Precedent? Hell, No! Courts Do What They Want
Many other precedents have been broken as well by appellate courts, which were then upheld by the Supreme Court. The Third Circuit reversed a well-established rule preventing prosecutors from undermining the principle of “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” in their summations to the jury. In Mumia’s case, the prosecutor said that Mumia would go free immediately if acquitted, but would get “appeal after appeal” if convicted, thus saying to the jury that if in doubt they should convict, not acquit. Having tossed this practice in an earlier case involving the same prosecutor, they upheld it in Mumia’s case, and this in turn was upheld by the Supreme Court. (In yet another case, the Third Circuit later restored the earlier precedent on this issue.)
Still more fundamental is the question of innocence itself. In order to convict and uphold Mumia’s conviction the prosecution manufactured false confessions, planted evidence, and threatened “witnesses” into saying they saw what they didn’t see. All of these illegal tricks were used against Mumia, yet no court has overturned the conviction because of them. Meanwhile, the real evidence–including witnesses who saw the real killer or killers run away, and a witness (William Singletary) who said Mumia didn’t shoot anybody but who was not called to testify–should haven proven Mumia’s innocence from the start. But more evidence of innocence has come in since the trial, including witness recantations, another man (Arnold Beverly) who confessed, and photos of the crime scene that show that police lied. Yet very little of this has ever been heard in court, and none of it has been used to throw out this blatantly obvious frame-up.
“Innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” is perhaps the most fundamental of all legal precedents, predating the US legal system itself. The whim of the feudal lord to execute whom he pleased, has (supposedly) been replaced in bourgeois society by the rule of law. And if the state has failed to really prove guilt or has ignored new evidence of innocence, but is still holding the prisoner, there is the ancient precedent of habeas corpus, under which the state must explain why it is still holding the person.
Innocence Is No Defense!
But in the US, where the term “lynch-law” entered the language, and where the legal system is based largely on the law of the slave-holders, both of these fundamental principles have been thoroughly undermined. In the Supreme Court’s Herrera v Collins decision, and in the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (ATEDPA) signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, US legal precedent makes it nearly impossible to overturn a fraudulent conviction on appeal. The “facts” of the case as established in state courts must now be accepted in federal appeals courts regardless of merit, and the “timeliness” of appeal filings must be observed, thus gutting the right of habeas corpus. For US courts, if you’re outside these narrow boundaries, and especially if you’re targeted as an enemy of the state the way Mumia is, innocence is no defense!
A small handful of innocents on death row have been released for factors such as false confessions, police corruption of witnesses, ineffective assistance of counsel, or the confession of someone else to the crime. And more recently, DNA evidence has provided relief to some frame-up victims, although even this can be distorted by police, or studiously overlooked by the courts (see the Kevin Cooper case for instance. www.savekevincooper.org). In one state out of 50 (Illinois), death sentences were systematically tossed when half of death row inmates were found to be innocent. The death penalty is losing losing favor in the polls as more and more people become aware of its inherent brutality, and the fact that innocent people have been executed (Camron Todd Willingham in Texas is a recent example). But the Supreme Court is still breaking precedent to set up an innocent man, Mumia Abu-Jamal, for execution, as well as to reinforce the death penalty in general. Why?
The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal shows that the much-heralded “rule of law” in this so-called democracy is a fraud from beginning to end. For nearly half a century, Mumia has been hounded by the state’s forces of “law and order.” First targeted when he was 15 under the FBI’s counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) for his political work as an activist exposing police racism and brutality, Mumia was framed on the spot in December of 1981 for killing a police officer who was probably talking to the Justice Department about the corruption of inner-city cops in his district. A man named Arnold Beverly later confessed that he was hired by corrupt cops to kill the officer, Daniel Faulkner, because Faulkner had been “interfering” with police pay-offs in downtown Philadelphia. Despite a federal prosecution aimed against police corruption, and despite the fact that it was some of the same corrupt cops who framed Mumia for the killing, the Justice Department never lifted a finger to save Mumia.
Its the System Thats Guilty, Not Mumia Abu-Jamal
The twists and turns of the criminal justice system show beyond a reasonable doubt: it’s the system that’s guilty, not Mumia Abu-Jamal. Since his horrendously unfair trial before a racist judge (who was overheard to say privately that he was going to “help fry the n____r”), Mumia has been relentlessly pursued by a drum-beat campaign to execute him, spearheaded by the Fraternal Order of Police, many of whom are complicit in his frame-up, and possibly also in the Faulkner killing itself!
But this conspiracy of “legal” murder doesn’t stop with the cops; it reaches all the way up the political ladder to the very top, where it continues unabated today. This includes Congress, which, under prompting from the FOP, pressured National Public Radio (NPR) to cancel a planned series of broadcasts by Mumia called “Live From Death Row” in 1994. Twelve years later, again under FOP pressure, Congress took the extraordinary step of condemning a city in France for naming a street after Mumia. By a vote of 368 to 31, Congress, including many prominent Democrats in the majority, demanded a reversal of the street-naming, defended all police world-wide, and declared Mumia a murderer.
Democratic and Republican officials in Pennsylvania are up to their eyeballs with the frame-up of Mumia, the cover-up, and the conspiracy to execute this innocent man. Since Mumia’s trial, every candidate for Philadelphia district attorney has sworn to pursue death for Mumia, including Seth Williams, the current DA and the first black man to hold the office. Officials under then-Governor Tom Ridge, later named chief of Homeland Security by George W Bush, conducted a highly illegal surveillance (opening and reading) of Mumia’s mail from his lawyer in 1995, in which they learned of an appeal Mumia’s lawyers were planning. This information allowed Ridge, who had pledged to execute Jamal in his election campaign the year before, to try to sabotage the defense by preemptively signing a death warrant against Mumia just before the appeal filing. This trumped up deadline allowed the presiding judge–who was the same racist, Albert Sabo, that presided over the original trial–to ramrod and rig the proceedings.