Mumia--background info part 2 (fwd)

Bill Koehnlein nyms1 at nyxfer.blythe.org
Sun Jun 4 14:30:37 MDT 1995


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Date: Sun, 4 Jun 95 15:21:15 EST
From: Bill Koehnlein <nyms1>
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Subject: Mumia--background info part 2


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>From: lucumi at ix.netcom.com (Kenneth Ritchards)
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>Subject: Background info on Mumia Abu-Jamal (part 2 of 2)
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THE TRIAL OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL #2

Source: nattyreb at ix.netcom.com (Marpessa Kupendua)

THE TRIAL OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL

by Leonard I. Weinglass
Attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal
"Live From Death Row"


The jury began deliberations at noon on the Friday of the
Fourth of July weekend.  By then they had been sequestered in a
downtown hotel and away from their families for almost three
weeks.  Not surprisingly, before the day was over they had
reached a verdict - guilty of first-degree murder.  However, they
were unable to do so without first requesting, following several
hours of deliberation, that they be reinstructed on the law of third-
degree murder and manslaughter.  Evidently, at least some jurors
were troubled by the fact that, even if they accepted the
prosecution's theory of the case, the element of premeditation was
lacking because the officer was not shot fatally until after Mumia
himself was shot; and then, presumably, as the result of an
unpremeditated reaction.  With the jury thus conflicted on the
lesser charges of manslaughter and third-degree murder, no one
anticipated this same jury would vote the death penalty.

The key to understanding why they did lies in what
transpired during that part of the case that followed, referred to as
the penalty phase. It is then that both sides present evidence
bearing on the issue of whether a sentence of life without parole
or a sentence of death should be imposed.  In a clear violation of
Mumia's constitutional rights, the prosecution presented evidence
of Mumia's background as a member of the Black Panther Party
some twelve years earlier and his political beliefs as reported in a
newspaper interview when he was just sixteen years old.  Beyond
doubt Mumia is on death row because of those political beliefs and
associations. The ensuing portion of the transcript reads like a
grotesque chapter out of the Inquisition.

It began when Mumia rose at counsel table to read a
statement to the jury, exercising the time-honored right of
allocution that all convicted persons have prior to being sentenced.
He was not sworn as a witness and did not take the stand.  In his
statement he expressed his innocence and eloquently claimed that
the proceedings were unfair.  Stunned by Mumia's accusations
against his handling of the case, the judge ruled that Mumia had
made himself a witness and could be cross-examined in front of
the jury.  The prosecutor only too eagerly rose to the occasion.

First, Mumia was asked why he didn't stand for the judge
when he entered the courtroom.  That irrelevant and prejudicial
inquiry was followed in rapid succession by a series of questions
about why Mumia didn't accept the court's rulings without rancor,
shouted at an appellate judge when his right to control his own
case was taken away, and engaged in a hostile exchange with the
court during pretrial hearings.  As if to answer these questions, the
prosecutor read from a twelve-year-old newspaper article about the
Black Panther Party that contained, among other things, an
interview of Mumia when he was just sixteen years old.  With his
voice rising, the prosecutor demanded to know whether Mumia
had ever said that "political power grows out of the barrel of a
gun."  Mumia calmly responded that the quote did not originate
with him but was a well-known dictum of Chairman Mao Ze-dong
of the People's Republic of China.  Continuing without letup, the
prosecutor asked if Mumia could recall having said, in the same
interview, "All power to the people."  Again Mumia
acknowledged the quote but insisted on the right to read
extensively from the news article in order to place his comments
in context.  The article, which had previously been kept out of
evidence by the court for being too prejudicial, included references
to the Black Panther Party, the breakfast program, and the party's
ongoing dispute with the Philadelphia Police Department.

