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Mumia supporters plan protest

By Lee Wengraf | May 11, 2007 | Page 14

PHILADELPHIA--After 25 long years, the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and world-renowned journalist known as the "Voice of the Voiceless" will be heard in federal court. Supporters of the Pennsylvania death row prisoner and activist are planning protests to coincide with his Third Circuit Court date scheduled for May 17.

Mumia was railroaded in 1982 for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His trial has been denounced by activists and dignitaries all over the world--including Amnesty International, Bishop Desmond Tutu and the European Parliament--as rife with blatant racism and injustice.

Witnesses have come forward to say that they were intimidated into testifying against Mumia; evidence was suppressed; ballistics evidence didn't match the weapon in Mumia's possession; trial judge Albert Sabo displayed outrageous bias, going so far as to say he was going to "help fry the n---." For all these reasons and more, Mumia deserves a new trial.

Finally, Mumia's case will be heard in a federal appeals court on four key issues, including whether Judge Sabo's racist comments violated Mumia's constitutional rights and whether Black jurors were excluded from the jury pool.

What you can do

For details about the protest on May 17, see For more information on Mumia's case, visit the Campaign to End the Death Penalty Web site. For a complete archive of Mumia's essays, go to


At Mumia's trial, the prosecutor used 11 of his 15 peremptory challenges to remove Black jurors. The NAACP and the National Lawyers Guild have submitted amicus briefs in his support. Mumia's lead attorney, Robert Bryan, has stressed that the stakes at this stage are very high: If the court dismisses all of Mumia's claims, "we would be looking down the barrel of an execution and need to petition the United States Supreme Court." The Court could, however, order a retrial or send the case back to the lower courts.

Meanwhile, Mumia continues to battle on other fronts. Although federal judge William Yohn overturned Mumia's death sentence in 2003, Pennsylvania District attorney Lynn Abrams appealed the ruling. As a result, Mumia remains on death row.

If Abrams' appeal is successful, a new execution date will be set. Finally, Philadelphia DAs made the highly suspect move of asking the entire Third Circuit Court to recuse themselves on the grounds that Gov. Ed Rendell, whose wife serves on the court, was district attorney during Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial.

"The prosecution seems intent on doing just about anything to avoid...a new trial not riddled with racism," said Bryan. "This court, the Third Circuit, has a reputation for being fair and evenhanded, much more than some of the other courts. That is all Mumia and I want: fairness."

Outside the courts, police are trying to undermine Mumia's supporters. A recent fundraiser at a Manhattan club was forced to relocate because of a campaign of harassment from NYPD and Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police. An April 24 birthday celebration in Philly with actor Danny Glover and poet Sonia Sanchez was relocated in the face of intimidation.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on May 17, and activists will gather in Philadelphia outside the courthouse at 8:30 a.m.

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