For nearly 39 years, the acclaimed journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal has maintained his innocence in the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia Police officer.
Over the past two decades, Mumia has gained a huge following from all over the world, pushing for his release and demanding the court system give him a fair trial.
A virtual press conference was held Monday to demand his immediate release. Advocates Angela Davis, Pam Africa, Kwame Ajamu, Linn Washington Jr., Greg Gonsalves, and Colin Kaepernick spoke on behalf of Abu-Jamal’s release and a desire to end the investigation proceedings ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme court.
Mumia has the right to reopen his appeals after being denied for so long after Philadelphia Judge Leon Tucker wrote in an opinion under the U.S. Supreme Court precedent which states;
“If a judge served as a prosecutor and then the judge, there is no separate analysis or determination required by the court; there is a finding of automatic bias and a due process violation.”
Despite this ruling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court still intervenes by granting a King’s Bench Petition, which was called for claims made by Maureen Faulkner, the widows of the officer Mumia was accused of killing. The petition calls for the removal of the Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner from the case because of purported conflicts of interest.
In February, the Pennsylvania Supreme court issued a stay on the King’s Bench Petition, preventing Mumia attorneys from proceeding in his following appeal granted by Tucker, and after nine months has not ended the stay on this case. Though there is a chance to overturn his conviction and appeal, Mumia case is prevented from going any further.
Johanna Fernandez, associate professor of history at Baruch College, and an author, led the press conference.
Fernandez spoke about the U.S. leading in incarceration and imprisonment being one of the U.S largest employers.
“That is a catastrophe of epic proportions,” Fernandez stated, “these are black Americans and increasingly Latin Americans.” She said that Black radicals from the ‘60s and ‘70s had called for attention on this topic and predicted incarceration “would be the new face of white supremacy.” Those radicals included Mumia, who was once associated with the black panther party.
Now, Fernandez explained the importance of these matters more than ever today and that “a new generation of Black freedom fighters emerge are to being targeted for political reasons.”
After spending 28 years on death row, Mumia is now serving a life sentence after his 2011 appeal was ruled unconstitutional. Now he still sits imprisoned for over two decades, and the supreme court refuses to confide in the unconstitutional violations and found the judge had a bias.
Pam Africa, leading Voice, Mobilization 4 Mumia & MOVE, has contributed to the case staying alive in the public sphere for as long as it has.
“It is clear they are trying to kill this innocent man,” Africa said. “Mumia is very ill in that prison, his liver, and under covid constrictions — he should be on the street based on evidence. If it wasn’t for the movements, he would be dead today.”
Washington, a professor of journalism at Temple University, has been a Journalist following the case since the very beginning. Washington mentions the six evidence boxes found later from Mumia’s case, which found evidence of bribery within the police department and establishes a racial bias in selecting jurors, which supports the idea the case should be looked at again.
Washington says the chief justice was put under investigation for sending racist, homophobic, and mysognistic emails to members of the Supreme Court and the PA attorney generals office.
“The existence of the boxes alone is more evidence of corrupted behavior by prosecutors and judges,” he said. Washington even mentioned that his name was included in the boxes of evidence because he was an investigative reporter at that time. “What I do is I report, I don’t engage in criminal activity,” he said.
Among these boxes, there was also a letter from witness Robert Chopard, that said, “Where is my money?” Chopard claimed he had been behind the police officer’s car in his taxi cab at the time of the murder, but his story has changed throughout time. Evidence shows Chopard had warrants for his arrest and a suspended driver’s license at the time, which insinuates some likely bribery or a deal that had been made between witnesses.
“You can see very clearly how there has been a pattern of a corrupted process that screams injustice,” Washington said.
Angela Davis, a longtime political activist, author, and current professor emerita at the University of California at Santa Cruz, has actively supported Mumia’s case for decades.
“Jamal has played a pivotal role in what to acknowledge the structural and systematic character of racism, and evolution of death penalty, prison, and police, and so it is right and just that we exonerate our efforts on the new terrain to finally free our brother comrade,” Davis said.
Before the conference ended, Kaepernick recorded a video to speak on behalf of Mumia’s release and why we should continue to fight for his appeal. Kaepernick, a former football quarterback who is now a political activist, has fighting against racial injustices.
Kaepernick quotes from Mumia’s book and acknowledges the Philadelphia police’s past behavior and the evidence that supports their corruption of abusing prisoners and tampering with evidence. He also mentions MOVE bombings and the recent shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., who was shot and killed in Cobbs Creek last month.
“We are in the midst of a movement that says Black lives matter; if that is the case, Mumia’s life and legacy must matter, and the sacrifices made must matter,” Kaepernick said. “These principals have manifested themselves in his writings and radio show, and the time and energy he has poured into his mentorship of young incarcerated folks. Mumia still fights for our human rights, and we must continue to fight for him and his human rights. He is a human being that deserves to be free.”
The list of demands for Mumais release include the immediate release of Mumia Abu Jamal and immediate release of all political prisoners and immediate release of elders over 50 and others who are vulnerable to Covid-19.
The panel also mentioned the urge for prisoners who are at a high risk of contracting Covid-19 throughout Pennsylvania’s prisons to be released due to minimizing the spread of the pandemic within our society.