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The 'Mumia Exception' - Explaining Injustice

By       Message Linn Washington     Permalink
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Yet, Pa state and federal courts repeatedly found no violation in the failure of Abu-Jamal's trial lawyer to present any kind of mitigating evidence during the penalty hearing producing Abu-Jamal's death sentence.

It's important to note that courts uphold procedural rights in death penalty cases like the mitigating evidence requirement without challenging evidence of guilt.

The most recent example of the "Exception's" create-new-law prong is the 2008 ruling by the federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upholding Abu-Jamal's conviction where it created a new standard for challenging racist jury selection practices by prosecutors.

That newly invented 3rd Circuit standard exceeded both the jury bias proof precedent that appeals court used six previous times in faulting discriminatory practices by prosecutors. Further, that new standard was more stringent than U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

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But, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Abu-Jamal's appeal in April 2009, it exhibited "The Mumia Exception" by allowing the 3rd Circuit's precedent-contradicting standard to stand thus keeping Abu-Jamal sitting in a death row cell.

Examples of the "Mumia Exception" abound"even in court rulings involving defendants convicted of killing police officers.

Three years before Abu-Jamal's December 9, 1981 arrest for fatally shooting Philadelphia Policeman Daniel Faulkner the Pa Supreme Court granted a new trial to a Pittsburgh, Pa man sentenced to death for the ambush slaying of a police officer.

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The Pa Supreme Court, in that 1978 ruling, condemned a judge for allowing prosecutors to introduce "irrelevant and prejudicial" evidence that improperly inflamed the jury.

But eleven years later the Pa Supreme Court rejected Abu-Jamal's appeal claim that his trial judge allowed prosecutors to improperly taint jurors with their inflammatory yet unsubstantiated assertion that Abu-Jamal's teenaged membership in the Black Panther Party spurred his killing a cop.

Abu-Jamal, an award-winning journalist who voluntarily left the BPP in 1970, had no record of violence or other criminal conduct.

In 1999, the Pa Supreme Court released two reputed gangsters convicted of a high-profile mob murder in Philadelphia, declaring that pair was denied a fair trial due to "extensive and flagrant prosecutorial misconduct."

That ruling releasing the mobsters from prison came one year after the Pa Supreme Court rejected all allegations of fair trial violations when upholding Abu-Jamal's conviction for the second time.

That October 1998 ruling rejected voluminous evidence presented during Abu-Jamal's mid-1990s post-conviction appeal proceedings documenting official misconduct. That evidence included prosecutorial misconduct of improperly withholding evidence of innocence, discriminatory jury selection practices and intimidating defense witnesses.

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The pro-prosecution bias of Judge Albert Sabo during Abu-Jamal's 1995 post-conviction appeal hearing was so pronounced that it drew intense criticism from local and national news media normally hostile to Abu-Jamal.

While editorials, commentaries and news coverage assailed Sabo's improprieties, including fining and jailing Abu-Jamal's defense lawyers, the Pa Supreme Court proclaimed the "opinions of a handful of journalists" did not convince it that Sabo acted improperly.

One 1995 rights demolishing action completely ignored by state and federal courts was then PA Governor Tom Ridge issuing a death warrant on the eve of Abu-Jamal's lawyers filing their post-conviction appeal.

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Linn Washington Jr. is a veteran investigative journalist who writes regularly on issues involving the criminal justice system, the news media, race-&-racism, constitutional rights and the Mumia Abu-Jamal case. He is passionate about examining (more...)

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The 'Mumia Exception' - Explaining Injustice