ALL OUT NOV. 12 IN D.C.
Protest to save Mumia’s life
Civil rights investigation demanded
Published Oct 28, 2009 4:49 PM
The International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ)
coalition convened an urgent meeting here on Oct. 17. Mumia supporters from
Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C., were in attendance. It was a
fightback strategy meeting of critical importance. Mumia, who has been on death
row for over 27 years, is now, more than ever, faced with having his life
snuffed out by the political powers that be.
At the Oct. 17 meeting organizers said that if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds
the original 1982 death penalty verdict and overturns the current verdict of
life without parole, then Mumia’s execution is imminent.
History of injustice
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge signed Mumia’s death warrant. The
execution was scheduled to take place on Aug. 17, 1995, Marcus Garvey’s
birthday. That execution was stayed by a national emergency protest, and
Mumia’s life was saved, pending further appeals.
However, in December 2001, Mumia’s 1982 death sentence was actually
overturned by the federal court and subsequently upheld by the Third Circuit
Court of Appeals this past April, though it nonetheless upheld his guilty
verdict. He was thus granted life in prison without parole. The prosecution
then appealed that ruling, again seeking the death penalty.
In April the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review an appeal demanding a new
trial for Mumia. This court’s next step will be to decide whether to
reinstate the death penalty, which the Philadelphia District Attorney office is
clamoring for, or to rule in favor of life in prison without parole. If the
Supreme Court rules to continue with the current sentence of life without
parole, the D.A. can choose to accept this decision or request a review of it
and continue to pursue Mumia’s execution. Neither decision is acceptable
to Mumia supporters who are continuing to fight for his release or a new, fair
trial at the very least.
A case currently being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court (Smith v. Spisak) could
have implications for Mumia’s fate, which now hangs in the balance. At
issue is whether the judge’s instructions to the jury were confusing and
faulty regarding when a verdict is arrived at and if juries are being confused
as to whether mitigating factors that could lead to greater leniency require
unanimity. A 1988 Supreme Court case (Mills v. Maryland) ruled the judge erred
in instructing the jury and overturned the lower court’s death sentence.
Both Mumia and Spisak share this issue. The question is also whether that
ruling applies to states other than Maryland.
Grave situation requires response
The gravity of Mumia’s situation is compounded by other events. The
current Philadelphia District Attorney has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court
for reinstatement of the death penalty. And the leading candidate running for
the D.A. position, Seth Williams, an African American, is campaigning on the
promise to sign a warrant for Mumia’s execution, with the backing of
Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police.
Additionally, current Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was actively involved in
Mumia’s prosecution, and has made it eminently clear that he would sign a
death warrant for Mumia if the Supreme Court affirms the death sentence.
Another factor is the scheduled December release of a documentary film about
Mumia by Tigre Hill, also an African American, called “Barrel of the
Gun,” which supports the police version of events on Dec. 9, 1981, that
led to Mumia’s arrest.
The ICFFMAJ, the New York Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, and numerous other
organizations and collectives in Washington, New York and Philadelphia are
presently mobilizing an international demonstration in Washington on Nov. 12 at
the U.S. Department of Justice. There they will be delivering the collection of
signed letters to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder demanding a civil rights
investigation of the 28-year conspiracy to execute Mumia, an innocent man, for
his political beliefs. Locally, Philadelphia activists will also be protesting
against Seth Williams.
An urgent appeal is being made for all activists to participate in the Nov. 12
press conference and letter delivery actions in Washington. A civil rights
investigation into this case could mean the difference between life and death
for Mumia, and might open the door for his release from the hellhole of death
Massive outreach and publicity are needed. For transportation from New York
City on Nov. 12, call 212-330-8029. For more information visit
www.freemumia.com or call 212-330-8029, 215-476-8812, or 301-762-9162.
Join the fight against injustice and racism. We must act now before it’s
too late. Free Mumia!
The writer is an International Action Center volunteer in New York.
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