Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chokwe Lumumba, the Scott Sisters, and more Sat April 23

 Mississippi, Goddam! The Scott Sisters Speak in Brooklyn 

A community forum regarding the case of the Scott Sisters (see background note below). Attorney Chokwe Lumumba will give updates about the current state of affairs of this case and will provide information about the campaign for their full release. Jamie and Gladys Scott will be teleconferenced in live to share their experiences as well as their ongoing commitment to help others with similar cases. This forum is free and open to the public.

April 23 from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pmat Restoration Plaza
Restoration Plaza, First Floor – Multi-Purpose Room
Located at 1368 Fulton St Brooklyn, NY 11216

Featured Guests: Jamie and Gladys Scott (aka the Scott Sisters) will be featured guests via teleconference.

Panelists: Chokwe Lumumba (legal counsel to the Scott Sisters); Michael Tarif Warren (lawyer activist), Marc Lamont Hill (activist, author, scholar), and Rukia Lumumba (activist); April R. Silver (activist, writer), moderator.

Organized by The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the National Conference of Black Lawyers.

For more information, contact Lalit Clarkson at 917.468.7348 or


In 1993 in Mississippi two young Black women, Jamie and Gladys Scott were each sentenced to double life sentences for an $11 robbery. The trail and conviction of the then 19 and 22 year old women wreaks of the blatant race, gender and class oppression that is rampant throughout the criminal justice system in America. Their defense attorney, who was later disbarred for unrelated incompetency, never called a single witness in the sister's defense. One of the witnesses who testified against them has since recanted his testimony saying he was threatened by police. Ultimately, two of the three men who indeed committed the robbery served 2 years in prison in exchange for testifying against the Scott sisters. Jamie and Gladys maintain their innocence

While in prison, Jamie and Gladys suffered all of the usually physical and psychological abuses of incarceration. The lack of decent health care and nutrition put Jamie Scott in critical need of a kidney transplant. Support for their release grew over the decade and a half of their incarceration, ultimately leading to a suspension of sentence in January of this year - conditional on Gladys donating a kidney to her ailing sister.

Today, the Scott family and their supports urge the governor of Mississippi for a full pardon. Under the suspended sentence they must pay $52 a month for parole, abide by a strict curfew, and live with the constant fear of a parole violation - which would land them back in prison to serve their double-life sentences. Furthermore, without a full pardon, they still live with the stigma of being convicted felons. As felons, they are unable to get jobs, decent housing, and other critical services.

New lawyers committed to new trial for Mumia Abu Jamal

By Saeed Shabazz -Staff Writer
April 19, 2011

NEW YORK ( - Mumia Abu-Jamal, 58, often called the “world's most famous death-row prisoner” penned a letter from his cell in Pennsylvania's SCI Greene prison last November telling supporters about changes to his legal team.

“They are experienced intelligent and well-motivated lawyers, who know what they are doing,” he wrote.

On April 3, his supporters, grassroots activists representing anti-death penalty organizations, Pan-Africanists, nationalists, organized labor activists, the Million Worker March and anti-war organizations gathered on the ninth floor in Riverside Church to meet the two lead co-counselors.

Attorney Christine Swarms, director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund's Criminal Justice Project, and Judith Ritter, professor at Widener Law School in Wilmington, Del., were greeted with a rousing ovation from the standing-room only crowd. The applause came with the announcement from event moderator Suzzanne Ross, chairperson of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition of New York City, that the Legal Defense Fund had taken on Mr. Abu Jamal's case. “Mumia is very relieved that his case is in the hands of the new team,” Ms. Ross said, before turning the podium over to the two attorneys.

The event co-sponsors were the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Riverside Church Prison Ministry.

The journalist, former Black Panther and supporter of the police-targeted back to the earth MOVE organization was sentenced to death in 1982 after being found guilty of the Dec. 9, 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Mr. Abu-Jamal has always maintained his innocence.

During his 30-year imprisonment, Mr. Abu-Jamal has published several books, the most notable being “Letters from Death Row” (1995), written newspaper columns and created commentary for radio airplay.

In 2001, the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pa. found constitutional error in the jury instruction and verdict form used in the 1982 penalty phase of his case. The finding was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2008, but was sent back to the Third Circuit Court by the U.S. Supreme Court last year for further review.

Mr. Abu-Jamal's appeal is still pending before the Third Circuit Court. “We do not know when the decision will be made,” Ms. Ritter told the gathering. The legal team's ultimate goal remains a new trial, which has been rejected by many courts, she said.

Ms. Ritter, who has represented the man called the “voice of the people” since 2002, noted Philadelphia's first Black district attorney, Seth Williams, may seek a new penalty trial with a new jury. Ms. Ritter has argued questions over instructions given to the jury before Mr. Abu-Jamal was sentenced to the death penalty in appeals before federal courts in 2007 and 2010.

“It is absolutely an honor to represent Mumia Abu-Jamal,” said Ms. Swarms. “No question the criminal justice system has failed him and that has everything to do with race. That is why the LDF is in this case.”

The activist attorney said the Legal Defense Fund is committed to eliminating racism in the criminal justice system nationally.

“The death penalty is the child of this country, which is a direct descendant of slavery, a violent way of controlling and maintaining slavery,” Attorney Swarms said.

The death sentence became a form of legal lynching by 1930 and 89 percent of those in America sentenced to death for rape between 1930 and 1972 were Black, she noted.

“So you can see that race is the most significant factor in giving the death penalty as a sentence,” Ms. Swarms concluded.

The gathering at Riverside Church received a surprise when Mr. Abu-Jamal called. He thanked everyone for coming out, saying there are so many problems in the country it would seem difficult to get people motivated to deal with his 30-year-old case.

Several people lined up to ask the popular political prisoner questions via telephone. “What has kept your spirit up?” asked one questioner.

“It has been a long, hard struggle. I have been blessed with a loving family. I am inspired when I see people organize against neo-colonial imperialism,” Mr. Abu-Jamal.

Ms. Ross told The Final Call, “The spirit in that room showed the significance of this movement 30 years later. Having the LDF is a major turning point, a lot of lawyers would not touch this case LDF wants to win,” she said.

Pam Africa, the tireless driver of the International Coalition out of Philadelphia, told The Final Call her job is “to agitate and make people stay on the move. The fact of it is we are all on death-row.”

“Support is again growing for Mumia. It's good seeing people come out asking what can collectively be done to free him,” said Ralph Poynter, husband of jailed activist attorney Lynne Stewart. “Lynne says that Mumia is the point person.  His life is on the line now her life is on the line tomorrow,” Mr. Poynter added.