Dear supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal,
Mumia, as he is known to millions, has been fighting for a new trial free of racism. In December, a petition on Mumia’s behalf will be filed before the US Supreme Court centered on the key issue: that racism kept some Black people off the jury which convicted Mumia. If the Court accepts this, Mumia will get a new trial. Now is the time to actively support this legal fight.
On March 27, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals ruled on Mumia’s appeal on four issues. The Court’s unanimous ruling reversed the death penalty judgment. The prosecution has said it will appeal against this, so there will be a hearing to decide between the death penalty and life imprisonment.
While the Court in its ruling did not grant a new trial for Mumia, a disappointing and outrageous ruling, on the crucial issue of racism in jury selection (RJS), the judges were split. Judge Ambro wrote a 41-page dissenting opinion which tore to shreds the ruling of his colleagues. His judgment was that there is at least “a reasonable possibility” that the prosecutor intended to exclude Black people from the jury for no other reason but race, and that the courts should examine this further. He says that in refusing Mumia’s appeal on this, his fellow judges are ignoring the legal precedents of their own court, making Mumia an exception and denying him justice.
1. Judge Ambro details evidence that there was racism in jury selection:
- When selecting the jury, the prosecution rejected twice as many Black people as white.
- The circumstances surrounding the case were “racially charged,” which made unbiased jury selection less likely.
In fact, the NAACP which helped with Mumia’s appeal describes how newspapers highlighted that: “Mr. Abu-Jamal was an African-American community activist . . . easily recognizable because of his . . . revolutionary politics . . . associated with militant groups; he was an active supporter of MOVE, a radical back-to-nature movement . . . he was communications secretary for the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panthers . . . he helped lead an unsuccessful student effort to change the school’s name to Malcolm X High School.”
NAACP also highlights that as a reporter, Mumia “focused on African American issues;” one newspaper even claimed that jurors were scared because Mumia “wore his hair in dreadlocks”.
There was plenty of other evidence of racism in the trial which convicted Mumia but it couldn’t be included in this appeal. For example, the prosecutor used Mumia’s active anti-racism – his connection with the Panthers and MOVE — to imply that he was criminal and violent. This was the police view, which the media used to whip up a racist mob mentality to alarm white people, intimidate Black people, and support the prosecution’s racism in court.
2. We focus on RJS not only in order to win a new trial for Mumia but also:
- Since the judges split on this issue, we stand a better chance of winning: the court has to answer the evidence and arguments presented by its own judge.
- RJS attacks a crucial aspect of racism in the US: a Black person can run for president, but racism could keep him off a jury. Especially in Philadelphia which has a history of racism.
- We hit the issue central to getting a new trial not just for Mumia but for the thousands of women and men of color in prison including on death row.
- We strengthen Mumia’s hand in the legal process by campaigning outside against the racism inside the courts.
- This gives us a platform to talk about all the racism of the trial, including media and police lies and persecution.
- Together on this key issue we can have a powerful impact on both court and media.
His dissenting opinion opens up the possibility of getting a less biased hearing by the Supreme Court. It would be criminal of us not to take advantage of this.
3. Keeping Mumia inside – what is at stake for the government.
- They keep a dedicated investigative journalist locked up. But not shut up – that they’ve never been able to do!
- They want to prevent a close look at the police persecution of MOVE, a multi-racial alternative community which only Mumia had reported; in 1985 state police aerial-bombed their house, killing five children and six adults; nine MOVE members are still in prison, framed for conspiracy to murder. If Mumia was free, this unprecedented story of police murder and mayhem would come out of the shadows into the public gaze.
- They fear Mumia shedding the same light on the persecution of Black Panthers, linking the 1969 murder of the great Fred Hampton to persecuting the San Francisco 8 today.
- They protect and maintain the power of a racist, violent and corrupt Philadelphia police department, setting a national standard against us. Now new voices are speaking against this racist reign of terror. 
- They muffle Mumia’s determined and uncompromising “voice from death row” that strengthens the movement against the death penalty.
All of us in the Mumia support movement, prisoner support movement, and anti-racist [don’t understand that, sounds incomplete. Also shouldn’t we add anti-death penalty?], can demand that the court address RJS – racism in jury selection. Mobilize your networks, tell the media, ask prominent people to speak on this issue, urge lawyers and others in the legal system to say with one voice:
On the basis of the racism in jury selection in the 1982 trial, the US Supreme Court must grant Mumia Abu-Jamal a new trial.
Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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