BY JOHN STAGGS AND HATTIE McCUTCHEON
PHILADELPHIA"In Italy, Japan, France, South Africa, Brazil, Canada, and throughout the United States, thousands of people have petitioned, organized, and demonstrated in the streets demanding justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal, an end to the death penalty, and a new trial. This is one of the most important political campaigns for justice today," stated Pam Africa, chairperson of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFM). She was speaking before an African-American history class at Temple University on October 31.
In speaking engagements across the country to build for an international day of protest November 6, Africa insists, "In fighting to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal you are not fighting simply for him, but you are fighting for yourselves."
This case has brought international attention and pressure against the racist nature of the death penalty, which, as Abu-Jamal says, "is the fastest growing housing track for African-Americans in the country today." The campaign to free the Pennsylvania death row inmate is exposing the racist nature of the entire judicial process, stated Africa.
Abu-Jamal was convicted in 1982 of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and has been on death row ever since. The battle for his freedom is currently focusing on winning a new trial.
On September 15, despite compelling new evidence, Judge Albert Sabo issued a ruling rejecting Abu-Jamal's appeal for a new trial. Sabo presided over Abu-Jamal's original trial. He is notorious as a "hanging judge" who has sentenced twice as many people to death as any other judge in the entire country. Most of those Sabo sent to the executioner's chair - 27 out of 32 - were Black.
Abu-Jamal's lawyers presented testimony contradicting the original 1982 evidence the cops used. A host of new witnesses said that Abu-Jamal was not the man who shot Faulkner. Expert testimony was presented refuting the ballistics evidence of the prosecution. The defense also presented evidence of police brutality and harassment. Judge Sabo summarily dismissed the entire claim, stating, "The petitioner fails to prove by a preponderance of the evidence each and every claim presented to this court."
Abu-Jamal's hearing took place alongside the exposure of decades of criminal activities in the Philadelphia police department and highway patrol.
Six cops in the 39th District admitted to framing people up, lying, beating "sus-pects," and planting evidence on innocent people. Judge Sabo, in his 154-page brief denying Abu-Jamal a new trial, stated, "Petitioner failed to sustain his burden of proving that the police `brutally beat' him or `hurled racial epithets at him.' No witnesses were coerced or intimidated, nor is there any evidence that these nonexistent events were `part of the Philadelphia Police Department's pattern and practice.' "
Sabo's decision is being appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
"A national and international campaign forced Judge Sabo to lift the August 17 execution order and grant Mumia a stay. Now more than ever we must keep the pressure on, no matter who's in office, to assure our brother gets a new trial," said Africa.
Support for the struggle to free Abu-Jamal is growing among college and high school students and other youth.
Theresa Goodlowe of the ICFFM said in an interview that a recent tour of campuses in Ohio to build the November 6 rally was very successful. Students from all backgrounds and nationalities were eager to support the case, she said. Groups from Antioch and Oberlin are bringing vans to Philadelphia for the rally.
At Temple University, Goodlowe said, a student asked, "Why wasn't this a big focus at the Million Man March? This is something we all should be involved in." In a law class at Swarthmore College, another student said, "This case is obviously much broader than Mumia. This goes to the heart of the judicial system in this country."
At Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, students invited supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal to come and speak. The campus newspaper had run a front-page article entitled, "Mumia Must Fry Now!" The article covered the case from the view of the cops and prosecution only. After Africa spoke and gave the facts of the case, many of the students, most of them white, organized to remove all the issues of the newspaper from campus.
At Rowan College, University of Delaware, Boston University, and other schools, student groups are organizing to bring buses, vans, or carloads to Philadelphia to participate on November 6 .
Local events are also planned in New York, Pittsburgh, and other cities on November 6.
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