Having thus portrayed Mumia as a radical black militant to
this nearly all-white jury, the prosecutor argued in summation that
it was Mumia's political history and disrespect of the system that
caused him to kill the policeman.  The jury returned a verdict of
death, after being allowed to focus on the irrelevant quoted words
of a sixteen-year-old, and disregarding the fact that Mumia had
grown into manhood without a single conviction on his record, had
a family, and the abiding respect and admiration of the
community.

The appeal that followed was no less irregular.  A year
passed before Judge Sabo got around to formally pronouncing the
sentence of death.  Mumia's first assigned appellate attorney did
nothing for an additional year and had to be removed from the
case by the appellate court.  His replacement counsel required
another year to reconstruct events and file the necessary papers.
Part of that reconstruction was an affidavit from Mumia's trial
attorney testifying to the number of African-Americans who had
been removed from the jury.  Due to the passage of time, the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court disregarded the affidavit, alleging
that the attorney's memory had faded in the interim.  All relief
was denied.  Only four justices, the minimum number required,
signed the court's opinion.  One of the four, Justice McDermott,
clearly should have disqualified himself, because he had been
involved in a direct and personal court confrontation with Mumia,
but didn't.  Chief Justice Nix, an African-American, inexplicably
removed himself from the case, as did another justice, Justice
Larson, also without comment.  That justice had been accused of
racial bias by the chief and was later prosecuted for a minor drug
offense, convicted, and subsequently removed from the bench
following impeachment by the Pennsylvania Senate.

The court's opinion, a particularly vituperative fifteen-page
document, possibly the result of Justice McDermott's personal
encounter with Mumia, rejected all of Mumia's claims respecting
constitutional and trial errors.  Sanctioned was the prosecutor's
racially skewed use of peremptory challenges, the court's
deprivation of Mumia's right to defend himself and be present, and
the improper cross-examination of both Sonia Sanchez and Mumia.
Most remarkably, the prosecutor's argument to the jury that
Mumia would have "appeal after appeal and perhaps there could
be a reversal of the case, or whatever, so that may not be final,"
was upheld.  That precise argument, undermining the need of the
jury to confront the finality of what they were being asked to do,
was specifically rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985.
Earlier the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had reversed a state
conviction that, ironically, was based on a summation given by the
very same prosecutor using the nearly identical argument he made
in Mumia's case.  The court chose to ignore both these precedents
and affirmed Mumia's death sentence.

Mumia fared no better with the U.S. Supreme Court.  It
refused to even consider his appeal.  However, that same year it
accepted, and decided favorably, a case in which a member of the
Aryan Brotherhood, a white racist organization, complained that
the prosecution had improperly used the fact of his political
association against him in the penalty phase of his trial.  Ruling
that the First Amendment to the Constitution bars such evidence,
the Court reversed his death sentence (Dawson v. Delaware, 503
U.S. 159 (1992)).  Mumia's petition to be joined in his appeal was
denied without comment.

Now, more than twelve years after his conviction, Mumia
is seeking a new trial in the state courts of Pennsylvania. If denied,
he plans to file a habeas corpus petition in the federal courts.
However, new restrictions imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court on
habeas corpus severely restrict his ability to obtain any relief.

For the first time, his case is being investigated.  Evidence
has already been found in support of his innocence.  However,
investigating his case more than a decade after the event has
proven both difficult and expensive.

At the time of this writing, a death warrant has not yet
been signed by the governor.  But because of the November 1994
election of Republican governor Thomas Ridge who ran, in part,
on expediting executions, there is danger that in early 1995 an
execution date will be set.  Mumia is near the top of the list of
those awaiting the signing of a warrant, so we are in a race against
time to save the innocent and, as the preceding pages attest,
eloquent "voice of the voiceless."  In the words of Ossie Davis,
cochair of the Committee to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal, "We need
Mumia desperately.  At a time like this, we cannot afford to let
them take such a voice from us without putting up a fight of
enormous proportions."<P>

-------------------------------------

MORE THAN A REASONABLE DOUBT
 by Del Jones from "Survival is Still a Crime"

1.  On the night of the incident, cab driver Robert Chobert said
the man who shot Officer Faulkner ran down the block.  However,
at the trial he said the man "slumped down on the curb 10 feet
away."
IS THIS A REASONABLE DOUBT?

