New evidence of innocence spurs two court filings for Mumia Abu-Jamal

UPDATED

Handcuffed, Mumia carries a box out of a hearing at Philadelphia City Hall in July 1995. Could that be one of the mystery boxes in the DA’s Office? Could it contain the evidence that will free him? – Photo: Chris Gardner, AP

by Mobilization4Mumia

The struggle to free unfairly-convicted Mumia Abu-Jamal took a significant step forward on Sept. 3 when his attorneys submitted two documents to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Judith L. Ritter, Widener University-Delaware Law School, and Samuel Spital, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., released this statement: “This week, Mumia Abu-Jamal filed a brief in Pennsylvania Superior Court to support his claim that his 1982 trial was fundamentally unfair in violation of the Constitution. For example, he argues that the prosecution failed to disclose evidence as required and discriminated against African Americans when selecting the jury. And, his lawyer did not adequately challenge the State’s witnesses.

“Mr. Abu-Jamal also filed a motion containing new evidence of constitutional violations, such as promises by the prosecutor to pay or give leniency to two witnesses. There is also new evidence of racial discrimination in jury selection.”

Abu-Jamal has always said he is innocent and the new documents go a long way in supporting his case, undermining police and prosecution claims of how Philadelphia police officer Danny Faulkner was killed.

The filings are in response to the Dec. 27, 2018, decision by Court of Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker reinstating Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petitions for the defendant. Tucker ruled Justice Ronald Castille unconstitutionally participated in deciding the appeals in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after denying Mr. Abu-Jamal’s motions asking for his recusal, creating an appearance of judicial bias.

The “Brief for Appellant” in support of his struggle to gain his freedom after 37 years in Pennsylvania prisons re-opens the PCRA petitions as ordered by Tucker.

The “Appellant’s Motion for Remand to the Court of Common Pleas to Consider Newly Discovered Evidence” asks the Superior Court that the case be sent back to the Court of Common Pleas “so that he may present newly discovered evidence.”

“The pressure of the people, and of the power of the people, is squeezing the evidence of Mumia’s innocence out. We shall win.”

Among the arguments resubmitted in the “Brief for Appellant”:

  • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel – Failure to make right argument because counsel did not know the law;
  • Brady Violation – DA withheld evidence, namely that prosecutor said that he would look into reinstating the driver’s license of key witness, Robert Chobert;
  • Rights Violation of Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendments – DA manipulated key witness to falsely identify Abu-Jamal as the shooter;
  • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel – Failure to retain ballistics expert when the trial counsel knew Officer Faulkner was killed by a .44 caliber bullet even though it was known Abu-Jamal’s firearm was not a .44 weapon.
  • Batson – Discrimination in jury selection that kept Black jurors from being sworn in.
  • Juror Misconduct – Several jurors violated court rules by conducting premature discussions, creating potential for prejudgment of evidence.

Basym Hassan, Philadelphia political activist, said: “The district attorney clearly violated Mumia’s constitutional rights by withholding clear evidence that should have been exposed from the beginning. Throughout the entire process of Mumia’s approaching the scene up until today’s current developments, the law has not been applied as it was created – to get to the truth of a matter. Hopefully, Mumia will get a re-trial and the truth will finally get told. We await his release from hell.”

Cindy Miller, Food Not Bombs – Solidarity and Mobilization for Mumia, reminds us: “Does everybody remember on Dec. 28, when current Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and his staff happened to find six boxes of evidence that had not beforehand been shown? That evidence is partly the reason for this new motion.”

The “Appellant’s Motion for Remand to the Court of Common Pleas to Consider Newly Discovered Evidence” Miller refers to includes the suppression of evidence of improper prosecutorial interactions with the state’s main two witnesses who were instrumental in ensuring Abu-Jamal’s conviction. The motion charges that “Abu-Jamal’s capital trial was fundamentally unfair and tainted by serious constitutional violations. Mr. Abu-Jamal respectfully requests that this Court remand the case to the Court of Common Pleas so that Mr. Abu-Jamal may litigate the claims arising from this new evidence.”

Pam Africa: “Here’s another example of why Mumia shoulda been home – an example of police and prosecutorial misconduct. That evidence has been there for years. It shoulda been in trial records but it was hidden. What else is hidden besides the few things that we have right here?”

MOVE 9 member Eddie Africa said: “If they deal with this issue honestly, they’ll have to release him because they know what they did was wrong.”

