United States: State Executions

In Wake of US Supreme Court Decision, Abu-Jamal's Appeal Supporters Mobilize around New Book, Birthday

On April 6, the US Supreme Court rejected radical journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal for a new guilt-phase trial. The Court has not yet decided whether it will consider the Philadelphia District Attorney's appeal of two lower court rulings that Abu-Jamal deserves a new sentencing hearing if the death penalty is to be re-instated. This means that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the DA, Abu-Jamal could be executed without a new sentencing hearing.

In response, Abu-Jamal's lead attorney Robert R. Bryan will be filing a "petition for re-hearing" at the US Supreme Court. Emergency meetings have been held in several cities (1, 2) to coordinate grassroots response, and over 3000 people have signed an online petition in an effort coordinated by anti-death penalty activists from Germany. Photo from December 2008 protest in Pittsburgh, PA.

The rejected appeal (technically called a petition for a "writ of certiorari") was based primarily on the US Supreme Court's 1986 "Batson v Kentucky" ruling which stated that a defendant deserves a new trial if it can be shown that the prosecutor used peremptory strikes to remove otherwise qualified jurors simply because of their race. At Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial, prosecutor Joseph McGill used 10 or 11 of his 15 strikes to remove otherwise acceptable black jurors. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death in the shooting death of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Listen to Abu-Jamal's own response, interviewed by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio. More Coverage: KBOO Radio, Uprising Radio, and DN! | WBAI | Democracy Now

Abu-Jamal continues to file news dispatches from death row (including John Hope Franklin: The Passing of a Griot and Summitry and Punditry on the G-20 meetings in London), and supporters are working to get the word out about his new book, Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the USA, published by City Lights Books. Events will be held in the US around April 24, which is Abu-Jamal's birthday. In Philadelphia, two supporters were arrested on April 11 while putting up posters for the book release event — read report from Philly IMC. Events are planned in the following cities: Philadelphia (including a Revolutionary Week of Events) | New York City | Oakland | Los Angeles | Boston | Portland | Seattle & Olympia, WA | Houston | Washington, DC | Baltimore, MD | More Info & Updates from Abu-Jamal-News.Com

Source Article:

ajouter un commentaire À cet article

Please Contact AG Holder: Mumia's case needs a civil rights investigation!

International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal 20.Apr.2009 06:44

Germany for Mumia
Germany for Mumia

Philadelphia, December 6
Philadelphia, December 6

Please read this book
Please read this book


Write to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that he immediately initiate a civil rights investigation addressing a 27-year history of prosecutorial and judicial violations of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s constitutional and international rights. If the Justice Department can guarantee justice for Senator Ted Stevens, it should do the same for noted journalist and multiple-award recipient, and international honoree Mumia Abu-Jamal. Demand that your elected officials endorse this campaign!

Initiated by the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)
SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION AT  http://www.iacenter.org/mumiapetition

On April 6, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Mumia’s appeal for a new trial based on evidence of racist jury selection on the part of the prosecutor during the original 1982 trial in Philadelphia. This appeal was based on the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court “Batson decision”, a legal decision that says that prospective jurors cannot be selected based on their race.

This issue was considered the strongest basis for overturning Mumia’s conviction, though certainly not the only one. According to Amnesty International’s detailed review of the case, Mumia was denied at his trial in 1982 the right to a fair judge and unbiased jury, the right to represent himself and the right to adequate resources to prepare his defense. In addition, the prosecution withheld critical evidence from the defense, judge and jury; suborned the perjury of its chief witness; and intimidated at least one other witness to perjure herself. Since the AI report, more evidence has emerged of an ongoing conspiracy by the prosecution and members of the judiciary to keep out of the legal record evidence that points to Mumia’s innocence. At the very least, this evidence indicates serious misconduct on the part of the prosecution and judiciary. It was precisely this kind of misconduct that led to the overturning, just two weeks ago, of the conviction of Senator Ted Stevens.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ rejection of Mumia’s appeal on the basis of the “Batson decision” shocked many legal observers, as the court set new and higher standards of appeal in complete violation of its own precedents. One of the members of the three-judge panel that arrived at this decision wrote a scathing 41-page dissent pointing to how Mumia was not granted the same rights that previous appellants were given by this very same court.

