Submitted By Rachel Wolkenstein
AUGUST 28, 2016: A new legal action filed by Mumia Abu-Jamal in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas on August 7, 2016 provides a path in the courts to overturn Mumia’s conviction and win his freedom. The legal underpinning is the recent precedent-setting U.S. Supreme Court decision Williams v. Pennsylvania, 136 S.Ct. 1989 (2016), which holds it is a violation of the due process right to an impartial tribunal free of judicial bias if a judge participating in a criminal appeal had “a significant personal involvement as a prosecutor in a critical decision” in a defendant’s case.
Ronald D. Castille was a senior Assistant District Attorney during Mumia’s 1982 trial and the Philadelphia District Attorney during Mumia’s direct appeal of conviction and death sentence. Ronald D. Castille was a Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court during the entire period of Mumia’s appeals of his post-conviction proceedings from 1995-2008.
Mumia made motions to Justice Castille to recuse himself from his post-conviction appeals to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1996-98 and again in 2002 on grounds of bias and conflict of interest, but Castille refused. Mumia raised Castille’s denial to recuse himself as an appeal issue in the federal courts, but it was ignored.
The District Attorney’s office and Justice Castille did not disclose, or denied or minimized any direct role District Attorney Castille had as a prosecutor in capital prosecutions, including jury selection and other prosecutorial trial conduct and appeal strategy and preparation. As stated in the new filing, “The high profile and political sensitivity of Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case, increases the likelihood that Justice Castille’s minimization of his involvement in the case was not credible.”
Castille’s role as both prosecutor and judge in Mumia’s case, in light of the Williams decision, opens the door to a court decision vacating (overturning and dismissing) all Pennsylvania Supreme Court denials of Mumia’s post-conviction petitions. If this new legal action succeeds Mumia would get “do-overs” to the legal challenges he made to the racist frame-up conviction, for which he has now spent close to 35 years in prison, almost thirty in solitary confinement on death row.
This new legal action can lead to renewed challenges to all the state’s unconstitutional racial, political and class biased procedures and state misconduct that resulted in Mumia’s frame-up conviction before the pro-cop and racist judge Albert Sabo who declared before trial, “I’m going to help them fry the n—-r.”
Mumia’s other challenges to his conviction include: Ineffective assistance of trial counsel; The prosecution’s intentional exclusion of African-Americans from his jury; the Prosecution’s summation argument that Mumia would have “appeal after appeal” depriving Mumia of the constitutional standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the importance of the jury decision in determining guilt and a death sentence; Denying Mumia the right to self-representation and to be in the courtroom during his trial; Police and prosecutorial fabrication of evidence of guilt—false hospital confession, phony ballistics evidence, lying witnesses Cynthia White, Priscilla Durham, Robert Chobert—and suppression of evidence of Mumia’s innocence—Veronica Jones, Dessie Hightower, William Singletary, Ken Freeman, Arnold Howard and the confession of Arnold Beverly.
In other words, Mumia would be able to re-appeal the entirety of his frame-up conviction before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If the new appeal wins, Mumia will get a new trial, if not dismissal on grounds of gross state misconduct in prosecuting Mumia.
This is what should happen under the U.S. Supreme Court holding in Williams.
And should a new trial be ordered the prosecution has no evidence to present against Mumia—the three legs of the case—eyewitnesses, confession and balistics—are proven to have been manufactured by the police.
But Mumia’s case isn’t any case. There is no other case in the United States that has faced as much orchestrated hostility from the Fraternal Order of Police and both parties of U.S. capitalism as that of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The legal and political caveats for a winning strategy to free Mumia: Legal action that underscores Mumia is innocent and framed in a political and racist prosecution that denied every aspect of due process and a fair trial; and an intensified international campaign of publicity and protest demanding Mumia’s freedom now!
Mumia’s case embodies the police terror and shootings on the streets, the false and frame-up prosecutions in the courts, the dehumanization and warehousing of mass incarceration, and the ultimate act of “legal” lynching in the racist death penalty.
Mass international protest kept Mumia alive
The state tried to kill Mumia on the street on December 9, 1981. They tried and failed to lynch him by state execution in 1995 and 1999. In December 2011 the state gave up trying to execute Mumia and instead put him on “slow death row”—life imprisonment without parole—and tried to silence him. Mumia has not been silenced, but has been subjected to medical mistreatment and the deliberate refusal to cure his hepatitis C.
Mumia was targeted for state extermination as a Black Panther Party member when he was 16-years-old, renewed when he became a renowned radio journalist, “the voice of the voiceless” and a supporter of the MOVE organization. In the face of execution and life imprisonment Mumia has never wavered in his opposition to and exposure of the racist oppression, class exploitation and murderous terror perpetrated across the globe by U.S. imperialism.
The combined forces of the capitalist state, its police, courts, and politicians in both parties of capitalism are united in keeping Mumia locked in prison.
Now is the time for a renewed international campaign to free Mumia! Winning Mumia’s freedom is a blow against the class and race biased American criminal injustice system, a win for all those in imprisoned nation and for us all.