Labor Fightback Conference

An Open Letter to the Labor Fightback Network Conference to Further the Struggle to Free Mumia Abu Jamal:

It is 35 years since the travesty of justice that was the trial, conviction and death penalty sentencing of Mumia Abu Jamal, the renowned journalist, author and political activist. While Mumia no longer confronts the death sentence itself, he has endured medical mistreatment from which he almost died and life in prison without parole. The time has come to renew the international outcry to free Mumia, including the demand for a new trial.

At every twist and turn, Mumia has been denied due process. As Amnesty International concluded: “his original trial was manifestly unfair and failed to meet international fair trial standards.” It “featured the dismissal of African American jurors, inadequate defense representation, an openly hostile judge, the use of political statements to argue for the death sentence, and law enforcement’s unseemly agitation for execution throughout the entire process.” It also included intimidation of witnesses.

Mumia was denied consistently a fair hearing during the appellate process. The judge in the 1995 evidentiary hearing on whether Mumia Abu Jamal’s original trial was fair was none other than Judge Albert F. Sabo who had demonstrated blatant racist bias during the original trial.

The judge in Mumia’s appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was Ronald Castille, who had been a Supervisory District Attorney (senior assistant district attorney) in the DA’s office during Mumia Abu Jamal’s trial. Castille later served as the Philadelphia District Attorney during the preparation and legal arguments of Mumia Abu Jamal’s appeal of the 1982 conviction and death sentence. As such, Castille’s name appears first in the list of prosecutors submitting the DA office’s legal briefs.

Given the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Williams v. Pennsylvania, Castille’s involvement in Mumia’s case is under court order for review in a Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition filed by Mumia’s attorney Judith Ritter and Christina Swarms, the Litigation Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. The justices in the Williams case (in which Castille was involved as both District Attorney and appellate judge) stated clearly that it is a violation of due-process right to an impartial tribunal free of judicial bias “when a judge earlier had significant, personal involvement as a prosecutor in a critical decision regarding the defendant’s case.”

The PCRA petition provides a crucial opportunity for Mumia. There is no time to lose to protest the cover-up of Castille’s involvement by the District Attorney’s office.

We are at a tipping point. Over the years, the demand for a new trial and freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal has been supported by prominent legal and political leaders worldwide, Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison, Desmond Tutu as well as Amnesty International, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, national and local trade unions in the U.S. and abroad, European and Japanese parliaments, city governments, human rights organizations and countless political activists and other people of conscience. The time has come to re-invigorate our efforts.

What has happened to Mumia is not a random or isolated event. It is a measure of the design of a system whose viciousness permeates the American Gulag in which seven million people are incarcerated or subjected to “criminal” oversight jurisdictions—victims of class exploitation and racist injustice afflicting the largest number of people and percentage of population of any nation in the world.

Against this vast system of cruelty and oppression, Mumia Abu Jamal has been a heroic voice, his clarion call echoing around the world.

We call upon you to renew your commitment and to work together as we struggle for a new trial and freedom for Mumia Abu Jamal.