Exactly 14 years ago from today on December 18, 2001, U.S. District Court Judge William Yohn (who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991) issued an order announcing that Mumia Abu-Jamal should not be executed after having been found guilty of the 1981 shooting death of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
That order resulted from jury instructions given by trial Judge Albert Sabo in 1982 that were so flawed they could have misled the jurors into thinking they had to be unanimous regarding mitigating factors justifying a life sentence instead of death. Put another way, Judge Sabo erroneously or intentionally made it very easy for the jury to illegally vote to kill Mumia.
On that date, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through the Philadelphia D.A.’s Office, lost its decades-long battle to kill Mumia. Many people contend the Commonwealth is still trying to kill him, this time by Hepatitis C instead of lethal injection — in other words, by medical malpractice instead of murderous malice. Either way, Mumia would be just as dead. That’s precisely why many of those people are encouraging Mumia supporters to attend a hearing Friday, December 18, 2015, at the William Nealon Federal Building in Scranton. The purpose of that hearing is for federal judge Robert Mariani to listen to sworn testimony from Mumia and from Pennsylvania Department of Corrections officials and staffers concerning his medical condition and prognosis.
Stated differently, the judge will listen to information about this Hepatitis C that has caused the following to Mumia: “Swollen lesions on his lower extremities, genital edema, dark scaly peeling skin, a spreading rash, eczema, severe itching throughout his entire body, gallstones, extreme pain, anemia, dehydration, diabetic shock, and loss of consciousness- all of which create an imminent risk of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, untreated hyperglycemia, and death.” And as reported by the National Medical Association, “In recent years, Hepatitis C has surpassed HIV as a cause of death in the United States.”
Accordingly, Mumia’s lawyers will argue today that, based on the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment,” as well as other federal law in addition to state law and even international law as set forth in the 1955 UN Standards Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, he has an absolute right to immediate lifesaving treatment. However, lawyers for the Department of Corrections will argue- and have already stated- his treatment should be withheld until the final stages of his condition. That’s another way of saying he should be damn near dead first. Incredible!
The fact that the Commonwealth wants to kill an innocent man is outrageous. Yes, I said innocent. And, I meant innocent. Not only is Mumia “legally not guilty,” which means the D.A.’s office didn’t prove its case. He’s also “factually innocent,” which means he didn’t commit the crime. But before setting forth the irrefutable facts regarding his innocence, allow me to describe the man himself. Mumia is an award-winning author, journalist, radio host, lecturer, human rights advocate, prisoners’ rights activist, and former teenage member of the Black Panther Party. He was supported by the likes of Nelson Mandela and continues to be supported by Bishop Desmond Tutu, Angela Davis, Harry Belafonte, Dr. Cornel West, Danny Glover, Chuck D, Toni Morrison, and many others. Most important, he’s a 61-year-old man who has served 34 years of wrongful incarceration with nearly 30 of them on death row.
Here are three of several irrefutable facts proving his innocence:
• The D.A.’s own ballistics expert performed standard tests to determine whether the gun that Mumia supposedly had was the same one from which the fatal bullet was fired. However, that expert conceded that the tests were “inconclusive.” In other words, that gun was not shown to have fired the shot that killed Faulkner.
• The police — who had Mumia in custody at the scene of the crime that they say he committed — claimed that due to an oversight they failed to perform the standard gunpowder residue test on Mumia’s hands. An oversight? In a high profile case involving the alleged cold-blooded execution of a heroic white police officer by a supposedly crazed Black revolutionary? Or is it more likely that they did perform the test but didn’t get the results they wanted so they destroyed them because if there’s no gunpowder on Mumia’s hands then he couldn’t have fired a gun? They certainly couldn’t admit that. By the way, they did test his jacket and Faulkner’s jacket and found gunpowder residue on both because they had been shot- so why not test Mumia’s hands? Hmmm.
• The police alleged that Mumia confessed by saying “I shot the MFer and I hope he dies.” But no one had heard anything about this purported confession until a police officer mentioned it- not a few minutes into the investigation but- 64 days later. Also, another officer who had been with Mumia from the time he was found lying in the street until the time he was being treated in the hospital wrote that “the Negro male made no comment.” And a physician stated that the life-threatening bullet wound in Mumia’s chest made it medically impossible for him to have spoken at all.
Mumia’s life was saved by a federal judge on December 18, 2001 after his supporters relentlessly held massive demonstrations all across the country and throughout the world. So what can those and other supporters do on (or after) December 18, 2015 to assist him? Well, the first thing is to go to Friday’s hearing if possible. If not, they should offer moral support by writing to him in prison at Number AM 8335, SCI Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932. For more information, call Pam Africa at (267) 760-7344.
The words from David Walker’s Appeal, written in 1829, and the words of Christopher James Perry Sr., founder of The Philadelphia Tribune in 1884, are the inspiration for my “Freedom’s Journal” columns. In order to honor that pivotal nationalist abolitionist and that pioneering newspaper giant, as well as to inspire today’s Tribune readers, each column ends with Walker and Perry’s combined quote- along with my inserted voice- as follows: I ask all Blacks “to procure a copy of this… (weekly column) for it is designed… particularly for them” so they can “make progress … against (racist) injustice.”