By Dave Lindorff and Linn Washington, Jr.
Mumia Abu-Jamal--30 unconstitutional years on PA's Death Row by ThisCantBeHappening
With Mumia Abu-Jamal's sentence of death now formally vacated, thanks to the Supreme Court's decision last week not to consider an appeal by the Philadelphia District Attorney of a Third Circuit Court panel's ruling that that sentence had been unconstitutional thanks to flawed jury instructions from the trial judge and a flawed jury ballot form, many of those who have long called for his execution are now saying, fine, let him rot in prison for the rest of his life.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, the leading newspaper in his home town of Philadelphia, in more genteel language, said essentially the same thing in an unsigned October 13 editorial, opining that with the death penalty vacated, the default sentence of life in prison without parole was "appropriate" and "in the best interest of justice."
The editorial urged DA Seth Williams not to exercise his right within the next 171 days to seek to obtain a new death sentence by asking for a new jury trial on the penalty only. The paper made this plea not because the editors felt such an effort to re-sentence him would be unfair to the prisoner, but because of the cost to the struggling city of Philadelphia.
But hold on here. Putting aside for a moment the matter of whether Abu-Jamal was even fairly convicted in a trial that was viewed as a shameful farce at the time in 1982 even by the editors of the Inquirer, is it really "in the best interest of justice" or in any way "appropriate" for Abu-Jamal to simply be switched over from a death sentence to a sentence of life in prison without parole, now that, as the Inquirer correctly noted in its editorial, "four federal judges have ruled that Abu-Jamal's 1982 death sentence was unconstitutional," and that "he was denied a fair sentencing at his original trial."
No. It is manifestly not just or appropriate!
The unconstitutional sentence of death voted out by confused jurors back in 1982 has meant that Abu-Jamal, for nearly 30 years, has been held in a Super Max death row prison called SCI-Greene in western Pennsylvania, where he is confined in a tiny windowless cell in solitary confinement, separated at all times form even other inmates. It means that unlike other prisoners, as a death row inmate he has for all those years been unable to have any physical contact with friends and loved ones -- even his little grandchildren, or his late mother, whose funeral he was barred from attending...
For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF and LINN WASHINGTON, JR. in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new award-winning independent online alternative newspaper, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/866
Lindorff is author of the book "Killing Time" (Common Courage Pres, 2003), the most authoritive independent investigation of this long-running case. Washington has been covering if in Philadelphia for over 20 years.