imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Mumia's Appeal Moves into its Final Stage

by Dave Lindorff Thursday, Aug. 03, 2006 at 8:30 PM

Mumia Abu Jamal and his chief counsel have filed an appeal that raises three challenges to his conviction, and that defend the federal district court ruling that lifted his death penalty in 2001.

Mumia's Appeal Moves...
mumia1.jpgyu1zta.jpg, image/jpeg, 419x600

Mumia's Appeal Moves into its Final Stage

By Dave Lindorff | 07.30.2006

Pennsylvania’s most famous death penalty inmate and his chief counsel have filed an appeal that raises three challenges to his conviction, and that defend the federal district court ruling that lifted his death penalty in 2001.

The appeal of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philadelphia-based African-American journalist who has spent a quarter of a century on Pennsylvania’s death row after being convicted of killing a white Philadelphia police officer, is finally moving into its critical phase, in the federal Court of Appeals.

Attorney Robert R. Bryan of San Francisco, a veteran capital appeals lawyer who took over Abu-Jamal's defense in 2003, filed a brief on July 20 in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, laying out three arguments for overturning Abu-Jamal's murder conviction. The brief also argues for upholding a December 2001 decision by a lower Federal Court that overturned Abu-Jamal's death sentence--a decision that has been appealed to the Third Circuit by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office.

Bryan lays out three claims, all of which which challenge Abu-Jamal’s conviction for the 1981 shooting death of Officer Daniel Faulkner.

First, he makes the indisputable point that prosecutor Joseph McGill, in his summation to the jury at trial, "unconstitutionally diminished the jury's role, misled the jury, undermined the reliability of the guilt-innocence determination, and sabotaged the right to the presumption of innocence and not to be convicted unless proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" by telling the jury that they didn't need to worry about maybe being wrong about voting "guilty" because the defendant would have "appeal after appeal" and so a guilty verdict "may not be final."

As Bryan writes in his brief, "By saying [that the jury decision] would not be final and telling the jury that a guilty verdict would be reviewed in `appeal after appeal,' the prosecutor incorrectly advised the jury that their role and responsibility was less than it was." This, he argues, "deprived Mr. Abu-Jamal of his right to trial by jury because unlike the jury guaranteed by the Constitution, his jury was told that they were not the final fact-finders." As he notes, "The presumption of innocence and the requirment of proof beyond a reasonable doubt are grounded upon the idea that doubts should be resolved in favor of the accused and acquittal."

Abu-Jamal's second line of appeal deals with the claim of racial bias by the prosecutor in the selection of the jury. The US Supreme Court has long established that if a prosecutor purposefully uses peremptory challenges to eliminate from the jury persons of a particular race, that is in itself adequate reason for overturning the conviction. In making the argument that such illegal activity occurred, Bryan shows that of 39 jurors considered by the prosecution, 15 were struck, and that of those 15, at least 10 (and probably 11) were black. Looked at another way, prosecutor McGill struck 71 percent of the blacks he had an opportunity to reject, but just 20 percent of the whites. Bryan writes, "This racial disparity is the type of `pattern' that supports a prima facie case" of race discrimination.

Bryan cites a study (improperly rejected as evidence by the federal district court in 2001) of Philadelphia prosecutors' racial jury selection practices between 1981 and 1997. That study, by Prof. David Baldus (which resulted in the overturning of another murder conviction in Pennsylvania), found that during that 17-year period, which included Abu-Jamal's own 1982 trial, prosecutors struck 51 percent of black jurors and only 26 percent of white jurors—a damning record of unconstitutional racial bias. Furthermore, Bryan notes that even after Abu-Jamal's trial, the district attorney's office was using a training tape that taught new prosecutors how to remove blacks from jurors and to avoid getting caught practicing racial discrimination. (The trick, the tape said, was to keep contemporary notes and to write down some non-racial reason for each peremptory strike of a black juror, to be offered as explanation should a Batson challenge ever be brought on appeal.)

Bryan argues that since prosecutor McGill has never been required to offer a non-racial explanation for his apparent race-based jury selection in Abu-Jamal's trial, the Appeals Court should either overturn the conviction or, at a minimum, order an evidentiary hearing in federal court at which the prosecutor, now retired, would have to make a case that his 10 peremptory strikes of black jurors were all for reasons other than race.

Finally, Abu-Jamal and his attorney argue that bias on the part of the trial judge, Albert Sabo, who was overheard saying, after the first day of jury selectin, that he was going to help the prosecution "fry the nigger," denied Abu-Jamal a chance for a fair trial. Bryan notes that Judge Sabo, who oversaw the highest number of death sentences of any judge in the nation (31, all but 2 of them black), had a long record of racial bias. As Bryan writes of the 1995 Post Conviction Relief Act hearing on Abu-Jamal’s case which Sabo also presided over, "The hostility and bias of Judge Sabo could not have been more apparent. Journalists, both local and national, publicized the rank unfairness of the proceedings. The leading paper in Philadelphia observed: `The behavior of the judge was disturbing the first time around—and in hearings last week he did not give the impression to those in the courtroom of fair-mindedness. Instead, he gave the impression, damaging in the extreme, of undue haste and hostility toward the defense’s case.'"

Bryan concedes that under federal habeas statutes, federal courts may not remand cases to state courts for evidentiary hearings. But having demonstrated that Judge Sabo, who acted as the supposedly impartial "fact finder" in the PCRA hearing, was clearly biased, he writes that the appropriate remedy would be for a federal district court to re-examine the original facts presented at trial, and the new evidence presented during the 1995 PCRA directly--as well as evidence and witnesses which Sabo refused to allow--ignoring Sabo's earlier findings of fact.

