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(en) The Utopian #2 - Something is Rotten in Philadelphia - By WILLIAM SCHWEIZER

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.utopianmag.com/)
Date Mon, 14 Oct 2002 04:50:15 -0400 (EDT)


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Mumia Abu-Jamal and a large number of his support-
ers began early this year calling for his outright release
from jail.

As many people know, Mumia Abu-Jamal is a political
prisoner on death row in Pennsylvania for shooting a
Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner, in December
1981. Faulkner was shot after stopping the car of Mumia's
brother, William, and clubbing him. Mumia, who hap-
pened to be in the area, was himself shot and arrested. He
was convicted and sentenced to death the next year in a
legal proceeding fraught with irregularities. Twelve years
before this Mumia had been a member of the Black
Panther Party and a reporter for its newspaper. Later he
became a freelance radio journalist in Philadelphia who
exposed the racism, corruption and brutality which the
established press refused to cover. In particular, he exposed
the Philadelphia city government's long murderous war on
the MOVE Organization, which culminated in 1985 with
the bombing of MOVE and the incineration of an entire
Black neighborhood. Although Mumia never had a crimi-
nal record before the shooting, the FBI had amassed a
700-page file on him.

The reasons for the call to free Mumia are: (1) he is
innocent; (2) the judicial system in Eastern
Pennsylvania is so hopelessly politically corrupt that
Mumia cannot get a fair hearing from it. This report
primarily will be concerned with the second reason. In
particular it will look at some of the points brought
out in two of the amicus briefs which were filed in
Mumia's behalf last year. It will examine the court decisions
on those briefs. It will also look at the legal disposition of the
sworn confession of Arnold Beverly, who says that he--not
Mumia--was the real shooter of Officer Faulkner in 1981.
Finally, this report will describe some of the movement with-
in organized labor in support of Mumia. With the legal sys-
tem hopelessly stacked against him, Mumia can only get jus-
tice from a struggle in the streets, and the power of labor is a
critical part of that fight.

Altogether four amicus briefs were filed with District Judge
William Yohn, Jr., who is presiding over Mumia's appeal into
the federal courts. An amicus or friend of the court brief can
be filed by anyone in support of one side or another in a civil
court case. If accepted by the judge, the brief becomes part of
the legal case record. Amicus briefs do not have to be accept-
ed, but in recent years they normally have been.

These briefs were filed by the American Civil Liberties
Union, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the
Chicano-Chicana Studies Foundation of California, and 21
members of the British Parliament. Among other things,
two of the briefs dealt with two related issues at Mumia's
original proceeding in 1982: (1) trial judge Albert Sabo's
unconstitutional denial of Mumia's right to represent him-
self; (2) Sabo's unconstitutional denial of Mumia's request
to have MOVE organization founder John Africa sit as an
adviser at the defense table. Both of these actions constitut-
ed structural defects in Mumia's original proceeding; that is,
they were errors which so undermined the trial framework
itself as to make it worthless.

At the beginning of his trial Mumia had acted as his own
counsel. He argued motions, questioned witnesses, and
started jury selection. He also asked for John Africa to sit
at his table. Only months before, John Africa had himself
beat heavy charges while representing himself in federal
court. However, shortly after Mumia's trial began, Sabo
without prior warning accused Mumia of being disruptive
and revoked his right to represent himself. In his place
Sabo appointed attorney Anthony Jackson, who protested
that he didn't want the case, was unprepared for it, and
that Mumia didn't want him anyway.

At this point the proceeding was adjourned while strange
things happened. First, there was a conference of Sabo,
Jackson and the prosecutor from which Mumia was
excluded. Then there apparently was an appeal made by
Jackson to Justice McDermott of the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court. Apparently this appeal was about Mumia's
right to represent himself and his request for John Africa.