Please take a few minutes to read, sign and circulate widely the important letter below to Attorney General Eric Holder. Send copies to other officials demanding that they, too, demand a civil rights investigation. Only a powerful, international campaign can win long-overdue freedom for this outspoken, award-winning journalist and stop a 27-year-old conspiracy to silence him with legal lynching or life in prison without parole. Both options are outrageous violations of Mumia’s human and constitutional rights, and we will not allow them to stand. Mumia needs our movement and our movement needs Mumia.
SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION AT  http://www.iacenter.org/mumiapetition

If you wish to send this via regular mail, feel free to use the following:

US Department of Justice

Washington, DC

April 2009

To Eric Holder, US Attorney General:

We write to you with a sense of grave concern and outrage about the US Supreme Court’s denial of a hearing to Mumia Abu-Jamal on the issue of racial bias in jury selection, that is, the “Batson issue”. Inasmuch as there is no other court to which Abu-Jamal can appeal for justice, we turn to you for remedy of a 27- year history of gross violations of US constitutional law and international standards of justice as documented by Amnesty International and many other legal groups around the world.

We call on you and the Justice Department to immediately commence a civil rights investigation to examine the many examples of egregious and racist prosecutorial and judicial misconduct dating back to the original trial in 1982 and continuing through to the current inaction of the US Supreme Court. The statute of limitations should not be a factor in this case as there is very strong evidence of an ongoing conspiracy to deny Abu-Jamal his constitutional rights.

We are aware of the many differences that exist between the case of former Senator Ted Stevens and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Still, we note with great interest the actions you have taken with regard to Senator Stevens’ conviction to assure that he not be denied his constitutional rights. You were specifically outraged by the fact that the prosecution withheld information critical to the defense’s argument for acquittal, a violation clearly committed by the prosecution in Abu-Jamal’s case. Mumia Abu-Jamal, though not a US senator of great wealth and power, is a Black man revered around the world for his courage, clarity, and commitment and deserves no less than Senator Stevens.

(Your signature will be appended here based on the contact information you enter in the online form)
SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION AT  http://www.iacenter.org/mumiapetition

International Campaign for Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Sponsored by:

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)
P.O. Box 16, College Station
New York, N.Y. 10030
(212) 330-8029

International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 476-8812

Millions for Mumia

International Action Center
c/o Solidarity Center
55 West 17th St 5C
New York, NY 10011
For further information call: (212) 633-6646

Honor Batson v. Kentucky!

Stand Up To Racist Jury Selection 20.Apr.2009 07:10

Watch the 1987 Jack McMahon Philadelphia DA Training Video for viewing online. There is a one minute version, featuring several key excerpts:


and the full, unedited, one hour version:


The infamous video (produced by DA Ron Castille's office) trains rookie prosecutors on how to select a jury, and among other things, the desire to exclude Black jurors without appearing to violate the 1986 US Supreme Court ruling in Batson v. Kentucky that a defendant deserves a new trial if it can be proved that jurors were excluded on the grounds of race. This Batson precedent is one of the four issues currently before The US Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The Wisdom of the Ages" (direct quotes from the video):

In his 1987 training video for rookie prosecutors, veteran prosecutor Jack McMahon explained the importance of kicking poor people, black people, smart people, teachers, women etc. from juries: they might just not be unfair and biased enough for the prosecution. At the end of the video, McMahon explicitly says that he was doing nothing here but imbuing the rookies with "the wisdom of the ages," i.e., with accepted practices that had been going on for a long time (e.g., certainly back to the Mumia Abu-Jamal murder trial in 1982).

"People from Mayfair Are Good, but People from 33rd and Diamond Stink"

"Other questions you may ask: What section of the city do you live in? You may want to ask that, because that is a strong indicator to you of their leanings. Let’s be honest – I mean, people that live in North Philly have a different perspective on law enforcement and the government than people that live in KNA, or at So­mer­ton or at Chestnut Hill, or any other different areas. You’ve got to recognize those things."

