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Mumia's legal case reaches key stage

By Elizabeth Schulte | May 18, 2007 | Page 15

PHILADELPHIA--Supporters of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal are mobilizing around what could be a major break in the fight to free the outspoken opponent of the criminal justice system after 25 long years on Pennsylvania's death row.

On May 17, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments by Mumia's lawyers. Good news came for Mumia's attorneys when the court announced that it would allot an additional hour to oral arguments, giving the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and National Lawyers Guild attorneys the time to present material in their friend-of-the-court briefs.

The court will then decide whether to grant a new trial, affirm Mumia's life sentence or reinstate the death sentence.

The court will consider four issues--including the question of whether prosecutors excluded African Americans from Mumia's jury by using peremptory challenges.

At Mumia's trial, the prosecutor used 11 of his 15 peremptory challenges to remove Black jurors. The trial jury was composed of 10 whites and two Blacks, even though Philadelphia is 44 percent Black.

What else to read

To find out more information about Mumia's case and read some of his recent articles, visit Also visit the Campaign to End the Death Penalty at


Also at issue is whether Mumia was denied his right to due process and equal protection under the law due to extreme racism and bias on the part of Judge Albert Sabo, who commented that he was "going to help 'em fry the n----r."

The court also announced recently that it rejected a motion by state prosecutors to recuse, or remove, all the judges for the appeals court. The motion was a failed maneuver on the part of prosecutors to move Mumia's trial from a court that has leaned toward liberal decisions in the past into a more conservative one.

Mumia was framed and convicted in 1982 for the shooting of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulker. His trial proceedings were riddled with racism, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, the suppression of evidence and coerced witness testimony.

Before his arrest, Mumia was an independent journalist dedicated to exposing the brutality and racism of the Philadelphia police and courts. From behind bars, Mumia has continued to write, becoming known by death penalty and criminal justice activists as the "Voice of the Voiceless."

Activists are turning up the heat at this critical time in Mumia's case. "Mumia can still be executed," said Pam Africa, spokesperson for International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal. "Further, since the Supreme Court is unlikely to hear Mumia's case, this is realistically his last chance to get a new trial. As the history of his case shows, we need public pressure to ensure the court's fairness."

Supporters bought a full-page ad to appear in the Nation calling for justice for Mumia. Endorsers include Harry Belafonte, Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Danny Glover, Howard Zinn, Lynne Stewart, Michael Ratner and many others.

On May 17, anti-death penalty activists will mobilize for protests in Philadelphia and San Francisco to put pressure on the Third Court to do the right thing in Mumia's case.

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