However, there is no docket, transcript, or any record at all
of any such hearing or ruling by McDermott, and Jackson
and the prosecutor later disagreed as to what occurred at
the apparent session. Nevertheless Sabo held that
McDermott supported him and went on with his show.
Sabo's 1982 event cannot be characterized as a trial. A real
trial has two sides. However, after Mumia's right to repre-
sent himself was revoked, there was only one side: the
state's. Not only was Jackson unwilling and unprepared,
but several times he actively collaborated with Sabo and
the prosecutor to "clean up" the trial record so as to make
it harder for Mumia to appeal. For example, in the tran-
script of the conference, there is the following exchange:

THE COURT (Sabo): What kind of strategy is that to sit
back there and refuse to answer anything? What kind of
strategy is that really?

MR JACKSON: Judge, I wish I could answer you--
. . .
THE COURT: Well, what you may have to do, if that's
going to be his strategy, and every witness testifies, you
may have to confer with him and then you may have to
put on the record that you have conferred with Mr.
Jamal--

MR. JACKSON: Fine.

THE COURT: --and he has instructed me not to ask any
questions.

MR. JACKSON: Fine.

THE COURT: Maybe that's the way. I don't know.

MR. JACKSON: Judge, I think--
THE COURT: I really don't know. I think it's bad.

MR. JACKSON: I do too, Judge. But I think the Court is
doing all it can do and in that way he can't come back and
say, "I had ineffective representation," when it's clear that's
what he wants. (Emphasis added)

Not only was Mumia's right of self-representation taken
from him at a phantom hearing, but that session before
Justice McDermott violated the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court's own rules. Those rules state that any such appeal
from a trial court must be made before no less than two jus-
tices. This was upheld some years ago by the same federal
courts in Philadelphia which are now considering Mumia's
appeal. The case then was Yohn v. Love, in which District
Judge Clarence C. Newcomer threw out the conviction of
Mr. Yohn (relation unknown to Mumia's present federal
judge) on the grounds that only one Pennsylvania Supreme
Court justice had heard an appeal of a major issue during
his trial. Judge Newcomer's ruling was affirmed by the Third
Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

Judge Yohn was selected in 1998 to hear Mumia's federal
appeals. As appellate judge, he had to consider the two ami-
cus briefs just mentioned and the two others. If there was
any hope that Judge Yohn would give a fair hearing to
Mumia's appeal, it was smashed when Yohn rejected all
four amicus briefs last year. He would not rule on their
merits, but simply characterized them as "unnecessary and
unhelpful" because in part they would add more paper-
work to an already-controversial case. In this regard Judge
Yohn differs markedly from the judges who recently
reviewed the antitrust case against Microsoft. That contro-
versial case was characterized by many amicus briefs. But
then again the Microsoft case is not about racism or revo-
lutionary political beliefs.

Judge Yohn's decision was appealed to the Third Circuit,
which upheld his rejection in a sinister decision which held
that Mumia's amicus petitioners had no automatic right to
have their briefs accepted, an argument which Mumia's
lawyers had never made. Instead what they had argued was
that they did have a right to have their briefs evaluated on
their merits. Apparently the Third Circuit also wants to keep
exposure of the state's railroad job out of the legal record.
Since the Third Circuit's decision, the confession of Arnold
Beverly has appeared. It was found in the files of Mumia's
former attorneys, whom he dismissed in March 2001 in
order to pursue a more hard-hitting defense strategy which
claims innocence as well as procedural violations. The doc-
ument was sworn in June 1999 but never filed with a court.
In it Beverly asserts that he was part of a two-man hit team
paid by organized criminals to assassinate Faulkner.

Faulkner, according to Beverly, had been causing problems
for the mob's drug, gambling and prostitution operations
which they conducted in collaboration with a large number
of corrupt police officers. Beverly swears that Mumia is
totally innocent, a statement which is backed up by Mumia's
own sworn affadavit made this year.

Mumia's new lawyers filed Beverly's statement last May
together with a petition to depose him. In a deposition both
Mumia's lawyers and the District Attorney's office would
question Beverly. The resulting transcript would become
part of the legal record. However, Judge Yohn denied the
petition. Like the Third Circuit's decision, Yohn asserted that
Beverly's confession wouldn't "prove" Mumia's claim that the
state suppressed evidence that the real shooter ran away. This
was never argued. What Mumia's lawyers did hold was that
Beverly's confession was circumstantial evidence supporting
his claim. This is in addition to the obvious detail that the
statement is from a man who admits that he was the shooter
who ran away. Yohn also notes that Mumia has not first
exhausted his appeals regarding Beverly's statement in state
court and then proceeds to argue against the state court con-
sidering it also.