"And people, a lot of people – I mean, I wasn’t from Philadelphia, and when I came here, one of the first things to learn, I guess most or all of you are from here, but I didn’t know sections of the city, and if people would tell me, I’m from a certain location – that wouldn’t mean anything to me. So if you’re not familiar with the city, get familiar with the city, get a list of all the sections, and get people that have been around and tried cases:"

"Say, people from Mayfair are good, and people from 33rd and Diamond stink. And get to know that. I mean 33rd and Diamond at first sounds nice. Hey, 33rd and Diamond sounds like a nice neigh­bor­hood, but you don’t want any jurors from 33rd and Diamond. And so, be familiar with the city, before you start making any of those decisions."


“The blacks from the low income areas are less likely to convict. There's a resentment for law enforcement and a resentment for authority....you don't want those people on your jury, let's face it.” This was from the mouth of veteran DA prosecutor Jack McMahon, who lectured in support of removing Blacks from jury panels. Explicitly recognizing this practice's illegality, McMahon explained that “the law” calls for a “'competent, fair, and impartial jury.' Well, that's ridiculous. You're not trying to get that.”

If any of these new prosecutors refused to act as such, McMahon warned them that they'd lose their job: “If you're going to be some noble civil libertarian...You'll lose and you'll be out of office; you'll be doing corporate law...You're there to win...and the only way to do your best is to get jurors that are as unfair and more likely to convict than anybody else in that room.”

Because of the illegality, McMahon recommended practical ways to conceal race-conscious jury selection. Describing one technique, he said, “when you do have a black juror, you question them at length. And on this little sheet of paper that you have, mark something down so that you can articulate later if something happens...And then you can say, 'Well the woman had a kid about the same age as the defendant and I thought she'd be sympathetic to him' or 'She's unemployed and I just don't like unemployed people...' So sometimes under that line you may want to ask more questions of those people so it gives you more ammunition to make an articulable reason as to why you are striking them, not for race.”

NAACP LDF Filed Brief in US Supreme Court in Mumia Abu-Jamal

Free Mumia Now! 20.Apr.2009 07:14

Read the full brief here:  http://www.naacpldf.org/content/pdf/jury/abu-jamal_amicus_brief.pdf

Support from NAACP Legal Defense Fund

March 5th, 2009

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Files Brief in Supreme Court in Mumia Abu-Jamal Case

(New York, NY)- Today the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) filed a friend of the court brief in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal's claim of racial discrimination in the selection of the jury for his 1981 death penalty trial. LDF's brief supports Mr. Abu-Jamal's request for United States Supreme Court review of his appeal urging enforcement of the laws that require courts to promptly investigate evidence of discrimination against African American prospective jurors.

Specifically, LDF objects to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit's use of a restrictive interpretation of Batson v. Kentucky, a Supreme Court decision prohibiting prosecutors from excluding prospective jurors on the basis of race, to conclude that Mr. Abu-Jamal failed to present sufficient evidence to support his claim of racial discrimination in jury selection. LDF's brief explains that the Third Circuit's conclusion that the only way to prove that racial discrimination infected the jury selection process is to document the race of all members from the panel of prospective jurors and the race of all stricken jurors ignores other significant indicators of discrimination in jury selection and contradicts the Supreme Court's command that courts examine a wide array of evidence to properly ferret out discrimination in jury selection.

As applied to Mr. Abu-Jamal's case, the Third Circuit decision means that the trial prosecutor's pattern of strikes against African-American prospective jurors, a culture of discrimination in the prosecutor's office (including a videotaped training advocating the exclusion of prospective jurors of color), a comprehensive statistical study documenting a pattern of exclusion of prospective jurors of color by the prosecutor's office and other such evidence is insufficient to suggest discrimination. LDF's brief explains that turning a blind eye to such credible evidence of discrimination not only conflicts with the law but also undermines public confidence in integrity of the courts.

