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Mumia Abu-Jamal files challenge to illegal sentence of life imprisonment without parole

September 1, 2012

 

Free Mumia now! The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal presents Valerie Jones, author of ‘Veronica and the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal,’ and attorney Rachel Wolkenstein Sept. 7-8, 7 p.m.: Friday at Neibyl Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; Saturday at Centro del Pueblo, 474 Valencia, San Francisco

by Rachel Wolkenstein

Days after his release from 30 years in solitary confinement, on Feb. 6, 2012, Mumia Abu-Jamal hugs his attorney, Rachel Wolkenstein, and his wife, Wadiya Jamal.
On Aug. 13, 2012, without any notice and in violation of his constitutional rights and state law, Mumia Abu-Jamal was formally sentenced by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe to life imprisonment without parole. The impact of this illegal sentencing is to prevent a possible challenge to the slow death of life imprisonment. All sentences, including “mandatory” sentences, require a formal proceeding allowing the person to be sentenced the right to be heard and to challenge his sentence.

Mumia confirmed to his son Jamal and to me during a visit with him on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, that he had no prior knowledge of the re-sentencing. The record of this re-sentencing is contained in the official Court of Common Pleas Docket Sheet. In attempting to find out more details, I searched for the court file on Aug. 20.

But there is no file containing a record of this sentencing with the Criminal Division Court of Common Pleas Clerk. The information released so far by Deputy Clerk of Courts Elaine Ratliff is that the sentencing followed a call from the Department of Corrections and further explanation awaits a call back from Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe.

Notably Judge Dembe is the same judge who refused in 2001 to consider a legal challenge to “hanging judge” Albert Sabo’s self-confessed racism and bias against Mumia during his trial and post-conviction appeals from 1995-1998. Court reporter Terri Mauer-Carter heard Sabo declare before the start of the trial, “I’m going to help them fry the n—–.”

On Aug. 23, a post-sentencing motion was filed by Mumia pro se. I filed it in the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, at approximately 4 p.m. after Mumia edited a draft motion during my visit with him earlier. It was filed on an emergency basis to meet the 10-day jurisdictional time requirements for filing the challenge. This will be supplemented by a fuller statement of facts and a memorandum of law.

The first issue of this motion is to reverse and declare null and void the clandestine sentencing of Mumia to life imprisonment, which was an attempt to deprive him of his right to challenge this sentence. Mumia’s motion not only attacks his own sentence to “slow death row,” but makes the constitutional challenge to life imprisonment without parole, solitary confinement for death row inmates and solitary confinement in general. Mumia is fighting with and for the entirety of the “incarceration nation.”

Notably Judge Dembe is the same judge who refused in 2001 to consider a legal challenge to “hanging judge” Albert Sabo’s self-confessed racism and bias against Mumia during his trial and post-conviction appeals from 1995-1998. Court reporter Terri Mauer-Carter heard Sabo declare before the start of the trial, “I’m going to help them fry the n—–.”

Notably, Mumia’s motion concludes with the statement, “This motion does not waive any issues of arguable merit of innocence or any governmental misconduct in the underlying case.”

For 30 years Mumia was kept in solitary confinement on death row under a death sentence that was illegally and unconstitutionally imposed. Federal district court Judge William Yohn ruled in December 2001 that Judge Albert Sabo incorrectly and unconstitutionally instructed the jury in deciding on life or death.

Despite this decision, Mumia was kept on death row in solitary confinement for the next 10 years, while the prosecution pursued two appeals in the federal Court of Appeals and two attempts at U.S. Supreme Court rulings to uphold the death sentence. All that time, Mumia sat in solitary confinement.

Mumia’s motion not only attacks his own sentence to “slow death row,” but makes the constitutional challenge to life imprisonment without parole, solitary confinement for death row inmates and solitary confinement in general. Mumia is fighting with and for the entirety of the “incarceration nation.”

According to United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez, solitary confinement for longer than 15 days is a form of torture! Mumia should be freed from prison now!

This latest legal outrage comes nine months after the state conceded defeat in obtaining its desired “legal lynching” of Mumia. On Dec. 8, 2011, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams – with the support of Maureen Faulkner, widow of the police officer Mumia was falsely convicted of killing, the Fraternal Order of Police, and former District Attorney, Philadelphia Mayor and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell – announced that they were no longer seeking a death sentence for Mumia. This was their recognition that it was neither legally possible nor politically advantageous to hold a new sentencing hearing.

Mumia’s 1982 trial contained violations of every single element of due process and a fair trial. But it began with framing an innocent man. Mumia was framed for a crime he did not commit. His crime in the eyes of the state is that he was and continues to be “the voice of the voiceless,” a former spokesman for the Black Panther Party and continuing supporter of the MOVE organization.

According to United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez, solitary confinement for longer than 15 days is a form of torture! Mumia should be freed from prison now!

In his first phone call from general population on Jan. 28, 2012, Mumia relayed the following message to his wife, Wadiya Jamal: “My dear friends, brothers and sisters, I want to thank you for your real hard work and support. I am no longer on death row, no longer in the hole; I’m in population. This is only Part One and I thank you for the work you’ve done. But the struggle is for freedom!”

How you can help Mumia

Write to Mumia and tell him you support him in his fight for immediate release from prison. Life imprisonment is an outrage! Let him know you support him in his fight on behalf of all who live in this “incarceration nation” and his legal challenge to life imprisonment and solitary confinement, which are forms of torture. This is a continuation of the fight against the “legal lynching” of the death sentence.

Send letters to: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI Mahanoy, 301 Morea Rd, Frackville, PA 17932.

Mumia needs funds for phone calls. The prison system makes this extraordinarily expensive – $5 just to call Philadelphia. Send money to Mumia via JPAY.com, which is the only way he can receive funds.

Life imprisonment is an outrage! Let him know you support him in his fight on behalf of all who live in this “incarceration nation” and his legal challenge to life imprisonment and solitary confinement, which are forms of torture.

Finally, help publicize Mumia’s legal fight for freedom. Start by sharing this story, other stories by Mumia’s supporters and Mumia’s own dispatches via social media like Facebook and Twitter, by emailing, reposting and rebroadcasting them, and by word of mouth.

And attend events like the ones announced at the top of this story. Get involved with groups supporting Mumia and all prisoners.

Rachel Wolkenstein is an attorney representing Mumia Abu-Jamal. She can be reached at rwolkenstein@optonline.net.

 

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