2.  Cynthia White, the so-called star witness is a convicted
prostitute and she claims to have seen the D.A.'s version of the
incident.  However, the D.A. admitted in open court that he
allowed White's friend to sign his own bail in return for her
testimony.  Also, no one can place White at the scene, even her
friend Veronica Jones, another prostitute.  Finally, White claims
she did not see Mumia with a gun nor notice which hand he
allegedly shot with, yet the jury believed she was an eye witness.
IS THIS A REASONABLE DOUBT?

3.  Jeff Scanlon, a white businessman, testified that he saw the
defendant standing over the body firing.  However, on the night
of the incident in a written statement to police he described the
"assailant" as a heavyset man with an Afro-hairstyle.  The
defendant wears dreadlocks.
IS THIS A REASONABLE DOUBT?

4.  Dr. Coleta, Abu-Jamal's attending physician, speculated that
moments after being shot under the right nipple, with the bullet
tearing through his liver, Abu-Jamal was "weak and on the verge
of fainting."  Then how could he have fought the police and
confessed several times both at the scene or in the hospital?
IS THIS A REASONABLE DOUBT?

5.  Officer Gary Bell claims Abu-Jamal confessed to him as he
looked up from a hospital floor (what is the patient doing on the
floor) and said "I shot the mother---ker and I hope the mother---
ker dies."  However, this statement was made on February 25th
after Bell and others were charged with police brutality in the
Mumia case.  No form 7548 (incident report) was filed by Bell
about the alleged confession and he says he spoke to no one about
it ... it slipped his mind.
IS THIS A REASONABLE DOUBT?

6.  Dessie Hightower, a Black man, testified that Faulkner's gun
was still in his holster when he was put into a wagon on route to
the hospital.  He witnessed the brutal beating of Mumia and the
"accidental" ramming of his head into a pole.  But more
importantly, he saw a man run away from the scene in dreadlocks.
IS THIS A REASONABLE DOUBT?

7.  Police Investigator, Sergeant Westerman, in a written report
said, "the assailant was subsequently shot by police
reinforcements."  This evidence was suppressed by Judge Sabo,
however copies were leaked to the press.
IS THIS A REASONABLE DOUBT?

8.  Veronica Jones retracted her testimony stating she saw two
men walk then jog away from the scene.  However, the jury
obviously chose to believe the testimony of two prostitutes who
live outside the law and were obviously coerced by the system.
IS THIS A REASONABLE DOUBT?

9.  Then we have Detective William Thomas who was in charge
of the whole investigation and described himself as the hub of the
wheel that all the spokes fed into.  The 15 year veteran did not
have the TRACE METAL TEST done to determine if Mumia or
Faulkner held a weapon that night, nor did he dust Mumia's cab
for prints.  He did have photos taken of William Cooke with a hat
on and identified a piece of evidence as the hat.  However, on
closer inspection he had to admit the hat in his hand was not the
one in the photo.  It was proven it was not Mumia's.  Could it
have been the property of someone who had fled the scene?
IS THIS A REASONABLE DOUBT?

Judge Sabo also refused to call a policeman off of "vacation," who
had in a written statement to the police investigators said, "the
defendant made no comment."  He was guarding Mumia at the
hospital.  Somebody is lying, and now a Blackman must die.

It was Saturday, July 3rd, the eve of liberty, independence for the
sons and daughters of imperialist England, but as Blacks were
considered on paper in 1776 so they are considered in the
consciousness of America now - only three-fifths of a man, chattel
slaves to be hated.

---------------------------------------

CONTACT:
International Concerned Friends & Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA  19143
215-476-8812 phone & fax

Submitted by Sis. Marpessa.





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