Time is running out for Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black journalist in the U.S. whose supporters say he was falsely charged with murdering a police officer.
Jamal’s case is an educational example of Euro-American justice.
He is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on August 17 after 13 years on death row. Jamal was a member of the Black Panther Party and active in the black community. Prosecutors made an issue out of his politics at his trial before an all-white jury.
Jamal was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1982. His supporters say there is strong evidence he is innocent. In Dec. 1981, he came upon an officer who had stopped his brother for a traffic violation and was pummeling him with a flashlight. Jamal rushed over to intervene. In an exchange of gunfire, the officer was killed and Jamal critically wounded in the abdomen.
Eyewitnesses say the shooter, a man much larger than Jamal, fled the scene.
Jamal was found by police sitting near the officer slumped over in a pool of his own blood. He was charged with first-degree pre-meditated murder, despite the chance nature of the incident.
At his trial, Jamal was defended by an inexperienced court-appointed lawyer later suspended from practicing law because of financial improprieties. The lawyer got only $ 150 to investigate Jamal’s defense and located just two eyewitnesses. Police, on the other hand, interviewed over 125 witnesses and those with stories supporting Jamal were not called to testify.
The judge at the trial, Albert Sabo, is notorious for putting more people on death row than any other sitting judge in the U.S. Jamal’s supporters say the trial was marred by dubious legal procedures, including questions about Jamal’s politics.
In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Jamal’s appeal. That same year, the court struck down the death sentence of a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white racist organization, who complained that his political views should not have come up in his trial.
Jamal’s cause has been taken up around the world. So far Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, a conservative, is resisting pressure to order a new trial.
His office has been flooded by letters of protest, including one from Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress.
You can write, call or fax Gov. Tom Ridge at the Main Capitol Building, rm 225, Harrisburg, PA, 17120 U.S. Tel: (717) 787-2500, fax: (717) 783-3369. Thanks to Mike Ryan for information about Jamal’s case.