Saturday, December 23, 2006

NYT article on Mumia!

from the New York Times

Condemned Killer Claims Innocence 25 Years Later
By Reuters
Published: December 23, 2006
Filed at 9:06 a.m. ET

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Condemned killer Mumia Abu-Jamal isn't getting his hopes up.

The former radio reporter who was convicted of murdering a Philadelphia policeman in 1981 is appealing his death sentence on grounds that his lawyer Robert Bryan says offer his best chance yet of a new trial.

But the former Black Panther who has spent almost a quarter-century on Death Row for a crime he says he did not commit -- and become an international cause celebre for the anti-death penalty movement -- says he knows better than to pin his hopes on the latest twist in a long legal saga.

``I have learned over the years to not get into the prediction business, and I have learned that the hard way,'' he said in an exclusive interview with Reuters from a state prison near Waynesburg in western Pennsylvania.

His earlier hopes were dashed in 1989 when his attorneys went before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and returned full of optimism.

``They came back and reported to me, 'You got it, you won,' and of course I believed them. Obviously, that was not the case,'' the 52-year-old said.

Abu-Jamal, who is black, was convicted and sentenced to death in July 1982 for killing Daniel Faulkner, a white policeman, in Philadelphia on December 9, 1981.

He has maintained his innocence, saying he was framed in a city that had a reputation for police brutality and where he had antagonized officials with his reporting on alleged police corruption.

Critics including the Fraternal Order of Police argue that several eyewitnesses identified Abu-Jamal as the killer, that the bullet that killed the policeman was of the same type used in Abu-Jamal's gun and that Abu-Jamal confessed to the killing while recovering from his wounds, according to testimony of a hospital security guard.

``What more do you need?'' said Peter Wirs, a Philadelphia Republican whose local party branch recently filed a lawsuit against the mayor of Paris for making Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen of the city. ``It's an open-and-shut case.''


The city council in Paris made Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen, while Paris suburb St. Denis has named a street after him.

Abu-Jamal also has attracted support from Amnesty International, the European Parliament and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who say they believe he was a victim of police and judicial racism and deserves at least a new trial.

Among other evidence, his backers cite a statement by the now-deceased trial Judge Albert Sabo, who sentenced Abu-Jamal to death and who, according to court documents, was overheard saying, ``Yeah, and I'm going to help 'em fry the nigger.''

Wirs denied Sabo's statement indicates the trial was racially biased. ``He was just expressing the general sentiment of most Philadelphians. He was biased and prejudiced against criminals,'' he said.

Faulkner's widow, Maureen, could not be reached for comment. The Philadelphia District Attorney, whose office prosecuted Abu-Jamal, declined to comment because the case is under appeal.

In Abu-Jamal's latest appeal, expected to be heard in early 2007, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will decide whether his trial was tainted by racial discrimination and whether he is entitled to a new trial.

For now, Abu-Jamal remains on Death Row because of appeals against another judge's lifting of the death sentence in 2001.

In a telephone interview lasting 15 minutes, the most allowed by prison authorities, Abu-Jamal said he lives a largely solitary life.

``The day can be encapsulated in the word 'isolation,''' he said. ``For 22 hours a day, you are in a cell by yourself. That's where you eat, that's where you sleep, that's where you do your ... bodily functions.''

The only possibility of contact with others is a two-hour exercise period at the maximum-security prison. But even that is often solitary during the winter because many inmates avoid the cold, he said.

In his cell, Abu-Jamal said he reads, writes columns on topics such as politics, the death penalty and the war in Iraq for a Web site run by his supporters and makes radio broadcasts for a San Francisco-based organization called Prison Radio.

Contact with his family is largely limited to phone calls because they live some 300 miles away in Philadelphia.

``My people are poor,'' he said. ``I don't see them often, maybe once or twice a year if we can manage it but sometimes not even that.''

