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Cracks in Mumia Abu-Jamal's case

By Linn Washington Jr.  Posted by Hans Bennett (about the submitter)     Permalink
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A clear case of open-and-shut guilt is how Philadelphia police and prosecutors describe the first-degree murder conviction that sent journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal to death row over a quarter century ago.

However, just a quick peek underneath the surface of this case reveals a litany of errors and wrongdoing by police, prosecutors and judges that implode all claims of Abu-Jamal's absolute guilt.

The case against the world's most famous death-row denizen arguably contains compelling aspects of apparent guilt, albeit circumstantial and lacking the conclusive forensic evidence normally expected in such a high-profile prosecution.

Yes, police did find Abu-Jamal at the crime scene, critically wounded by a bullet fired from the slain policeman's gun.

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Yes, eyewitnesses testified that Abu-Jamal shot Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Yes, two policemen claimed hearing Abu-Jamal confess to the crime.

And, yes, courts from Philadelphia's Common Pleas up to the U.S. Supreme Court have upheld Abu-Jamal's conviction.

Yet, arguably compelling aspects cannot quell serious questions arising from the mound of documented misconduct by authorities in Abu-Jamal's case that make a mockery of America's constitutionally enshrined rights to a fair trial.

While fair trial rights require an impartial judge, the judge presiding at Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial declared on the eve of that proceeding that he would help prosecutors "fry the n----r" -- a declaration graphically displaying unfair bias.

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Five of the seven Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices who unanimously upheld Abu-Jamal's conviction in 1998 received critical political and other assistance from Philadelphia's police union -- the main group pushing for Abu-Jamal's execution.

That entanglement undermined the appearance of impartiality required of jurists by Pennsylvania's Code of Judicial Conduct.

One of those five justices in 1998 -- Ronald D. Castille, a former district attorney of Philadelphia who fought to execute Abu-Jamal -- rejected recusal requests that cited code provisions barring participation of a judge who had "served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy ""

The "overt hostility of the trial judge and the appearance of judicial bias during appellate review" render Abu-Jamal's "verdict and sentence fundamentally unsound," Amnesty International noted in its seminal February 2000 study of this contentious case that recommended a new trial for Abu-Jamal.

Facts Don't Fit

Consider the fact that the two policemen who claimed hearing Abu-Jamal confess hours after Faulkner's fatal shooting waited several weeks to report this key evidence to detectives.

One of those two policemen claiming to hear Abu-Jamal's confession had even filed an official report hours after the fatal shooting saying Abu-Jamal made "no comments."

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