By Gregory Muhammad
Hundreds of people recently gathered to hear about newly discovered evidence previously withheld by Philadelphia prosecutors in the case of Brother Mumia Abu-Jamal. Members of the Nation of Islam Prison Reform Ministry, Delaware Valley Region were present at an event held at First United Methodist Church of Germantown, in Philadelphia about the case of Mumia.
Evidence of his innocence was illegally withheld by prosecutors at his trial and subsequent appeals, his supporters and advocates argued. Various speakers, including experts, scholars and activists addressed the audience with their thoughts on what they pointed out are the constitutional violations in Mumia’s case.
These violations carried out by the Philadelphia prosecutor’s office are only more evidence of “racism and injustice” inflicted upon Black people, their families, and communities in Philadelphia, they argued.
Speakers at the March 11 panel, themed “Bearing Witness In the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” covered details and insight into these violations. On the panel was Gabriel Bryant, community activist; Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Friends and Defense Team liaison; Dr. Johanna Fernandez, a faculty member at the University at CUNY Baruch and Linn Washington, a graduate of the Master of Studies in Law Journalism Fellowship Program at Yale Law School. Mr. Washington is also a former special assistant to Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix Jr. of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Washington is currently an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University. Panelists also included reverend and retired judge Wendell Griffin and Dr. Cornell West, former Professor of Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University.
Mr. Washington moderated the event. “Courts are supposed to be about justice we are all told,” he said during his opening remarks. “But, when we hear Mumia’s case with all the judges who have handled his case and we are talking about ‘justice,’ it wasn’t until 2018 that the word ‘justice’ appeared in any judicial opinion concerning Mumia,” he said.
“It was Philadelphia Judge Leon Tucker who addressed ‘justice’ in Mumia’s hearing. And, Judge Tucker said, having Castille on that case was a fundamental ‘injustice.’ And, of course, Pennsylvania said, ‘well, Tucker, you don’t know what you’re looking at, we don’t see any problem here.’ And that is what ‘injustice’ is,” added Mr. Washington.
Mumia was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer more than three decades ago. Ron Castille was Philadelphia’s district attorney during some of Mumia’s appeals. Mr. Castille later became a state Supreme Court justice, then chief justice of the court, where he was among the judges who rejected Mumia’s final appeal in 2012, noted several media outlets.
Mr. Griffin told the audience, “Let me be very clear, as Linn Washington said, you don’t have to have a law degree to know something is ‘jacked-up.’”
“Let me talk to you about basic fairness; the legal term for that what we call ‘due process.’ The government has an obligation to produce and deliver to us all the evidence it has on the case. They can’t just say ‘Ok we are going to cover up the stuff that shows innocence.’ The government cannot hide stuff that clears us,” explained Mr. Griffin.
Mr. Griffin shared with the audience information about a 1963 decision that law students and lawyers who study or practice criminal law are familiar with. In the case, Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court of the United States said that due process of law is violated when the prosecution conceals evidence relevant to guilt or punishment from the defense, the former judge explained.
“In this country, that kind of precedent should have required Mumia to be released, and the state, or the commonwealth, in this case, decide whether to prosecute him based upon having revealed the right evidence. That hasn’t been done,” he said.
“And so, the question is: ‘Why is Mumia Abu-Jamal not being given, as another federal judge has said, the benefit of the precedents, since 1963—this is 60 years that he should be getting because the state or the commonwealth attorneys violated his due process laws? He had a pretense of a trial,” added Mr. Griffin.
The part of Judge Griffin’s remarks that got this writer’s full attention is when he said the following: “So, we must ask ourselves the question: Why is this journalist, why is this Black activist not free? And why is it so hard for a judge to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got the law that requires him to be free. I’m going to follow the law and declare him free. And if the commonwealth wants to retry him, they can do so.’ If the commonwealth decides we can’t retry him because the evidence is no longer there, people have passed away, witnesses have forgotten information, then that is not Mumia’s fault.”
It is the fault of the prosecutors and Mumia should not be imprisoned because he had a pretense of a trial in the first place and because “bloodlust or the desire to keep a Black activist journalist in prison means that we don’t want to do what’s right,” added Mr. Griffin.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Lucretia Clemons was expected to rule by March 16, on whether newly found documents pointing to Mumia’s innocence are worthy of an evidentiary hearing where they can be properly reviewed and examined. However, at presstime no announcement had been made.
According to the Bring Mumia Home Movement, the court is reviewing three sets of documents that the prosecution withheld from Mumia’s attorneys for more than 36 years:
• Handwritten notes by prosecutor Joe McGill that show that he tracked the race of potential jurors during the jury selection process.
• A handwritten letter by star witness Robert Chobert in which he asks prosecutor Joe McGill for money “owed” him, an indication that Choberts testimony was bribed.
• A series of memoranda between prosecutors and officers of the judicial system in and outside of the state of Pennsylvania indicated that the prosecutor’s other main witness Cynthia White was also bribed. Just months after her testimony at Mumia’s trial, all of White’s pending prostitution charges were suddenly dismissed.
The evidence that “justice” was not done in Brother Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case is overwhelming, his supporters and advocates continue to argue.
The N.O.I. Prison Reform Ministry, Delaware Valley Region has been assigned to support Brother Mumia Abu-Jamal from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Student National Prison Reform Minister Abdullah Muhammad. We will continue to support Brother Mumia!
FREE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL NOW!
FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!
—by Brother Gregory Muhammad
NOI Student Prison Reform Ministry, Delaware Valley Region Coordinator