Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mumia Abu Jamal's death penalty overturned

At the moment I am unable to precise the details but it seems that one of the most celebre political prisoners in the USA, Mumia Abu Jamal, framed for the killing of a white policeman four decades ago, will not be executed. 

The state attorneys have decided not to seek death penalty anymore but a life sentence remains. 

However there are way too many people who understand that the evidence was framed so a black political active person would be imprisoned and possibly killed fro something he did not do. A very similar case is that of Native American leader Leonard Peltier. 

You can read the reaction of South African religious leader Desmond Tutu at Prison Radio and listen to the reaction of Mumia himself in this radio interview, where he denounces that a million people are in prison in the USA, the largest apportion worldwide by far.

Recently a campaign of solidarity with him was launched[eu] in my hometown:


  1. A 2008 federal court appeal overturned the death penalty decision (mostly based on an improper jury instruction unduly limiting what the jury was allowed to consider in making its sentencing decision) and called for a new sentencing hearing; that court reaffirmed that decision in 2011 after the U.S. Supreme told it to reconsider its decision and it did so. The new African-American prosecutor in Philadelphia, in turn, chose not to devote resources to a new death penalty hearing. The federal appellate court in question, the 3rd Circuit, is one of the more liberal in the federal court system, because judges are appointed in consultation with Senators from the region who have tended to be liberal Democrats. In Georgia or Texas or Alabama he'd have been executed twenty years ago.

    There has been some credible effort to raise doubts about his guilt or innocence, but the conviction was not overturned and life sentence in prison remains.

    I don't think it is fair to describe Mumia Abu Jamal as a political prisoner. He may be a victim of a flawed criminal justice system which made him a cause celebre internationally, but he probably ended up being prosecuted at all in this case more because he was a young black man connected, perhaps inaccurately, perhaps not, to a white policeman's murder, not because of his political views.

    Any harm his political views caused him, he imposed upon himself by idiotically ignoring his lawyer's advice all through the trial, and defying the authority of the court instead of presenting a case in a way that could establish a claim of innocence or make a credible argument that he shouldn't be sentenced to death. Instead he foisting his political tirades and tantrums on the judge in the guilt or innocence phase and on the judge and jury alike at the sentencing phase.

    FWIW, his case on the merits for his innocence is not particularly strong, and the legal decisions made in the appeals of his case are not exceptional or unusual. The facts presented by the prosecution were clearly sufficient for a conviction under American law and reconsideration of the facts in post-trial proceedings is extremely difficult in the American system of criminal justice. If you don't get your defense right the first time, it is very hard to fix later, unlike the situation in European courts where facts presented at trial can be revisited on appeal, as they were, for example, in a recent murder case of an American in Italy.

  2. The people asks for a re-trial (actually I'd ask for putting to trial the judge and all those racist criminals behind the persecution). The judge who sentenced him declared "I'm going to get the nigger fried" and banned blacks from being jury members.

    Mumia could have got away if he had accepted to stop writing and stop doing politics. But he did not and he will not and that is the only reason why he is still in jail.

    All around the World Mumia and Peltier are perceived to be iconic examples of the racist political injustice system that pervades the USA. Sure, as you say well, he could have got it slightly worse (not 'much worse': he's been in prison all his life for a crime he did not commit) if he lived in Alabama... but I can hardly find another example in all Earth where we could say he'd be treated worse. I can imagine comparable situations in Burma or Colombia or Israel... but not 'much worse'.

    "... the merits for his innocence is not particularly strong"...

    The merits for his culpability are zero: there is no evidence, there never was. A trial, and you as attorney should know it, does not judge a person's "innocence" but his/her guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In Mumia's case there is just much more than reasonable doubt. He is clearly "not guilty" (regardless if we can prove his "innocence" or not).

    "If you don't get your defense right the first time, it is very hard to fix later"...

    That's actually the main problem of the US or any justice system in fact. Poor people can normally not afford a decent lawyer and get killed or imprisoned for lengthy decades for that reason alone. Instead the rich get away almost systematically.

    And that is what Mumia is denouncing if you care to listen to him, to read him.

    Not to mention that the million+ people imprisoned in your country are treated as slave labor.

  3. "That's actually the main problem of the US or any justice system in fact."

    I don't disagree. Finality causes more problems than it solves in both civil litigation and criminal courts in the U.S.

    "Not to mention that the million+ people imprisoned in your country are treated as slave labor."

    If only. That would be an improvement. Idleness leading to mischief is alas a bigger problem than forced labor in American prisons. The proportion of prisoners engaged in any kind of work or labor is pretty modest (off the cuff, I'd guess maybe one in three or four).


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