defendant Corey Walker in his post-conviction appeals. Both men are serving life sentences in Pennsylvania for a murder they did not commit. Johnson and Walker were targets of the “war on drugs” and are among the over 100,000 innocent men and women who were convicted and remain imprisoned in the U.S.