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

House of Representatives Resolution Passed Against Mumia

Dear Friends,

The stealth vote in the House of Representatives denouncing Saint-Denis for naming a street in honor of Mumia, introduced by suspending the usual congressional process of going through the Judiciary Committee and limiting debate, will not go to the Senate and has no power of implementation. Yet it achieved an important goal for the "fry Mumia" camp. It succeeded in intimidating Philadelphia's House Representative Chaka Fattah. Fattah, who represents the district Mumia comes from, led the original Congressional Black Caucus Letter of June 1995 demanding: a stay of the then scheduled August 17th execution, a new trial for Mumia, and a recusal of Hanging Judge Albert Sabo. It also stated that there was strong evidence of Mumia's innocence. Fattah recently announced that he will give up his seat in the Congress and seek the Mayoralty of Philadelphia. No sooner had he announced his intentions to become Mayor, when the Fraternal Order of Police began its attack on him as a supporter of a new trial for "cop-killer" Mumia Abu-Jamal. The FOP actually sent an observer to the House when the vote on the Saint-Denis came up. Sadly, Chaka Fattah collapsed under that pressure and voted "yes" -- to support the anti-Mumia resolution. He said he still supported the idea of a new trial for Mumia, but felt it was wrong to honor someone convicted of so horrible a crime. Logical? Certainly not. A victim of police intimidation? Certainly, yes. The FOP has stated that they will still not support Fattah even though they were pleased with his vote, because he supports a new trial for Mumia. What can we expect next?

The Free Mumia Coalition is sending letters of appreciation to the 31 Congressional Representatives who opposed the Resolution. See the list of votes linked below. And we are urging all Mumia supporters to check out how their reps votes. If they supported the resolution send them a letter of criticism. The sample letter linked below, by Mark Taylor is an example of an excellent letter you can feel free to use. Pam Africa is out of the country, attending a political prisoners/torture/isolation conference in Athens, with Ramona. She was part of this discussion before leaving, and feels strongly that we
should "educate" and challenge those who went along with that ridiculous yet outrageous resolution.

A LUTA CONTINUA, ona move!

Suzanne Ross, Co-chair, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coaliltion (NYC)


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Legal Update

Dear Friends:

Two weeks ago the District Attorney of Philadelphia filed a brief in reply to our most recent brief filed on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Even though this was to be the last of the briefs before oral argument, we felt obligated to respond due to the complexity of the issues and the government's factual misrepresentations. Attached is the Response of Appellee and Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, to Sur-Reply Brief, submitted this week to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia.

This case is of enormous consequence. It concerns the political repression of an outspoken journalist known globally as the "Voice of the Voiceless," the right to a fair trial, and the struggle against the death penalty. The authorities want to kill my client in order to silence his voice and pen. We must not let that occur. Racism and politics are threads that have run through this case since his arrest on December 9, 1981, and continue today.

Each of the issues under consideration by the federal court are of great constitutional significance. They include:

* The prosecutor's exclusion of African Americans from sitting on the jury.

* The bias and racism of the trial judge, Albert F. Sabo, who stated that he was going to "help'em fry the nigger."

* The prosecutor's "appeal after appeal" argument that essentially called upon the jurors to disregard the right to the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt, and err on the side of guilt.

* The judge's unfair and skewed jury instructions and verdict form that resulted in the death penalty, since jurors were precluded from considering any mitigating evidence unless they all agreed on the existence of a particular special circumstance.

We will be presenting oral argument before a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Even though no date has been set, this will likely occur within the next few months.

My purpose remains to win this life-and-death struggle, gain a new and fair trial, and see my client walk out of jail a free person. However, as I have warned, Mr. Abu-Jamal remains in great danger.

Thank you for your concern in this campaign for justice.

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123

Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

View the document at:

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Mumia Abu-Jamal Case After 25 Years

From Counterpunch

December 1, 2006
A CounterPunch Special Report

Still More Keystone Kops Antics

By Linn Washington, Jr.

W hether the fundamental errors riddling recent actions by opponents of Pennsylvania death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal constitute mere mistakes or malicious misrepresentations, these errors resemble sequels to the Keystone Kops silent film-era comedy series.

