by Mel Gagarin
New York – On Jan. 28, 2011, Mumia Abu-Jamal retained the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), to represent him in the ongoing appeal of his capital murder conviction and death sentence. LDF will serve as co-counsel in the case with Judy Ritter, Esq., of Widener Law School in Wilmington, Delaware, who has represented Mr. Abu-Jamal since 2003.
Mr. Abu-Jamal is the world’s best known death-row prisoner. His case has attracted attention from around the world and he is widely viewed as a symbol of the racial injustices of the death penalty.
“Mumia Abu-Jamal’s conviction and death sentence are relics of a time and place that was notorious for police abuse and racial discrimination,” said John Payton, director-counsel of LDF. “Unless and until courts acknowledge and correct these historic injustices, death sentences like Mr. Abu-Jamal’s will invite continued skepticism of the criminal justice system by the African American community.”
Mr. Abu-Jamal is on death row in Pennsylvania for the 1981 murder of a police officer in Philadelphia. His death sentence was vacated in 2001 after the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found constitutional error in the jury instructions and verdict form used in his 1982 penalty phase. That decision was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 2008 but then sent back to the Third Circuit by the United States Supreme Court in 2010 for further review.
Christina Swarns, director of LDF’s Criminal Justice Project, explained, “LDF seeks to sweep the grave injustices embodied in this case into the dustbin of history and, in so doing, give communities of color reason to believe that they can and will receive equal justice in Pennsylvania courtrooms.”
Mr. Abu-Jamal’s appeal is currently pending before the Third Circuit.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 70 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments. For more information on this story, contact Mel Gagarin of LDF at (212) 965-2783.