What a brilliant evening that was - congratulations.
Some of us stayed up til late at night to watch the event. Here is what they wrote in english for a german indymedia website:
An evening with Mumia's new legal team
(Harlem, NYC) Mumia Abu-Jamal's legal defense gained strength a couple of weeks ago, when the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) officially joined his defense. Although lawyers of the LDF have been members of the team for several years already they now take on the leading role in the legal struggle to free Mumia Abu-Jamal. On April 3 the newly formed defense team presented themselves to an audience of 150 in Riverside Church in New York.
The LDF looks back on a long history of successful legal litigations in the civil rights campaign in the US. The new legal team for Mumia involves Johanna Steinberg, Vincent Southerland, Judith Ritter and Christina Swarns. They are accompanied by two speakers who will speak publically for them in the future, too.
The event took off with speeches by activists of the US Free Mumia movement. Greetings went out to many people who sometimes had traveled far to join the event.
Attorney Judith Ritter spoke on Mumia Abu-Jamal's long case history and pointing out the renewed danger of the death penalty against him.
Mumia himself called from death row and answering questions from the audience. Listeners were very enthusiatic about being able to direct contact with Mumia and he seemed clearly moved himself.
Attorney Christina Swarns gave an historic overview on racism in society and the justice system up until today in connection to the way, Mumia has been treated by the system.
She started by explaining the historic roots of legal executions. The death penalty in the US is a direct descendant of slavery and the following practice of lynching, especially in the south of the country. This became notorious in the era of "reconstruction". As the criticism of these racist murders increased, the death penalty then "legally" replaced mob lynchings. Looking at the numbers of executions in the US today it is obvious, that they mostly take place in the former strongholds of lynching.
The purpose of the death penalty is the same as the klan lynchings of the past: to keep millions of African Americans in their place and force them to accept segregtion and expolitation. It is a method of social control which clearly demonstrates, that it is predominantly race, that dictates in court who is going to live and who is going to die. Christina Swarns: "The death penalty is a weapon of social control".
Another aspect is the different treatment of black and white murder victims. While half or all murder victims in the country are black, the offenders are not executed very often. If there is a white murder victim, executions take place very often, though.
Swarns went on to describe legal procedures and the endemic manipulations of juries all around the country, describing how African Americans are regulary manoeuvered out of juries by deliberate tactics on the part of district Attourneys. But judges and federal courts also systematically legalize such practices, as every one can see in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The media also played an important part in racist legal procedures. Prior to the Abu-Jamal trial in 1982 Philadelphia's media covered extensively Mumia's previous affiliations with the Black Panther Party and with the Association of Black Journalists, mentioning his sympathetic coverage of MOVE or commenting on his dread lock hair style. They made sure that race played a role in this case from the outset and diverted public observation away from the facts of what actually happened on December 9, 1981.
Christina Swarns concluded, that Mumia's case is one the most important ones in the fight against the death penalty in the US today. Thus, the LDF is committed in saving him from execution and winning his freedom.
Afterwards $1500 in donations were collected for the legal defense team of Mumia.
Appr. 150 people joined the event in the Harlem Riverside Church in NYC. You can watch the recording of the live stream on http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/13759567# The event then starts from 1:02.25
The event was organized by the New York Free Mumia coalition together with Mumia's legal defense.