These error filled antics occur as Abu-Jamal approaches the 25th Anniversary of his December 9, 1981 arrest for fatally shooting a Philadelphia policeman and as a pivotal legal action moves forward in federal appeals court revolving around whether Abu-Jamal received a fair trial in 1982.

The latest faux pas by Abu-Jamal opponents regards errors in an October letter sent to officials in Paris requesting that they rescind the honorary citizenship granted three years ago to the death row inmate viewed globally as a victim of injustice in America.

This letter states that a delegation of Philadelphia City officials, including the Police Commissioner, planned a late-November trip to Paris to negotiate rescinding the honorary citizenship in exchange for these officials getting Abu-Jamal's death sentence cancelled.

However, the four Philadelphia officials listed as delegation members all deny knowing anything about either the trip or the deal.

Further, these officials have no power to cancel Abu-Jamal's death sentence.

Peter J. Wirs, the Philadelphia figure behind the delegation/deal, says he is surprised by the errors in that letter prepared on his behalf by a lawyer in Paris.

"I haven't done anything yet to formalize the delegation or the planned trip. We haven't raised any money," Wirs said recently, adding that he "hasn't seen" the letter sent on his behalf.

Wirs also distanced himself from the deal proposed in that letter.

"An offer to pull the death penalty is so ridiculous. We have no authority to take the death penalty off the table," said Wirs, a minor figure in Philadelphia's Republican Party, a party that represents only sixteen percent of the city's registered voters.

Wirs dismissed errors in that letter as minor mistakes probably resulting from "translations from English to Frenchtoo many chefs' hands in this soup"

That October letter also contains the erroneous claim that Abu-Jamal shot Officer Daniel Faulkner five times in the face, a claim contradicted by police, prosecutors and judicial findings throughout the quarter-century tenure of this case.

That October letter prompted a written response to Parisian officials from Abu-Jamal attorney, Robert R. Bryan.

Bryan wrote that the letter is "appalling since it contains material misrepresentations and errors."

Ironically, errors by police, prosecutors, jurists and other authorities during the arrest, conviction and state court appeals of Abu-Jamal fuel the worldwide belief that Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial and is thus unjustly convicted.

These errors include police failing to give Abu-Jamal the standard hand test after his arrest to determine if he actually fired a gun, prosecutors failing to provide Abu-Jamal's trial attorney with compelling evidence indicating his innocence and the notoriously pro-prosecution trial judge making racist remarks.

"Only in America could a trial judge say"I'll help them fry the Nigger," and be considered fair," Abu-Jamal stated in a letter to Parisian officials.

"The trial featured lies, just as the threatening letter to you did," Abu-Jamal's letter stated. "If the trial was truly fair, why would the Philadelphia letter propose a deal?"

Prior to that error-filled October letter, Philadelphia area legislative leaders mounted equally error-filled actions against the Paris suburb of St. Denis for naming a street in honor of Abu-Jamal.

The anti-St. Denis Resolution approved by Philadelphia's City Council at the end of May, for example, contains the erroneous declaration that "Mumia Abu-Jamal has exhausted all legal appeals"

Since the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals, headquartered in Philadelphia, approved Abu-Jamal's request for an appeal in late 2005, it is factually incorrect to contend that Abu-Jamal "has exhausted" all of his appeals.

Not only did the 3rd Circuit agree to hear the appeal claim of that prosecutors used racial discrimination while selecting the jury for Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial, the Circuit Court also took an unusual step in granting appeal on other items like allegations of judicial bias during a 1995 appeals hearing for Abu-Jamal.

The intensity of the bias exhibited by Judge Albert Sabo during that 1995 hearing offended even Philly's normally anti-Mumia mainstream news media to the point of their publishing editorials condemning Sabo for both making a mockery of justice and providing Abu-Jamal supporters with additional ammunition to back their claims of gross injustice.

Interestingly, Peter Wirs does not dispute that Sabo made the racist pre-trial remark and Wirs readily admits that police did not follow proper forensic standards while investigating the murder.

