Pan-African News Wire editor, Abayomi Azikiwe, is also a broadcast journalist. He has hosted and co-hosted radio programs on five different stations since 1999. (Photo: Dale Rich).
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Demonstrations take place globally demanding release of former Black Panther Party organizer
Editorial by Abayomi Azikiwe
Pan-African News Wire
Mumia Abu-Jamal, the long-held political prisoner and former member of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, has been denied a new trial in a Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in March. Jamal had documented numerous constitutional violations to his right to a fair trial during 1982 and the sentencing phase extending to 1983.
Despite the fact that many prospective well-qualified African-American jurors were summarily struck from the pool and that the presiding judge, Albert F. Sabo, had been heard making derogatory racist remarks against Jamal in addition to affirming his desire to see the journalist executed, the federal appeals court panel voted 2-1 to uphold the conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal for the December 9, 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, but to also uphold the federal district court ruling by Judge William Yohn in 2001, overturning the death penalty.
It was the opinion of the appeals panel that constitutional violations did occur during the penalty phase of the trial and as a result decided to sentence Mumia to life in prison without parole. If this is not acceptable to the prosecution in Philadelphia, then they have the option of re-paneling a jury and holding another hearing on whether the death penalty should be reimposed or if Mumia should be given life without parole.
This decision basically upheld the ruling of Judge Yohn in late 2001. Some six years later, Mumia Abu-Jamal is no closer to realizing justice than he was the night of the murder of Officer Faulkner. During the Post-Conviction Relief Appeals (PCRA) process in 1995, additional witnesses came forward claiming to have seen something totally different than what the prosecution had argued years before.
Just recently photographs of the crime scene have surfaced which cast further doubt on the police and prosecution version of the events during the early morning hours of December 9, 1981. It has been seen repeatedly over the years that those political figures in Pennsylvania who have decades of involvement in this case, such as the one-time district attorny Ed Rendell, who is now Governor, as well as Joseph McGill, who argued then as well as now, that Mumia is guilty without a shadow of a doubt of first-degree murder.
Supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal have declared that the ruling by the Federal Appeals Court is unacceptable. In a statement issued by Pam Africa of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ), she points out that: "Last week's court decision was not a victory. While we obviously prefer to have Mumia alive, instead of executed, life in prison without parole is an unacceptable sentence for an innocent man that was convicted with a blatantly unfair trial."
The statement issued by Pam Africa also states that: "Further, there is still no guarantee that he will not be executed. Also, even if the overtuning of the death penalty is eventually finalized, there is no guarantee that he will be moved into the general prison population, because the government has always found ways to make 'exceptions' for political prisoners like Mumia."
Emphasizing the failure of the majority of the federal appeals panel (2-1) to recognize the blatant racial discrimination that occured during the jury selection process in Mumia's 1982 trial where Prosecutor McGill "used 10 of his peremptory strikes to remove otherwise acceptable black jurors, yet the court ruled that there was not even the appearance of discrimination against just one of these black jurors!"
According to the ICFFMAJ statement: "Judge Thomas Ambro (the minority dissenter on the federal appeals panel) has noted this blatant double-standard with the court's rejection of the 'Batson' claim regarding racist jury selection, and he states in his dissenting opinion that the court's ruling 'goes against the grain of our prior actions.... I see no reason why we should not afford Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents.'"
Consequently, the ICFFMAJ has called for further demonstrations against this ruling. They have announced a mass demonstration for April 19 in Philadelphia to bring Mumia Abu-Jamal supporters together from throughout the country. This demonstration was scheduled at this time to closely approximate the Pennsylvania primaries.
The ICFFMAJ statement says that: "On April 19, with the media spotlight on Pennsylvania's Presidential Primary Election, supporters from around the world will gather in Philadelphia to take a constitutional stand and show our outrage with this unjust court decision."
Mumia's Plight and the Criminal Injustice System
Mumia Abu-Jamal is not the only political prisoner in the United States. The National Jericho Movement has identified at least 150 people who are being held for political reasons within the country, for activities purportedly related to efforts aimed at winning national liberation and social justice for oppressed peoples inside the country or under US dominance, such as Puerto Rico and the Native American nations.
Moreover, America is a national security state and a criminal industrial complex. Over two million people are currently incarcerated in prisons and jails throughout the country. The overwhelming majority of these men, and growing numbers of women, are people from the African, Latino and Native population groups along with working class and poor whites as well.
This phenomenal growth in the prison population, which has climbed more than 400% in the last three decades, is occuring at the same time that structural economic changes are eviscerating the livelihoods of tens of millions of people inside the United States. Consequently, there is no reason not to believe that short of a drastic radical transformation of American society, the national security state and the criminal industrial complex will continue as means of social control of the black, brown and poor peoples and the maximization of profit from the free labor of incarcerated inhabitants of the United States.
Therefore, the plight of Mumia Abu-Jamal represents a profound symbol of the current conditions facing millions within the United States. Until there is a popular movement to bring about revolutionary change by abolishing racism and national oppression along with the eradication of poverty and economic exploitation, the ruling interests within the country will utilize class and national divisions to maintain control over the freedom and movement of an ever increasing number of people.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and has been a supporter of Mumia Abu-Jamal's defense campaign for many years. He has attended numerous demonstrations in Philadelphia and other cities over the years demanding the freedom of Jamal and other political prisoners in the United States.