“Protest to save Mumia’s life” Article

Protest to save Mumia’s life

Civil rights investigation demanded

By Dolores Cox
Philadelphia

Published Oct 28, 2009 4:49 PM

The International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ) coalition convened an urgent meeting here on Oct. 17. Mumia supporters from Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C., were in attendance. It was a fightback strategy meeting of critical importance. Mumia, who has been on death row for over 27 years, is now, more than ever, faced with having his life snuffed out by the political powers that be.

At the Oct. 17 meeting organizers said that if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the original 1982 death penalty verdict and overturns the current verdict of life without parole, then Mumia’s execution is imminent.

History of injustice

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge signed Mumia’s death warrant. The execution was scheduled to take place on Aug. 17, 1995, Marcus Garvey’s birthday. That execution was stayed by a national emergency protest, and Mumia’s life was saved, pending further appeals.

However, in December 2001, Mumia’s 1982 death sentence was actually overturned by the federal court and subsequently upheld by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals this past April, though it nonetheless upheld his guilty verdict. He was thus granted life in prison without parole. The prosecution then appealed that ruling, again seeking the death penalty.

In April the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review an appeal demanding a new trial for Mumia. This court’s next step will be to decide whether to reinstate the death penalty, which the Philadelphia District Attorney office is clamoring for, or to rule in favor of life in prison without parole. If the Supreme Court rules to continue with the current sentence of life without parole, the D.A. can choose to accept this decision or request a review of it and continue to pursue Mumia’s execution. Neither decision is acceptable to Mumia supporters who are continuing to fight for his release or a new, fair trial at the very least.

A case currently being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court (Smith v. Spisak) could have implications for Mumia’s fate, which now hangs in the balance. At issue is whether the judge’s instructions to the jury were confusing and faulty regarding when a verdict is arrived at and if juries are being confused as to whether mitigating factors that could lead to greater leniency require unanimity. A 1988 Supreme Court case (Mills v. Maryland) ruled the judge erred in instructing the jury and overturned the lower court’s death sentence. Both Mumia and Spisak share this issue. The question is also whether that ruling applies to states other than Maryland.

Grave situation requires response

The gravity of Mumia’s situation is compounded by other events. The current Philadelphia District Attorney has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for reinstatement of the death penalty. And the leading candidate running for the D.A. position, Seth Williams, an African American, is campaigning on the promise to sign a warrant for Mumia’s execution, with the backing of Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police.

Additionally, current Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was actively involved in Mumia’s prosecution, and has made it eminently clear that he would sign a death warrant for Mumia if the Supreme Court affirms the death sentence. Another factor is the scheduled December release of a documentary film about Mumia by Tigre Hill, also an African American, called “Barrel of the Gun,” which supports the police version of events on Dec. 9, 1981, that led to Mumia’s arrest.

The ICFFMAJ, the New York Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, and numerous other organizations and collectives in Washington, New York and Philadelphia are presently mobilizing an international demonstration in Washington on Nov. 12 at the U.S. Department of Justice. There they will be delivering the collection of signed letters to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder demanding a civil rights investigation of the 28-year conspiracy to execute Mumia, an innocent man, for his political beliefs. Locally, Philadelphia activists will also be protesting against Seth Williams.

An urgent appeal is being made for all activists to participate in the Nov. 12 press conference and letter delivery actions in Washington. A civil rights investigation into this case could mean the difference between life and death for Mumia, and might open the door for his release from the hellhole of death row.

Massive outreach and publicity are needed. For transportation from New York City on Nov. 12, call 212-330-8029. For more information visit www.freemumia.com or call 212-330-8029, 215-476-8812, or 301-762-9162.

Join the fight against injustice and racism. We must act now before it’s too late. Free Mumia!

The writer is an International Action Center volunteer in New York.