(Article changed on February 5, 2014 at 12:15)
By Dave Lindorff
Mumia Abu-Jamal has long been a living litmus test for whether people really want justice. Convicted in what even the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time was calling a terribly unfair trial over the alleged killing a white police officer, and sentenced to death by a racially biased and bloodthirsty "hanging" judge, Albert Sabo, Abu-Jamal spent 30 years on Philadelphia's death row, always in solitary confinement, until a federal court, backed by the US Supreme Court, finally vacated the sentence, switching it to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
When the court tossed out Abu-Jamal's death sentence, the reasons given were faulty jury instructions by the judge and a flawed jury sentencing form that the federal court believed could have led jurors to mistakenly believe that they could not individually oppose the death penalty, but would have to unanimously agree to oppose it. (In fact the opposite is true: any one juror in a death penalty sentencing can block execution by opposing the sentence, while death can only by imposed by a unanimous vote of the jury.)
This was an important ruling the upheld the integrity (such as it is) of the capital punishment system. It didn't correct for the three decades that Abu-Jamal spent, wrongfully and unconstitutionally, in the hell-hole of Pennsylvania's Death Row, but it at least ended that cruel and unusual torment.
Now one of the attorneys who helped craft the legal case that ultimately led to the lifting of that unconstitutional sentence, Philadelphia attorney Debe Adegbile, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to head the Civil Rights Division of the US Justice Department. Adegbile, on the merits, is an excellent choice for the post. A long-time civil rights litigator, well versed in the issues that the division is responsible for dealing with, he has also served with distinction as senior counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But Adegbile has aroused the wrath of the right-wing media and the pro-cop fanatics in Congress and elsewhere because of one thing he did, which was to volunteer to assist the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in developing its argument in federal court for overturning Abu-Jamal's death sentence.
Never mind that the arguments Adegbile and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund presented to the federal court were found to be correct, and that in fact the court found that Abu-Jamal had been improperly and unconstitutionally sentenced to death. For the right-wingers and for the political charlatans for whom police are all to be held up as heroes, regardless of their abuses and corruption, taking the side of a "cop-killer" disqualifies anyone from holding a post in government.
Here in Pennsylvania, this toxic attitude is particularly virulent.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).