Should the three-judge appellate court hearing Abu-Jamal's appeal support either of the first two claims of constitutional violations in his original trial, Abu-Jamal could find himself facing a new trial. Alternatively, in the jury bias claim, Abu-Jamal and his attorney have proposed the remedy of a new hearing in federal district court, probably before the same judge, William Yohn, who earlier rejected both claims, but who overturned Abu-Jamal's death sentence.

Judge Yohn had denied Abu-Jamal's claims concerning the prosecutor's "appeal after appeal" summation statement and concerning evidence of Judge Sabo's bias, which meant the Third Circuit Court had no obligation to hear either issue, but the higher court late last year over-ruled Yohn and certified both issues for appeal. It seems clear that at least two of the three judges assigned to Abu-Jamal's appeal case thought that there was some merit to the two additional claims. Yohn also rejected the claim regarding racial bias in jury selection, but did certify it for appeal to the Third Circuit.

Back in 2001, Judge Yohn overturned Abu-Jamal’s death sentence. Yohn's carefully worded explanation for his ruling overturning that conviction explained that Abu-Jamal’s penalty-phase verdict form and instructions, which were provided to the jurors to fill out, were flawed documents that, combined with Judge Sabo's flawed instructions, improperly led jurors to believe that unless all 12 of them agreed on a mitigating circumstance that might argue against a death penalty, they could not consider that circumstance in their deliberations. In fact, unanimity of the jury is only required for aggravating circumstances--those that argue in favor of a death penalty. Mitigating circumstances can be considered by any individual juror--an crucial difference since a death sentence must be reached unanimously. Thus if one juror finds a mitigating circumstance--for example that a defendant is a dedicated father to a young child--that one juror could decide to vote against death. Since the jury form's wording and the instructions from the judge both implied that unanimity was required before a mitigating circumstance could be considered, Judge Yohn held that the sentence was void.

The district attorney has appealed this ruling, hoping to have the death penalty reinstated by the Third Circuit. The DA's office, which for decades, and under several different district attorneys, has been obsessed with getting Abu-Jamal injected with lethal chemicals, makes the nit-picking claim that Abu-Jamal's habeas appeal of his sentence was flawed because it only mentioned the third page of the jury form, not the form in its entirety, so that Judge Yohn should not have considered problems in the whole form--only the third page. Bryan makes short work of this argument--which would have his client executed on a technicality--by noting that the habeas appeal in question specifically refers at least once to the form "in its totality."

Both sides in the case will now have an opportunity to respond to the filings of the other side, meaning that the case is unlikely to go to a hearing until fall at the soonest. In the meantime, thanks to a motion by the district attorney, Abu-Jamal, who has insisted on his innocence in the murder of Officer Faulkner, remains in solitary confinement on death row, despite his death sentence having been lifted five years ago.

It is worth pointing out that as the Bush administration has been trashing civil liberties and the Constitution, revoking the fundamental Common Law tradition of habeas corpus (the right to bring one’s detention to a court for a ruling on its legality), and the right to a fair trial before an impartial jury of one’s peers, Abu-Jamal’s case has become an increasingly important part of the struggle to defend those rights for all Americans.


Dave Lindorff is author of "Killing Time: An Investigation Into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal" (Common Courage Press, 2003).
Report this post as:

Local News

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 12:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 12:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 4:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J10 11:58PM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M30 10:20PM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 12:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 1:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 2:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 3:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 2:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 1:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 1:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 4:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 1:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A26 10:37PM


lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Sorry President Trump,Ted Cruz Texas Judicial System,is Worse Than Many Shithole Countries J19 4:49PM

The Shortwave Report 07/20/18 Listen Globally! J19 4:33PM

3 Essential Videos J19 3:53AM

The System Question as a Survival Question J18 8:54PM

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen J18 2:41PM

Nation's Largest Voting Machine Co., ESS, Admits Lying Re Having Installed Remote Control J18 11:55AM

Du pain et des jeux J18 9:53AM

Fbi joins with Facebook to remove this report J18 7:08AM

Paraphysique de martyrologie J17 8:00AM

Asian Countries:Cambodia, Vietnam, N. Korea do not permit unlawful immigration J16 8:06PM

Children Incorporated Earns 4-Star Rating on Charity Navigator J16 11:24AM

Democratic Socialists of America J14 4:57PM

Leonard Peltier Non Violent Native American Political Prisoner since 1970's J14 4:18PM

Paraphysique miscellanées de l'aggiornamento J14 12:54AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Cleanup J13 4:14PM

FBI Investigated LA County Sheriff Baca,Why Not Hank Skinner's Persecution? J13 3:52PM

Updated Partial List Of Famous Vegetarians, Vegans, & Fruitarians J13 2:59PM

The Shortwave Report 07136/18 Listen Globally! J12 4:36PM

Social Policy as Social Infrastructure J12 3:38AM

Vol I: 84 Varieties Of GOP Election Fraud J12 1:50AM

Texas Can Call it An Execution,But It is A State Sponsored Murder of Hank Skinner.. J11 6:48PM

June 2018 Honduras coup update J11 3:35PM

Maria Estrada doubles down on racist support J11 1:40PM

New York Women in Film & Television Announces 2018 NYWIFT Ha Phuong Scholarship Recipients J11 10:14AM

Trapps de la domination, trapps de l'aliénation J11 1:31AM

Please Work For The Defeat Of Brett Kavanaugh And Why J09 8:54PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 1:27PM

Transinhumanisme ( transe inhumanisme ) J09 12:44PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy