This year, two hearings have taken place in the US in the case of Mumia Abu Jamal, the political activist and journalist sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer, Daniel Faulkner.
Mumia’s original trial in 1982 was a complete travesty. Essentially, he was framed by the police because of his political activities, in particular his reporting on police brutality and exposure of racial discrimination in Philadelphia. The police got their chance to frame him when he happened to come on the scene just after Daniel Faulkner had been shot.
The judge (Sabo) is alleged by Terri Maurer-Carter, a court stenographer (who did not, however, come forward until 2001), to have said before the trial began, “Yeah, and I’m going to help them fry the nigger” (meaning Mumia).
On jury selection, several jurors were rejected because they were black. The prosecution kept from the jury that the bullet found in Faulkner’s brain was a .44 calibre, while the weapon which Mumia is alleged to have used to kill Faulkner was a .38 calibre. Also suppressed was evidence on the part of all those who had been present at the scene to the effect that somebody had fled before the police arrived.
The ‘confession’ to the murder that Mumia is alleged to have made while in hospital immediately after the event (a) was not heard by the attending physician who was present the whole time when the confession was supposed to have been made, and (b) was only reported by hospital staff member Priscilla Durham two months afterwards, while in his report on the day the police officer in attendance had written in his notes “the Negro male made no comments”.
Witness Cynthia White, a prostitute who claimed to have seen the alleged shooting, gave completely contradictory evidence at the trial of Mumia’s brother Billy Cook a few weeks earlier.
Subsequently, even more evidence has come forward establishing Mumia’s innocence. In particular, in 1999, one Arnold Beverly confessed to killing Daniel Faulkner, a confession validated by a lie-detector test. This evidence has been kept out of the courts by the Philadelphia District Attorney.
Witnesses have come forward to cast doubt on the evidence given by Cynthia White and Priscilla Durham. Yvette Williams has presented an affidavit to the effect that Cynthia White had told her she had been coerced by the police into giving false testimony against Mumia. Kenneth Pate’s affidavit says that Priscilla Durham confided to him that she also had lied in court when she said she heard Mumia’s ‘confession’.
These last two affidavits were the subject of proceedings before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in February this year, where Mumia’s lawyers had filed under the Post Conviction Relief Act for the death sentence to be set aside on the basis of this new evidence. The court threw out the petition on the spurious grounds that it was “untimely”.
At the end of March, however, a hearing took place of Mumia’s appeal against a decision made in 2003 refusing him the right to a new trial on the grounds of procedural impropriety in the original trial.
This hearing was partly successful. Two of the three judges admitted that the jury had been misdirected on the question of the death penalty, and that there should be a new hearing. Unfortunately, they ruled that the main issues of the case could not be re-opened. Therefore, the new hearing will not address the case as a whole, but will deal only with the question of whether Mumia should undergo the death penalty or ‘merely’ be kept in prison for life without parole.
The third, dissenting, judge, however, accepted Mumia’s contention that the whole original trial was flawed because of race discrimination in jury selection and considered that only a whole new trial could possibly put right the wrong that had been done. A new trial might, of course, have resulted in Mumia being found innocent and being released altogether – it might finally have resulted in justice.
US imperialism is always claiming to intervene in oppressed countries in order to put right their alleged poor record on ‘human rights’. The Mumia case is just one of many that shows the completely cavalier attitude to human rights that prevails in the belly of the beast.
Even the democratic form of justice, the jury trial, is perverted beyond recognition by fraud, bribery and coercion, much as the bourgeois-democratic form of popular elections in different countries of the world gets perverted by US agencies exerting fraud, bribery and coercion to secure the result US imperialism wishes to see.