Mumia, 65 years old, remains in SCI Mahanoy in poor health, suffering from severe itching and cirrhosis of the liver. He recently had cataract surgery in his left eye and is awaiting surgery in his right eye. He also has glaucoma.

Janine Africa, from the MOVE 9, said: “I just got released from prison after 41 years in May. I want to say everyone work hard to bring Mumia home so he can be taken care of and get proper medical care, and he don’t deserve to be in jail from the beginning.”

Mike Africa Jr added: “The pressure of the people, and of the power of the people, is squeezing the evidence of Mumia’s innocence out. We shall win.”

Contact the Mobilization4Mumia at Mobilization4Mumia@gmail.com.

Mumia Abu-Jamal in June 2019

When we fight we win: More on the new evidence of innocence

by Noelle Hanrahan, Prison Radio

Freedom is now in sight. New evidence, recently found and suppressed for decades, could be the key to relief for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Joe McGill and Ed Rendell, trial prosecutor and DA, respectively, manipulated evidence and framed Mumia Abu-Jamal for first degree murder in 1982.

Six boxes of undisclosed case files labeled “Mumia Abu-Jamal” were found in a furniture closet last December by new DA Larry Krasner. Here is the exculpatory “Brady” evidence that was inside:

  • A letter from a witness demanding his money.
  • Memo after memo to and from Joe McGill tracking the open cases of another key witness.
  • Handwritten notes on original files, closely tracking the race of jurors.

Now we know that for 37 years the District Attorney’s Office actively lied. They scrubbed clean every single document production, during multiple appeals, for years. It is cliché and almost predictable: evidence “lost” in a storage closet for 37 years by evil, absent-minded hoarders.

Make no mistake: This evidence would have directly challenged the only “witnesses” at trial who identified Mumia Abu-Jamal as the shooter of Officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981.

The testimony of these two witnesses was compromised, something the jury was kept from knowing. One witness had as many as 35 prior convictions and four or five open cases.

Now we know the DA was monitoring those cases very closely asking to be advised when they were in court. The other witness to the shooting was driving a cab on a suspended license and was on probation for throwing a Molotov cocktail into a school for pay. The jury never heard this.

This information certainly would have challenged prosecutor Joe McGill’s statement to the jury that they had nothing to gain from lying. Remember this is a jury who asked for re-instruction on the charges and were wavering on a finding of first degree murder.

Remember Albert “I am going to help them they fry the nigger” Sabo was the judge. And Alfonso “I retired with full pay and was indicted” Giordano, a commander, was the highest ranking officer on the scene that night.

On July 3, 1982, this was not an open and shut case. The petition to the Superior Court also raises the reinstated appeal issues from the Castille decision handed down by Judge Tucker. These include claims of improper jury selection (Batson claims), ineffective assistance of counsel and errors of law made by the court in previous appeals.

Every time you see Joe McGill in the courtroom or at an FOP event, or you see Ed Rendell at a party or a campaign event, remember this: They were stepping on the scales of justice from the beginning.

Mumia came within 10 days of being executed because of this misconduct. I was there. I got that call from the strip cell. Mumia had nothing but an orange jumpsuit, a half a sheet of paper and the cartridge of a pen (so he could send another prisoner as a proxy to the law library). Before and after his two death warrants, he was held in solitary confinement on death row for decades!

Fast forward to 2017: Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker admonishes the District Attorney’s Offuce to produce all of the requested material from their files. Finally, having no faith in their review, he demands that they deliver all of their files to his chambers.

There he found documents revealing the bias of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge Castille that the DA had somehow “missed” – or willfully suppressed. After all of that, in 2018, newly elected DA Larry Krasner comes across six boxes of original trial material labeled “Mumia Abu-Jamal” in a storage closet. A week later they find hundreds of more boxes in that “storage cavern.”

Please know that the road ahead may still be rough. But there is hope.

Freedom is more possible than it has ever been before.

Attorney Judith Ritter speaks at an event titled “Mumia Abu-Jamal: Evening for Justice and Freedom” on April 6, 2019. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Join us. Join Judith Ritter and Sam Spital of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, his criminal defense team. Join Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center and Robert Boyle, the legal team on his medical treatment case.

Contact Noelle Hanrahan at Prison Radio, P.O. Box 411074, San Francisco, CA 94141, 415-648-4505, info@prisonradio.org.