Pennsylvania Signs Death Warrant for Mumia | Planet Waves Digital Media




Federal Judge Blocks Mumia's Execution

For the Full Background | Censorship by Execution

Editorial by Eric Francis | Free Mumia

Mumia the Journalist | A New Link

Link to Full Text of Mumia's Federal Petition for Habeus Corpus

By Eric Francis
Planet Waves Digital Media

.......This week, United States District Court Judge William Yohn issued a stay of execution for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was scheduled to die on Dec. 2 after more than 16 years on Pennsylvania's death row. Yohn is the federal judge assigned to review allegations of numerous civil rights violations in Jamal's 1982 trial. Jamal was convicted of shooting Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, then sentenced to death, in what many legal observers -- including some pro-death-penalty conservatives -- agree was a horribly flawed proceeding.

.......Last week, Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Ridge signed a death warrant for Jamal, an internationally-beloved radio broadcaster, journalist and author of Live From Death Row, an exposé on the U.S. prison system and collection of social commentaries. This was only the second death warrant signed since Jamal has been on death row. Like the first death warrant signed in 1995, observers said it was done at a moment designed to gain maximum publicity for the state. But it appears to have backfired. Protests erupted across the US and around the world in response to the signing of the death warrant, including a demonsration at the US Embassy in Berlin attended by more than 1,000 protesters.

.......Ridge signed Jamal's death warrant just days before his attorneys filed an action known as a "writ of habeus corpus," which is an application for federal review of a case tried in state court [full text linked above]. This legal maneuver can be used when a defendant feels that his federal civil rights have been violated in the state court system. Jamal's attorneys have pointed out dozens of fatal flaws in the prosecution's case based on civil rights violations, fabricated evidence and lack of evidence against him. In recent years, habeus corpus has been gutted by court decisions and has become an increasingly difficult way to get legal relief.

.......But Cornell University Law Professor John Blume, a death penalty expert, said Wednesday that the in the Third Circuit of the federal court system, which includes Philadelphia, the situation is better than other circuits. "Everyone knows there's clearly problems in Pensylvania," Blume said. "I wouldn't say [Mumia] is a dead man by any means. Third Circuit has been a court which has paid more than lip service to individual rights."

.......Blume said he thought it was possible that, if a new trial is ordered, the prosecution may fold its cards and walk away, since it may be extremely difficult to try these issues again nearly 20 years later, particularly given the extreme problems with the evidence against Jamal [see related story].

.......Jamal has been living on death row -- what he calls "high-tech hell" -- since July 1982, and only years of public outcry combined with effective legal maneuvering have preserved his life so far. Ridge has the distinction of being the first US politician to sign death warrants for 100 black men. The judge who convicted Mumia, Alfred Sabo, has an equivalent distinction -- of having sent more black men, and more people overall, to the death chamber than any judge in American history.

.......In other death penalty news, the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the execution of a Florida inmate, Anthony Bryan, who was scheduld to die in the state's electric chair today (Wednesday). The nation's highest court will review allegations that the 76-year-old electric chair, which causes some people to burst into flames as the electricity ponurs through their body, is really a torture device, and is illegal under the 8th Amendment to the US Consitution, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." Observers in Florida hailed what they called an historic development in the struggle against the death penalty in that state.++

Additional reporting by Maria Henzler and Steve Bergstein.

Planet Waves Contents | Horoscopes