The Evidence Must Be Heard!

The People Must Save
the Life of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Revolutionary Worker #1028, October 31, 1999

As we go to press, Mumia Abu-Jamal is still locked up in Phase 2 "death watch" at the SCI Greene maximum security prison in Pennsylvania. Under Phase 2, Mumia is held in a completely bare isolation cell. The lights are on 24 hours a day. Mumia is not allowed any personal property, except for one book, pen and paper. Every time he enters and leaves the cell, he is strip-searched and he must change his clothes. When he leaves his cell, he is always taken by four or five guards and he is videotaped.

Mumia's spiritual advisor, Steve Wiser, was able to visit him on the morning of October 21. Wiser told the RW that Mumia is in high spirits, confident and busy writing. And Mumia said that he wants people to stay together in the struggle. Mumia's courage and optimism continues to be a source of great inspiration to everyone involved in the struggle to save the life of this revolutionary brother.

To recap the most recent developments in the struggle to win justice for Mumia: On October 4, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider Mumia's writ of certiorari. This petition was a request for the Supreme Court to consider Mumia's case before it works its way up through the normal federal appeals process. The issues raised in Mumia's writ of certiorari had to do with violations of his constitutional rights to a fair trial by the Pennsylvania courts. The denial of the writ of certiorari does not mean that the Supreme Court ruled against the issues raised in Mumia's petition or against Mumia's federal appeal.

On October 13, Pennsylvania Governor Ridge signed a death warrant setting a December 2 execution date for Mumia. Mumia was immediately placed on "death watch."

On October 15, Mumia and his legal team began the process of appeal in the federal courts by filing his writ of habeas corpus. Habeas corpus is a request for the federal courts to review a conviction and sentencing by a state court. Leonard Weinglass, Mumia's lead attorney, described the habeas document: "The petition is over 160 plus pages long. It has over 600 paragraphs of allegations of wrongdoing in the state process. And we particularize 29 separate violations of federal constitutional law, any one of which would qualify Mumia for a new trial. So this is a mammoth record which could not conceivably justify an execution of anyone, at this or at any other time."

When Gov. Ridge signed the death warrant, he was well aware that Mumia was about to submit the writ of habeas corpus. His move was outrageous, deliberate and vindictive--an indication that powerful forces in the ruling class have a serious plan to kill Mumia.

When the habeas petition was filed, Mumia's lawyers also requested that the federal district judge issue a stay of execution. The legal team is hoping for an indefinite stay, until the judge reaches a decision in the appeal.

Mumia's habeas petition asks for an evidentiary hearing in the federal district court--to present key evidence and witnesses that were suppressed by the Pennsylvania courts. The hearing is a critical issue in the fight for Mumia's life. Up to this point, all hearings in the Pennsylvania courts were presided over by Judge Sabo--known as the "hanging judge" because of the many people he sent to death row. As the habeas petition documents, these hearings in Sabo's court were full of constitutional violations. Sabo's actions then received the stamp of approval from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices, many of whom have close ties with the Fraternal Order of Police.

In other words, a hearing at the federal district court would be Mumia's first real opportunity to have the evidence and witnesses for his case heard and reviewed in court. At the same time, this is Mumia's last chance to bring up such evidence and witnesses. After the federal district court, higher appeals courts will only review transcripts of Mumia's case --they will not hear new evidence and witnesses. So a hearing at the federal district court to get the facts on record is of vital importance.

The federal judge handling the case, William Yohn, is not legally required to grant an evidentiary hearing. He can decide to review the brief and make a ruling without actually holding a hearing in court.

This is a crucial juncture in the fight for justice for Mumia. The beginning of Mumia's federal appeal, and the signing of the death warrant by Ridge, have raised the stakes dramatically and brought on a new level of urgency.

The movement for Mumia is raising two immediate demands: 1. Grant a stay of execution on the death warrant set for December 2 by Gov. Ridge; 2. Grant an evidentiary hearing in the federal district court to examine the evidence presented by Mumia.

The power structure has made clear their murderous intention--to silence Mumia's voice and deliver a message of intimidation to others. The people must respond with an increasingly powerful movement to demand justice for Mumia. This case needs to become such a dividing line throughout society that the enemy is forced to back off their plans.

Carl Dix, RCP National Spokesperson, spoke recently about the stakes in this battle and what it's going to take to win: "Mumia has spent his whole life fighting against the whole program of punishment this system is bringing down. He has helped to give voice to the people who want to resist. This is why the system is so desperate to murder him. And it's why we need to beat back their foul attempts, stop his execution and free him from jail. Many, many people would draw tremendous inspiration from this victory over our common enemy. The sweet taste of victory would spur the youth on to take the fight for justice even higher. The unity we had forged in this battle and the sense of our own strength that we had gained would put us in a great position to accelerate our resistance to this death-dealing capitalist system. This is the kind of tip we need to be on entering the new millennium.

"So this means we gotta get busy right now. We gotta reach out to and activate many more people from different backgrounds and make them part of this fight. We have to bring into being the kinds of alliances and carry out the kind of determined action that will strike fear in our enemy's hearts. Our resistance today must send the powers a clear message that we'll bring more shit than they can handle down on their asses if they don't jump back from their attempts to murder our brother Mumia and free him from jail."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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