"We believe that the Third Circuit's interpretation of the law will have the effect of shielding discrimination and undermining the rights of criminal and capital defendants to a fair trial. It is our hope that the Supreme Court will accept and review Mr. Abu-Jamal's case to make sure that courts respond promptly and appropriately when confronted with real questions about the existence of racial discrimination in jury selection ," said John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel.


anonymous 28.Apr.2009 06:43

I'll admit I'm not really familiar with the Mumia case. But doesn't Batson require a showing of "discriminatory purpose" - ie that the prosecutor during voire dire specifically selected or omitted jurors on the basis of race? The defendant has the burden of proving the existence of such blatant discrimination. The prosecutor can get around this pretty easily - it's like saying you pulled someone over because you thought they weren't wearing a seatbelt, not because you thought they were suspicious young black men. In McClesky v. Kemp (Supreme Court, 1987), for example, the defendant's conviction and subsequent sentence to death were upheld under the Batson standard despite the damning Baldus study, which provided pretty uncontroverted statistical evidence of an overwhelming bias against black defendants who killed white victims in capital cases in the state of Georgia, where the defendant's jury trial took place. The Court unfortunately found that racial bias in somewhat intrinsic, and a defendant must show that it was extraordinarily/unacceptably severe in the particular case at hand in order to affect exculpation. Granted, the court in McClesky was pretty sharply divided, and one sitting justice - Stevens - issued powerful dissent (not to mention Brennan, RIP). But the denial of cert in Mumia's case apparently means that the McClesky rationale still stands, and a jury verdict will only be overturned on the basis of racial discrimination in superlative situations.
If anyone has a counter to this, and a rationale as to why the Court would actually deviate from the precedent as I understand it, I would love to hear from you...

More on Batson

read 'The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal' 07.May.2009 09:09

Book Cover
Book Cover

This is an excerpt from J Patrick O'Connor's essay, now featured at Phillyimc, which explains well how precedent was not honored. Notably, they rejected a preliminary Batson hearing, for which the burden of evidence is quite low:


In a nutshell, the majority denied Mumia’s Batson claim on a technicality of its own invention, not on its merits. It also broke with the sacrosanct stare decisis doctrine – the principle that the precedent decisions are to be followed by the courts – by ignoring its own previous opposite ruling in the Holloway v. Horn case of 2004 and the Brinson v. Vaughn case of 2005. It is a general maxim that when a point has been settled by decision, it forms a precedent which is not afterwards to be departed from. In a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 1989 in a case entitled United States v. Washington, the decision stated that an appeal court’s panel is “bound by decisions of prior panels unless an en banc decision, Supreme Court decision, or subsequent legislation undermines those decisions.” None of those variables were in play when the Third Circuit Court majority ruled against Mumia’s Batson claim.

Judge Thomas Ambro’s dissent was sharp: “…I do not agree with them [the majority] that Mumia Abu-Jamal fails to meet the low bar for making a prima facie case under Batson. In holding otherwise, they raise the standard necessary to make out a prima facie case beyond what Batson calls for.”

In other words, the majority, in this case alone, has upped the ante required for making a Batson claim beyond what the U.S. Supreme Court stipulated. When ruling in Batson in 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court did not require that the racial composition of the entire jury pool be known before a Batson claim may be raised. The high court ruled that a defendant must show only “an inference” of prosecutorial discrimination in purging potential jurors. Prosecutor McGill’s using 10 or 11 of the 15 peremptory strikes he deployed is just such an inference – and an extremely strong one. McGill’s strike rate of over 66 percent against potential black jurors is in itself prima facie evidence of race discrimination. Prima facie is a Latin term meaning “at first view,” meaning the evidence being presented is presumed to be true unless disproved.

