Third Circuit denies Mumia a rehearing

Taína Asili, puertorriqueña poet, vocalist and visual artist, performed at the rally for Mumia on the 4th of July in front of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. In the background are some of the children of MOVE. One of the protest signs read: “July 4th is meaningless when innocent people are imprisoned. Free Mumia!” -Photo: Joe Piette, Workers World

by Robert R. Bryan, lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Introduction by Kiilu Nyasha

The decision this week by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals denying Mumia Abu-Jamal a rehearing is disgusting – another “Mumia exception” that flies in the face of the legal precedent in the Batson case. In plain English, the Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that racism in jury selection should be cause for granting a new trial.

I was delighted to receive a phone call from Mumia yesterday – live from death row. We got to talk for about five minutes, and I’m always amazed by his positive energy and sense of humor in the face of such bad news. As we noted, “they” know damn well, better than we, that he didn’t do this crime, but they’ve kept him on death row for 26 years, dragging litigation out year after year while new evidence of Mumia’s innocence continues to surface.

But under Clinton and his Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act – passed on Mu’s birthday, April 24, in 1996 – the bar was raised much higher for death penalty appeals, predetermining that proof of actual innocence is of no consequence or relevance. What?

It doesn’t matter if a person is innocent so long as the judge followed the correct procedures at the time? So it’s OK to kill an innocent person despite mountains of evidence – not available at the original trial – clearly showing his innocence?

Let’s face it. The corrupt powers that be do not want a brilliant and courageous journalist out here telling the truth and serving as a mentor for our youth. If ever there were a political prisoner, Mumia fits the description to a T.

Actually, I think had it not been for the international outcry at this injustice, the incredible support from people all over the world, including heads of state, members of the British and Danish parliaments, judges, lawyers, human rights organizations, the World Council of Churches and the NAACP, the State of Pennsylvania would have executed Mumia. We did stop that. Now, we have to raise hell to get him out of there – him and a myriad of other political prisoners.

Power to the people. Free ‘em all.

Lead counsel Robert R. Bryan explains Third Circuit ruling 

Today (Tuesday, July 22) our Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc, submitted on behalf of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. Simply put, we did not receive the needed majority vote from the nine sitting judges; at least five votes for a rehearing were necessary.

“If ever there were a political prisoner, Mumia fits the description to a T.”

However, Justice Thomas L. Ambro continues to urge the granting of relief on the issue of racism in jury selection. That position, as detailed in his brilliant dissenting opinion of March 27, 2008, will continue to serve as a beacon of hope as we press on for a new trial and Mumia’s freedom.

Judge Ambro said that the “core guarantee of equal protection, ensuring citizens that their State will not discriminate on account of race, would be meaningless were we to approve the exclusion of jurors on the basis of … race. … I respectfully dissent.” 

Reaction 

Mumia and I had a legal conference this afternoon. He, as I, was stunned by the federal court’s refusal to grant relief since it flies in the face of established legal precedent in both the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

I am furious because racism continues to raise its ugly head in this country and should have no place in our legal system. The indisputable facts are that the prosecutor engaged in racism in selecting the jury in this case and that bigotry lingers today in Philadelphia. It would be naive not to realize that this case continues to reek of politics and injustice. 

U.S. Supreme Court 

We will be seeking relief in the Supreme Court. The Petition for Writ of Certiorari will be filed by Oct. 20, 2008, unless there is an extension. The racism issue will be presented, along with the fact that the prosecutor made misrepresentations to the jury in order to obtain a murder conviction against Mumia. 

Conclusion 

My goal remains a complete reversal of the conviction, even though the federal court has already granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. We will not rest until Mumia is free. 

Robert R. Bryan, lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal, can be reached at Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan, 2088 Union St., Suite 4, San Francisco, CA 94123-4117, or RobertRBryan@ aol.com.

Kiilu Nyasha, Black Panther veteran, revolutionary journalist and Bay View columnist, hosts the TV talk show Freedom Is a Constant Struggle every Friday at 7:30 p.m. on SF Live, San Francisco cable channel 76. She can be reached at Kiilu2@sbcglobal.net.