Despite an international, high profile campaign for his release, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal was denied by Philadelphia Judge Lucretia Clemons on Friday, March 31. Abu-Jamal has spent over 40 years in prison, convicted of killing a police officer after being politically persecuted for his work as a journalist and Black liberation fighter. The movement for his release has spanned decades and has grown to international levels, with high-profile figures such as NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim counted among his supporters. As Angela Davis wrote in an open letter in February, on December 16, a judge ruled that over over 200 boxes of materials must be handed to Abu-Jamal’s defense after previously-unseen exculpatory evidence was mysteriously discovered in 2018.
Today at 4:08 pm, March 31, 2023, Common Pleas court Judge Lucretia Clemons denied Mumia Abu-Jamal’s request for a new trial. This is simply devastating news. After 43 years in prison, Mumia Abu-Jamal has exhausted nearly all of his avenues for relief. Make no mistake: Justice required that Mumia Abu-Jamal be given a new trial. The enemy now is time. At 68 years old Mumia is suffering from cardiac disease and has had a double bypass, and nearly died from lack of treatment for acute Hepatitis C. If you put thick blinders on that block out all reality and rely on procedural minutia for cover, honestly, it is still impossible to avoid the scorchingly blatant racism of trial Judge Albert Sabo, Assistant District Attorney Joseph McGill, Mayor and former police chief Frank Rizzo, District Attorney during Mumia’s trial Ed Rendell, and Ron Castille, DA and former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice.
It has been 43 years. When is Mumia Abu-Jamal going to receive a new trial? Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons has the opportunity to overturn Mumia's conviction and grant a new trial. The time to do that is right now. The shocking new evidence that suggests bribery, perjury, and packing the jury with white jurors should be heard in open court. Evidence of constitutional violations in jury selection (a Batson claim) and suppression of evidence favorable to the accused (a Brady claim) was buried in the prosecutors files for four decades. It is now before this court.
We want to sincerely be upfront that whilst we are believers of separation of powers in any democratic dispensation, the sustained injustice that has consistently visited Mumia Abu-Jamal who has been kept in jail in what we believe and regard as unjustifiable reasons, compelled us as the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa for years now, to be part of the international justice campaign in support of freedom of political prisoners in the world who have been victims of various political systems at whose center stands injustice. We firmly believe that the time has come that justice must prevail and Mumia Abu-Jamal must be set free.
This week, Clearing the FOG speaks with two advocates for the freedom of political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier. Mumia Abu-Jamal is waiting to hear if Judge Lucretia Clemons will grant a new hearing on his case that includes new evidence of corruption in the legal process that led to his false conviction. On February 16, port workers will strike on the West Coast in support of an international day of action in for Mumia. Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio talks about his case and the carceral state. Leonard Peltier has now served almost 50 years in prison on a murder charge involving FBI agents. Coleen Rowley, a whistleblower formerly with the FBI, recently wrote to President Biden asking for clemency for Peltier. Rowley discusses the COINTEL Program, which is very much alive, and the culture inside the FBI. Both call on the public to take action to free Abu-Jamal and Peltier.
This is the hour to fight for Mumia’s freedom. On Thursday, Feb. 16th, longshore workers in ILWU Local 10 will shut down the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco to demand freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mumia was framed for killing a police officer. With Tyree Nichols’ murder, we know who the real criminals are! Other actions are being organized for Feb. 16: Unions in South Africa will demonstrate in Pretoria at the U.S. Embassy, and in Durban at the U.S. Consulate. Railroad workers in Japan (in the Doro-Chiba union) will organize a demonstration for Mumia in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Bay Area teachers will also teach on Mumia’s case on February 16th. We call on all Bay Area justice supporters to hold the date of Feb. 16 to join the ILWU action for Mumia ‘s freedom. More info will be sent out shortly. Why now? Judge Lucretia Clemons of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has ordered the Philadelphia District Attorney to turn over its files up to 200 boxes to Mumia’s defense team.
Award-winning journalist and author Mumia Abu-Jamal has been in prison for 41 years in a case infused with racism. The 68-year-old is a former Black Panther and the author of a dozen books, including the celebrated Live from Death Row. After his 1982 conviction in the killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner, Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death. In 2011, his sentence was reduced to life without the possibility of parole. Abu-Jamal has a serious heart condition and other life-threatening health problems. Faulkner stopped Abu-Jamal’s younger brother William Cook on the morning of December 9, 1981. Abu-Jamal, who was driving a taxi, coincidentally drove by and came to his brother’s assistance. Following a shootout, Faulkner was shot and killed. Abu-Jamal was shot in the stomach.
