Monday, October 20, 2008

Jericho Movement Says: 'Free All Political Prisoners' While Supreme Court Denies Hearing for Mumia Abu-Jamal

10 years and counting : Jericho Movement says: ‘Free all political prisoners!’

By Anne Pruden
New York
Published Oct 15, 2008 6:11 PM

The National Jericho Movement celebrated its 10th anniversary of demanding liberation for all political prisoners in the U.S. and worldwide with a “Weekend of Resistance” that began on Oct. 10 with a noontime picket line and rally at the United Nations in New York City. The marchers proceeded to Madison Square Park for another rally.

On Oct. 11, Jericho sponsored a protest that began with a march of hundreds starting at the Harlem State Office Building and ending with a rally at Morningside Park with many powerful speakers and some music. Jericho spokesperson Paulette D’Auteuil introduced Chief Billy Tayac of the Piscataway Nation who spoke on behalf of Leonard Peltier, who has been falsely imprisoned since 1976 for the deaths of two FBI agents, and other Indigenous political prisoners.

Jericho co-founders Iyaluua Ferguson and Herman Ferguson—a former political prisoner—gave moving talks. Jericho Chairpersons Kazi Toure and Ashanti Alston spoke as well. Attorney Lynne Stewart spoke of her ongoing trial and frame-up and the need for all to stay active. Suzanne Ross and Gwen Debrow, co-chairs of the N.Y. Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, spoke. An audio-taped message was played from Mumia paying tribute to former political prisoner, Safiya Bukhari, a late founder of Jericho.

Other activists spoke on behalf of other political prisoners such as the Puerto Rican Grand Jury defendants, who are being targeted by the U.S. government for their pro-independence activities; the Cuban 5, serving life sentences in the U.S. for exposing terrorist plans to overthrow the Cuban revolution; the Angola 3, former Black Panthers framed for killing a prison guard in Angola, La.; Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly H. Rap Brown, who is serving a life sentence for the shooting death of a white deputy in Alabama; and Herman Bell, one of the New York Three.

D’Auteuil concluded the rally with this message: “Our goal continues to build a political prisoners and prisoners of war movement nationally and internationally!”

Go to for more information on these political prisoners and others.
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Supreme Court denies Mumia right to present new witnesses

By Betsey Piette
Published Oct 18, 2008 7:31 AM

Courts on the local, state and federal levels have time after time reversed their own legal precedents just to rule against political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. The latest outrageous chapter in this 27-year conspiracy to imprison, silence and kill Abu-Jamal came Oct. 6, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal for a new guilt-phase trial.

Abu-Jamal’s appeal, based on the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), had asked the courts to hear newly discovered testimony from Yvette Williams and Kenneth Pate, two witnesses who came forth after his 1982 trial on charges of killing a Philadelphia police officer.

The appeal was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in July after being rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in February. Earlier, Philadelphia Judge Pamela Dembe had also denied Abu-Jamal’s PCRA petition in 2005 on the basis that it was not “timely.”

The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court, led by former Philadelphia District Attorney Ron Castille, who helped fight Abu-Jamal’s appeals when he was the district attorney and has yet to recuse himself from decisions involving the case, has never issued a ruling favorable to Abu-Jamal.

Yvette Williams, who was in jail with star prosecution witness Cynthia White in December 1981, testified that White had told her police made her lie against Abu-Jamal. Suspiciously, no official eyewitness had even reported seeing White at the scene.

Williams’ account of White being coerced by police into giving false testimony was strongly supported by the testimony of Veronica Jones at the 1982 trial and the 1996 PCRA appeal and by Pamela Jenkins at the 1997 PCRA appeal.

Hans Bennett of Journalists for Mumia notes that “Amnesty International has documented that White’s alleged eyewitness account was altered, as each subsequent account given to police further served to support the prosecution scenario used to convict Abu-Jamal.”

Kenneth Pate stated that his stepsister, prosecution witness Priscilla Durham, confided to him that she also lied in court when she testified that she heard Abu-Jamal confess at the hospital where he was being treated for gun wounds. Even before Pate’s affidavit, Durham’s account was very suspicious.

Hospital security guard Durham waited for more than two months after the Dec. 9, 1981, shooting of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner to allege that Abu-Jamal had made a “hospital confession,” allegedly declaring, “I shot the motherf***er and I hope the motherf***er dies.”

After Durham made her claim in February 1982, another hospital guard, James LeGrand, and police officers Gary Bell and Thomas M. Bray suddenly “remembered” they had also heard the alleged “confession.” Only two of these witnesses were called by the district attorney—Bell, who was Faulkner’s partner and best friend, and Durham.

Pate states Durham told him that “Mumia was all bloody and the police were interfering with his treatment, saying, ‘Let him die.’ Priscilla said that the police told her that she was part of the ‘brotherhood’ of police since she was a security guard and that she had to stick with them and say that she heard Mumia say that he killed the police officer when they brought Mumia in on a stretcher.’’

At the 1982 trial Durham also claimed for the first time that she had reported the “confession” to her supervisor on Dec. 10 in a hand-written report. Neither the alleged written statement nor her supervisor was ever brought into court.

In his testimony, Gary Bell claimed that his two-month memory lapse resulted from his being so upset over the death of Faulkner that he forgot to report it to police.

Durham and Bell’s testimonies were contradicted by police officer Gary Wakshul, who on Dec. 9, 1981, wrote, “The negro male made no comment.” However, Wakshul, who rode with Abu-Jamal to the hospital and guarded him until his treatment, was never called as a witness in the 1982 trial.

When Abu-Jamal’s court-appointed attorney, Anthony Jackson, discovered Wakshul’s statement on the final day of the 1982 trial, he asked to call Wakshul as a witness. The district attorney responded that Wakshul was “on vacation.” Judge Albert Sabo, on the grounds that it was “too late in the trial,” denied the defense request to locate him.

When an outraged Abu-Jamal protested, Judge Sabo cruelly declared to him, “You and your attorney goofed.” The jury never heard from Wakshul or about his contradictory written report.

At the 1995 PCRA hearing, Wakshul testified that he had spent his 1982 vacation at home—in accordance with explicit instructions to stay in town for the trial so that he could testify if called. Just days before his PCRA testimony, Wakshul was savagely beaten by undercover police officers in front of a judge in the common pleas courtroom, where Wakshul then worked as a court crier.

Protests on Dec. 6

With the court’s PCRA rejection, another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court—this one of the Third Circuit decision—is now more important than ever, because this is now his last chance for a new guilt-phase trial. The filing of this appeal is due by Oct. 20, unless a 60-day extension is requested. A number of events are planned to raise awareness of the critical juncture facing Abu-Jamal’s case.

This coming Dec. 9 will mark the 27th year of Abu-Jamal’s frame-up and unjust imprisonment on Pennsylvania’s death row. Saturday, Dec. 6, has been designated an International Day of Solidarity by International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the N.Y. Free Mumia Coalition, International Action Center and other Mumia activists.

Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends told Workers World: “This is just one more example that Mumia cannot get a fair trial here. They say Mumia’s life is in the hands of the government, but we say his life is in the hands of the people.

“We cannot have another Shaka Sankofa, Zion Israel, Tookie Williams—where the evidence shows innocence yet they are murdered by the state.”

A major protest will take place in Philadelphia. Events are also planned for Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston, as well as cities in other countries.
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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