Yet, Wirs contends Abu-Jamal is guilty as charged, despite seeming violations of his constitutional rights.

"When you look at Sabo's statements and his rulings in the trial, they are not perfect but they are fair," Wirs claims. "The errors and problems with the criminal justice system in this case do not mitigate against the fact that Abu-Jamal's gun was found at the scene. That is the heart of this case."

The fact that police could not conclusively match bullet fragments removed from the slain officer to Abu-Jamal's gun is immaterial according to Wirs.

"This is a circumstantial evidence case," said Wirs, acknowledging that he is working with Philadelphia's police union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the prime group pushing for Abu-Jamal's execution.

That Philadelphia City Council Resolution supported a congressional Resolution introduced in mid-May by two Philly area Congresspersons, Republican Michael Fitzpatrick and Democrat Allyson Schwartz.

This congressional Resolution contains fundamental errors.

The Fitzpatrick/Schwartz Resolution, in recounting facts of the case, makes the erroneous claim that "Mumia Abu-Jamal struck Officer Faulkner four times in the back with his gun"

This claim contradicts the scenario presented at trial by the prosecutor and this claim contradicts the version of events on the official Justice for Daniel Faulkner Web site. This site, according to its founders, exists to provide "an accurate source of information"

Pa Republican U.S. Senator Rich Santorum also introduced an anti-St. Denis resolution in the Senate mimicking the congressional resolution.

"No one ever claimed Mumia struck Faulkner's back four times. While this may evoke the image of a heroic officer striking back against all odds, it is sheer fantasy," noted Dr. Michael Schiffmann, the German author of a new book on the Abu-Jamal case, "Race Against Death. Mumia Abu-Jamal: a Black Revolutionary in White America."

According to Schiffmann, "One might say such "details" are unimportant, but if they are so unimportant, why bring them up?"

Answering his rhetorical question, Schiffmann says this erroneous information makes "something these law and order representatives know nothing about seem more real."

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, states Keystone Kops is a term used to criticize any group for its mistakes, particularly if the mistakes happen after a great deal of energy and activity, or if there is a lack of coordination among members of the group.

Dr. Schiffmann's book presents new, startling information on this controversial case.

Schiffmann provides information blowing big holes in the ballistics evidence presented by prosecutors and police.

Further, Schiffmann's book presents previously unpublished pictures taken by a press photographer who arrived at the 1981 crime scene before police photographers that show police personnel tampering with evidence and manipulating the crime scene.

Peter Wirs recently filed a lawsuit in France, asserting that officials' in Paris and its St. Denis suburb violated French criminal law by respectively issuing the citizenship to a convicted murderer and placing his name on a street.

St. Denis officials did not complain in 2001 when local and state officials renamed most of Philadelphia's Roosevelt Blvd. "Daniel Faulkner Memorial Highway."

The intense reaction in Philadelphia to the street naming in far off St. Denis stuns former St. Denis Mayor, Patrick Braouezec, who sees the reaction as surreal.

"By doing this, we are just contributing to the possibility of Mumia having a new and fair trial and put the issue of the death penalty on the table," Braouezec said during an interview while visiting Philadelphia in September where the city's mayor refused to meet with Braouezec about the street naming.

"There was no intention on our part to provoke or offend the memory of the slain officer or his family," said Braouezec, currently a member of the French National Assembly, the Congress of France.

Patrick Braouezec finds it difficult "to conceive that with the problems in the American criminal justice system and issues in the Abu-Jamal case that the level of resistance to this man receiving a fair trial is so intense."

The intense resistance, Braouezec said, "is political. There have been lesser cases with lesser doubts that received new trials."

Few either opposed to or supportive of Abu-Jamal remember the case of Neil Ferber; a Philadelphia man arrested six months before Abu-Jamal's December 1981 arrest.

Philadelphia police and prosecutors framed Ferber for a mob related murder, sending him to death row for 1,375-days before his release.

