October 2003—The courts have once again shown their true face, by denying justice to Mumia Abu-Jamal. In a ruling on October 8th, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected Jamal’s appeal, despite mountains of evidence that shows he was framed for a crime he didn’t commit. For the Court, evidence has no merit if it’s not “timely.” In other words, if you’re a little late getting to court with new evidence to prove your innocence, too bad. You’re dead…because, innocence is no defense!
The US Supreme Court said the same thing in Herrera v Collins in 1993, and an innocent man went to his death. The 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), a Republican crime bill signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, made timeliness official in death row appeals, and effectively killed the right of habeas corpus. So it was no surprise when William H.Yohn cited both Herrara and the AEDPA in denying Mumia’s federal appeal in December 2001. There’s no statute of limitations on murder committed by individuals, but to prove your innocence, you better be on time! (In Mumia’s case, betrayal of earlier counsel caused a delay in presenting key evidence, but the Court still gave thumbs down.)