Mumia Deserves Justice

A Day Of Action To Mark 20 Stolen Years On Death Row

By: Lucy Herschel

December 9, 2001, is the 20th anniversary of the arrest of Pennsylvania political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Mumia has spent most of these 20 years in 23-hour lockdown on death row. With no human contact, fully shackled and handcuffed whenever he leaves his cell, Mumia aptly describes his home as "a bright, shining hell."

As the New Abolitionist went to press, plans were in the works for a press conference on Deccember 7 and a rally on December 8, both in Philadelphia, to mark this grim anniversary. The press conference is to feature Angela Davis, a French delegation, and other supporters.

Several Campaign chapters from the East Coast are planning mobilizations for the December 8 demonstration, with chapters that are unable to travel to Philadelphia planning local events.

Protesters will be demanding that the courts look at new evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including the confession of Arnold Beverly, who says that he committed the murder for which Mumia is on death row!

Mumia’s legal team has been attempting to convince both federal and state courts to review this and other new evidence of Mumia’s innocence. Over the summer, Federal District Court Judge William Yohn refused to order a deposition of Beverly. Then, on November 21, Pennsylvania judge Pamela Dembe denied Mumia’s request to reopen his state-level appeals, claiming that she has no jurisdiction to consider any of the newly presented evidence of Mumia’s innocence.

Mumia’s attorneys can still press Judge Yohn to consider the new evidence. And Mumia’s federal habeas corpus petition, filed almost two years ago, is still pending in Yohn’s court.

In a side note that could effect this petition, in mid-November, a federal court ordered a new trial for Pennsylvania death row inmate Otis Peterkin in a case similar to Mumia’s. Peterkin was also sentenced to death by Judge Albert Sabo, the "hanging judge" who mishandled Mumia’s trial. In overturning Peterkin’s conviction, a federal judge cited "prosecutorial misconduct, trial counsel ineffectiveness and trial error," including the judge’s improper evidentiary rulings.

Justice won’t come without a fight. In August, 1,500 people filled the streets outside Judge Dembe’s court. We have to keep up this pressure! We must mobilize for Philadelphia on December 8, and spread the message that Mumia deserves justice now!