Date: October 18, 2008
From: Robert R. Bryan, lead counsel, San Francisco
Subject: U.S. Supreme Court developments concerning Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row
U.S. Supreme Court There are new developments in the case of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on Pennsylvania's death row, that are the most significant and deadly since his 1981 arrest. The prosecution has advised the Supreme Court that it is seeking reversal of the federal decision which ordered a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. Earlier I made an appearance in the court on our ongoing effort to win an entirely new jury trial on the issue of innocence, so that Mumia can be freed.
We are now at the crossroads of the case. This is a life and death struggle in the fight for Mumia’s freedom. His life hangs in the balance. The following are details as to what has been occurring in the Supreme Court.
Abu-Jamal v. Beard, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 08A299 On October 3, I filed in the Supreme Court a Motion for Extension of Time To File Petition for Writ of Certiorari. Justice David H. Souter granted the motion on October 9. The Petition is now due on December 19, 2008.
The issues I will be presenting on behalf of Mumia include racism in jury selection and the prosecutor’s misrepresentations to the jury during the guilt phase of the 1982 trial. These were denied last spring by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. Abu-Jamal v. Horn, 520 F.3d 272 (3rd Cir. 2008). The court was split 2-1 on the racism question.
The prosecution’s use of racism in selecting the jury is a strong issue because of the powerful dissenting opinion by Judge Thomas L. Ambro. In voting that relief should be granted, he wrote that “[e]xcluding even a single person from a jury because of race violates the Equal Protection Clause of our Constitution” and concluded that “everyone is entitled to a fair and impartial trial by a jury of his or her peers.”
A major problem we have encountered is that Mumia’s previous lawyers neither developed essential evidence nor raised some issues of constitutional significance. Such failings are inexcusable. For example his attorneys during the period 1994-2001, failed to even get the racial composition of the panel from which the jury was selected. They had the jurors’ names and addresses, and could have gone out and obtained this information in a day. Once the case went up on appeal it was too late to introduce this crucial evidence which would have established beyond question that African-Americans were underrepresented on the jury panel and that the prosecution used discriminatory racial practices in jury selection. Justice Ambro pointed out in his dissent that this deficiency should not serve as a basis to deny relief in view of the other evidence we have of prosecutorial racism. Another issue concerning the judge's racism and prejudice at trial was doomed from the start because it was not even presented by the previous lawyers. Rather, they only argued that the judge was unfair 13 years later at a 1995 evidentiary hearing. It was an incompetent mistake that waived this strong issue. Sadly, Mumia is bound by the errors of those lawyers.
Beard v. Abu-Jamal, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 08A315 The Philadelphia District Attorney is seeking reversal of the federal court decision which granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. Their intent is to see Mumia executed. That was announced in an extension motion filed in the Supreme Court. The court ordered on October 14 that the government petition must be filed by November 19, 2008. We will then submit briefing in opposition to the death penalty arguments.
Abu-Jamal v. Pennsylvania, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 08-5456 In a ruling not related to the present litigation, the Supreme Court on October 6 issued an order denying the petition we had filed seeking review of a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. That concerned the denial of a new trial based upon the fact that the prosecution persuaded witnesses to lie in order to obtain a conviction and death judgment against my client. This arises from adverse rulings by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The District Attorney successfully argued that Mumia’s previous lawyers had failed to raise the misconduct issues in a timely manner. Even though this evidence of fraud is not before the Supreme Court, I will certainly be able to use it at a new jury trial.
Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense Due to the developments in the Supreme Court, the legal defense for Mumia is in dire need of funds. The legal costs will likely reach $100,000. To help, please make your checks payable to the “National Lawyers Guild Foundation” (indicate "Mumia" on the bottom left). These donations to Mumia’s defense are tax deductible, and should be mailed to:
Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012
Conclusion More activism and support is needed in the campaign to free Mumia from the death penalty and prison. It is an affront to civilized standards and international law that he remains in prison and on death row. We must have hope and fight for justice.
Yours very truly,
Robert R. Bryan
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117