In commenting on Holloway v. Horn, a Batson-type case with striking similarities to Abu-Jamal’s claim, Judge Ambro – the lone Democrat-appointed judge on the three judge panel – demonstrated just how disingenuous the panel’s ruling against Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim was. “In Holloway, Judge Ambro wrote in his 41-page dissent, “we emphasized that ‘requiring the presentation of [a record detailing the race of the venire] simply to move past the first state – the prima facie stage – in the Batson analysis places an undue burden upon the defendant.’ There we found the strike rate – 11 of 12 peremptory strikes against black persons – satisfied the prima facie burden.” In Holloway, the Third Circuit ruled that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision denying Holloway’s Batson claim was “contrary to” and an “unreasonable application” of the Batson standard.

In fact, in rendering both its Holloway and Brinson decision, the Third Circuit specifically rejected the requirement that a petitioner develop a complete record of the jury pool. In making its ruling in Abu-Jamal’s appeal, it reversed itself to make the pretext of an incomplete jury record his fatal misstep. Basing its ruling against Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim on this invented pretext demonstrated how desperate the majority was to block Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim. What the majority was implying was that Abu-Jamal’s jury pool may well have consisted of 60 or 70 percent black people and that therefore the prosecutor’s using 66 percent of his strikes to oust potential black jurors was statistically normal and did not create a prima facie case of discrimination. This hypothesis is, of course, absurd on its face. Blacks have been underrepresented on Philadelphia juries for years – and remain so today. What was likely was that the jury pool at Abu-Jamal’s trial was at least 70 percent white.

The Third Circuit – if it had followed its own precedent – would have found the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling denying Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim “contrary to” and an “unreasonable application” of the Batson standard and remanded the case back to Federal District Court Judge Yohn to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the prosecutor’s reasons for excluding the 10 potential black jurors he struck. If that hearing satisfied Judge Yohn that all of the prosecutor’s reasons for striking potential black jurors were race neutral, the Batson claim would fail. If, conversely, that hearing revealed racial discrimination on the part of the prosecutor during jury selection – even if only concerning one potential juror – Judge Yohn would have been compelled to order a new trial for Abu-Jamal.

Abu-Jamal’s final opportunity for judicial relief was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in November of 2008 in the form of a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari. On February 4, the high court docketed and accepted that filing. According to Abu-Jamal’s lead attorney, Robert Bryan of San Francisco, “The central issue in this case is racism in jury selection. The prosecution systematically removed people from sitting on the trial jury purely because of the color of their skin, that is, being black.”

For at least two compelling reasons, it appeared that the U.S. Supreme Court would grant Abu-Jamal’s petition. In its last term, the high court expanded its 1986 Batson ruling in its Synder v. Maryland decision to warrant a new trial if a minority defendant could show the inference of racial bias in the prosecutor’s peremptory exclusion of one juror. Under Batson, the defense needed to show an inference – i.e., a pattern – of racial bias in the overall jury selection process. Ironically, the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision strengthening and expanding Batson’s reach was written by Justice Samuel Alito, most recently of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

The second reason was that the Third Circuit’s ruling denying Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim undermined both the Batson and Synder decisions by placing new restrictions on a defendant’s ability to file a Batson claim. The Third Circuit ruling against Abu-Jamal had the effect of creating new law by tampering with a long-established Supreme Court precedent.

As a result, there seemed to be something more than a remote possibility that the Supreme Court would agree to grant Abu-Jamal’s writ.

A Writ of Certiorari is a decision by the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from a lower court. Supreme Court justices rarely give a reason why they accept or deny Cert. Although all nine justices are involved in considering Cert Petitions, it takes only four justices to grant a Writ of Certiorari, even if five justices are against it. This is known as “the rule of four.”

Despite needing only four votes to have his Batson claim argued, the Supreme Court on April 6, 2009 tersely denied Abu-Jamal’s request for a writ. The so-called “liberal block” of Justices Stevens, Ginsberg, Souter, and Breyer disintegrated, yielding to the awesome political power of the “Mumia exception.”

Abu-Jamal – who turned 55 on April 24, 2009 – will, barring the most unlikely intervention by a future governor of Pennsylvania, spend the rest of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit.

--J. Patrick O’Connor is the editor of Crime Magazine ( http://www.crimemagazine.com) and the author of The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, published by Lawrence Hill Books in 2008.