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s conviction turned importantly on unreliable and conflicting testimony. It was significant that in taking up the case, elite news media went along for the ride, and sometimes drove the car—encouraging acceptance, for instance, of the fact that, though the guard assigned to Mumia immediately after his arrest reported “the negro male made no statements,” more to be believed was the other officer who subsequently came forward to say that, actually, from his hospital bed, Mumia had declared, “I shot the motherfucker and I hope he dies.” Neither witness recantations or shifting accounts or evidence of jury-purging in Mumia’s case, nor the ever-expanding evidence of the terrible harms and injustices of the US prison system generally, seem to be enough to shake some media from their investment in the narrative of the “convicted cop killer,” and the need to keep him not just behind bars, but also to keep him and people “similar to” him quiet, to keep their voices and their lives out of public conversation and consideration.
This week on CounterSpin: A 1995 Washington Post story led with a macabre account from the widow of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, about how when her husband’s bloody shirt was held up in court, his accused killer Mumia Abu-Jamal turned in his chair and smiled at her. An evocatively sinister report, which the paper printed untroubled by the fact that the court record showed that Abu-Jamal wasn’t in court when the shirt was displayed. ABC‘s investigative news show 20/20 used all the techniques for their big 1998 piece on the conviction of Abu-Jamal for Faulkner’s killing—stating prosecution claims as fact, even when they were disputed by some of the prosecution’s own witnesses or the forensic record; stressing how a defense witness admitted being intoxicated, while omitting that prosecution witnesses said the same.
Yesterday, at 12:45pm October 26, 2022, a proposed order denying Mumia Abu-Jamal’s constitutional claims of jury bias and suppressed evidence was issued by Common Pleas court Judge Lucretia Clemons. Abu-Jamal’s defense petition included newly discovered evidence that had been buried in the prosecutor’s own files. This evidence documented key witnesses receiving promises of money for their testimony and evidence of favorable treatment in pending criminal cases. The petition also documented the abhorrent and unconstitutional practice of striking Black jurors during Mumia’s original trial. Philadelphia ADA Jack McMahon made the policy clear in a 1986 training tape stating that getting “a competent, fair and impartial jury. Well, that's ridiculous,'…“You don't want smart people. But if you're sitting down and you're going to take Blacks, you want older Blacks."
The United States constantly accuses its adversaries of holding political prisoners, while insisting it has none of its own. But for its entire history, the US government has used incarceration of its political opponents as a tool to crush dissent and advance the interests of economic elites. Well-known cases are those entrapped or framed in US national security state sting operations, or imprisoned with extreme sentences for a minor offense because of their political activism, such as Black revolutionary George Jackson. Each period of struggle by the working class and oppressed peoples against ruling-class control results in some activists locked up for their revolutionary work. “Political prisoner” has often meant those revolutionaries jailed for fighting their national oppression, as is the case with a great number of Black Panthers.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - On July 3 people in Philadelphia and dozens of other cities across the U.S. and around the globe marked the 40th anniversary of the unlawful and unjust imprisonment of Pennsylvania political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, including 29 years on death row. Now imprisoned for life in the general population, Abu-Jamal is still fighting for exoneration. In Philadelphia activists gathered at the Municipal Services Building across from City Hall. Until June 2020, a hated statue of racist former Philadelphia Mayor and police chief Frank Rizzo stood on the plaza.
The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection — a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month.
Philadelphia public broadcaster WHYY (4/24/21) was one of the few outlets to report on an April 24 rally seeking the release from prison of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The story included important information on Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life sentence for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. It noted that the case has “drawn scrutiny” over claims of police, prosecutorial and judicial bias and misconduct. It cited new evidence released as part of the appeal process, including a note from a key prosecution witness asking the prosecuting attorney for money—the sort of evidence that Johanna Fernandez, a history professor and part of Abu-Jamal’s legal team, notes has in other instances led to a defendant either being set free or getting an immediate new trial.
Ann Garrison: Mumia has finally had the open-heart surgery that his team and his wife had such a hard time getting any information about beforehand. Johanna Fernandez: That’s correct. But Mumia’s chosen doctor, Dr. Ricardo Alvarez, has not been given access to the surgeons. Mumia was finally able to call his wife Wadiya Abu-Jamal several days before the surgery, but at that point he was very weak and was only able to whisper to her that he would be undergoing surgery two days later. He was allowed to call her after the surgery, and she said he sounded strong. AG: Was there any response to the campaign to remove the shackles – the four-point restraints – ahead of Mumia’s surgery.