Saturday, March 14, 2009

Legal Briefs Support Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Cuban Five

Legal briefs support Mumia and Cuban Five

By Cheryl LaBash
Mar 12, 2009 8:44 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court got a glimpse of the strong support for Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Cuban Five--Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández, René González and Ramón Labañino--when friend-of-the-court legal documents were filed March 5 and 6 on behalf of these six internationally known political prisoners.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on as few as 100 cases per year, although thousands are submitted. The briefs submitted support a full examination of the legal issues in both cases.

Racism in jury selection and the right of defendants to a fair trial are at the center of both appeals. Abu-Jamal and the Cuban Five were prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned for political reasons.

Abu-Jamal, imprisoned for more than 27 years, is a noted African-American journalist who dared to be “the voice of the voiceless,” defending the MOVE organization and Philadelphia’s African-American community against the racist police. The state of Pennsylvania continues to push to execute Abu-Jamal, despite evidence of police coercion of witnesses and even a sworn confession from another person.

On March 5, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) filed a friend of the court brief supporting Abu-Jamal’s “claim of racial discrimination in the selection of the jury for his 1981 death penalty trial.” The first African-American Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, was also the first director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund, which was founded in 1940 to “assist African Americans in securing their rights through the prosecution of lawsuits.”

The LDF’s blog, , lays out some of the blatant evidence of racism in the Philadelphia prosecutor’s office toward Abu-Jamal’s case, including a video of Jack McMahon, then a Philadelphia assistant district attorney, offering strategies on how to exclude jurors of color. The LDF’s brief and additional information on the fight to free Abu-Jamal are at .

On March 6, 12 separate friend-of-the-court briefs were filed urging the Supreme Court to hear the case of the Cuban Five. According to a press release from attorney Thomas Goldstein, it is “the largest number of amicus briefs ever to have urged the Supreme Court to review a criminal conviction.”

The documents represent 10 human rights Nobel Prize winners; hundreds of international parliamentarians; the Mexican Senate; Mary Robinson, former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Ireland; the National Jury Project; the National Lawyers Guild; the National Conference of Black Lawyers; the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers-Miami Chapter; Cuban-American scholars; and more. A detailed summary and link to the complete texts can be found at .

The briefs distill the deep international support for the five Cuban men, who came to the United States to monitor Florida-based paramilitary organizations plotting to carry out violent attacks on Cuba during the 1990s. Many local and national committees, including the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, relentlessly organized to make this case known in a determined uphill effort to pierce the wall of media silence inside the U.S.

A March 3 letter from the 56,000-member Canadian Union of Postal Workers to President Barack Obama said: “Recent history has shown that terrorist attacks have been planned and launched from the United States against the Cuban people for many years. There was no real effort by U.S. authorities to prevent this and much evidence that your security services aided and abetted these crimes. The crime of these Cuban Five men was to investigate and report planned terrorist attacks that were directed against the people of Cuba. At no time did these individuals seek or obtain military secrets. Their only goal was to protect their people from more death originating from south Florida.

“These men have been further punished. While there is no evidence they are anything but model prisoners, they have been held in solitary for long periods. Two of the five have been denied visits from their spouses. We see no value in this cruel punishment, no gain in security for the United States and serious damage to your credibility as a nation founded on law.”

Although these important cases are up for consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court, the struggle in the streets is where the decisions will finally be won. As Robert Bryan, Abu-Jamal’s attorney, wrote, “This is a life and death struggle to save Mumia. He is in greater danger than at any time since being arrested. Your support and activism is needed. That Mumia remains in prison and on death row is an affront to basic human rights. We must aggressively continue this struggle until he is free.”

Free Mumia! Free the Cuban Five!
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