A court ruling in lawsuit Ferber filed over his false imprisonment declared that "this case presents a Kafkaesque nightmare of the sort which we normally would characterize as being representative of the so-called justice system of a totalitarian stateunfortunatelyit happened here in Philadelphia."

This ruling noted that a "variety of Philadelphia police" engaged in a litany of misconduct "for the singular purpose of obtaining Ferber's arrest and subsequent conviction on first degree murder charges.

Evidence also showed that the jail-house snitch whose testimony sealed Ferber's conviction had flunked a lie-detector test ordered by prosecutors but prosecutors withheld this information from Ferber's trial attorney.

Philadelphia officials bitterly opposed Ferber's lawsuit for compensation.

Ferber eventually received a million dollar-plus settlement for his false incarceration, however, authorities penalized no police officer or prosecutor involved in the framing of Ferber.

Didier Paillard, St. Denis' current mayor, declared during the street naming ceremony this spring that the Abu-Jamal case is not just a "symbol" in the struggle for justice.

Paillard said Abu-Jamal's struggle symbolizes "resistance against a system which has the arrogance to reign over the world in the name of those same human rights that it tramples with complete impunity on its own soil."

Linn Washington Jr. is a Philadelphia journalist who has reported on the Abu-Jamal case since December 1981. Washington is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune newspaper.

Update On The Situation in France

November 30, 2006

Sisters and Brothers,

The right wing forces of Philadelphia and wherever else were not able to pull off their attempt to intimidate the French with threats of a legal suit, with offers of life in prison without parole (which they had no power to enforce), and after being prepared for in France, both in Saint-Denis and in Paris, with Pam Africa and Ramona Africa right there, with a series of meetings with the mayors, with demonstrations, and a press conference -- backed off completely and never even showed up!

All Power to the People! The international solidarity movement for Mumia just won a great victory in forcing the enemy to back down.

See the message below from Saint-Denis. Also, check out Mumia's perfectly pronounced French message to the press conference tomorrow in Paris on, under messages. [Or here it, and all of Mumia's commentaries, on his podcast. Go to for more info]

-Suzanne Ross, Co-Chair of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, NYC

Here's the latest letter from Saint Denis city hall in response to the "non-existant delegation" and their demands... We just got it today:

Press release

The city hall of Saint Denis denounces the manipulations of certain ultra-conservative pressure groups, and reasserts its commitment in favor of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The city hall of Saint Denis re-affirms yet again its support to the women and men who are demanding Mumia Abu-Jamal be treated with fairness and justice. The picket this 30th day of November 2006 has been organized to protest against the pressure brought to bear on the city of Saint Denis by members of the american extreme right in order to bring about the cancellation of our decision to name one of our streets after an African American militant who has been unfairly incarcerated and sentenced to the death penalty.

This ultra conservative pressure group, based in Philadelphia, has not hesitated to make use of the grossest manipulations. Thus, the widely disseminated information according to which the city of Philadelphia is suing the cities of Saint Denis and Paris, because of their commitment in favor of Mumia Abu-Jamal - is nothing but a lie. The Mayor of Philadelphia, as well as the president of its city council, informed the city of Saint Denis that they never intended to file any kind of suit, and have absolutely nothing to do with this campaign.

This manipulation was unmasked, and it should be know that the Philadelphia politician who initiated it, though a member of George Bush's party, was defeated during the recent american elections.

Whatever the case may be, the city hall of Saint Denis is proud to have named a street of this city in honor of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has become one of the symbols, of the struggle for justice and the abolition of the death penalty in the US and throughout the world.

It is not the first time that an international mobilization has taken place in favor of American citizens who are unfairly sentenced in their own country. Such was the case for Nicola Sacco, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, between 1920 and 1927, for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who died on the electric chair in 1953, and subsequently in 1972 for Angela Davis initially sentenced for murder, before being acquitted of all charges.

The city hall of Saint Denis will steadfastly pursue the struggle to save Mumia Abu-Jamal, so that this man incarcerated for a quarter of a century for a crime he has always claimed he did not commit - be reinstated in his human rights.

Saint Denis 30th of November 2006