Finally, in his decision Yohn shows that at best he simply
doesn't care about Mumia's life when he wrote twice that
Beverly had confessed to shooting Mumia. Can a straight
system arise from crooked facts?

Clearly the political rot which showed itself with
Mumia's case in 1982 in the Pennsylvania courts has
now exposed itself in the federal system. Although he
was discussing Pennsylvania, it is worth quoting Judge
Newcomer in the original Yohn v. Love decision: "...this
Court cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that too often
members of the Pennsylvania state appellate judiciary
have shaken the confidence of the people in the fair and
impartial administration of justice in this
Commonwealth. This instance is but one of many in
which the judges of Pennsylvania have appeared to act
with more than the evenhanded application of the law
in mind..."

Judge Newcomer notwithstanding, what all these tor-
tured legal decisions amount to is an authoritarian and
racist conspiracy to murder Mumia. Taken together, the
denial of Mumia's bid to represent himself, the imposi-
tion of an unprepared, unwanted, and unwilling substi-
tute lawyer, the denial of Mumia's choice of legal advis-
ers, the use of improper and unrecorded appeal proce-
dures, the refusal to admit amicus briefs dealing with
these matters, the ratification of this refusal by the U.S.
Circuit Court, and the refusal to allow even a deposition
of Arnold Beverly amount to such a conspiracy.

By way of comparison, consider the case of Ira Einhorn, a
man of European extraction, which has been in the
Philadelphia court system for about as long as Mumia's.
Einhorn was recently extradited to Philadelphia after being
on the run for twenty years. He is accused of killing his
girlfriend, Holly Maddux, in 1977 and then stashing her
body in a trunk in his apartment for more than a year
afterward. When arrested in 1978, he secured the services
of Arlen Spector, ex-District Attorney in Philadelphia and
now a U.S. senator. In an unusual action, Spector prevailed
on the court to grant bail to the murder suspect. Einhorn
promptly jumped it. Since being discovered in France in
1997, Einhorn has been in the news claiming without evi-
dence that he is the victim of a government conspiracy. On
the other hand there is Mumia Abu-Jamal, with no bail, no
Arlen Spector, and no media coverage of the very real evi-
dence of a state conspiracy to murder him.

Mumia's new lawyers have also petitioned the Pennsylvania
state courts to reopen the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA)
hearings which were held before Judge Sabo in 1995-96. At
this writing a hearing on the question is scheduled, but its
scope is unknown. It is highly unlikely, however, that the state
has suddenly changed its mind to admit twenty yeaars of
politically corrupt dealing into its own legal records.

The struggle to free Mumia ultimately will be won or lost
in the streets. To those who doubt this, consider the events
of the summer of 1995. In early June, just as the PCRA
hearings were to begin, Pennsylvania Gov. Ridge set an
execution date of 17 August of that year. During the hear-
ings it was obvious that Judge Sabo wanted to get through
them before the execution date. But Sabo was thrown off
schedule as tens of thousands of people began disrupting
capitalist business as usual all over the world. Finally in
early August, it became clear that he could not finish the
hearings in time. A large national demonstration had been
called in Philadelphia for the 12th, and a national day of
civil disobedience for the 14th. Judge Sabo stayed Mumia's
execution date. It is the only stay he has ever issued.

In 1995 groups of people took over streets and disrupted cor-
porate conferences and television networks, among other
things. Labor was quieter, but droplets of protest were form-
ing. By 1999 these droplets were rain as the International
Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) used a
contract provision to shut down every West Coast port for a
day in solidarity with Mumia. The support for this union
brother, who is a member of the National Writers Union, has
grown to the point where it now constitutes the biggest labor
movement for a political prisoner since those that defended
labor organizer Tom Mooney in 1916, the anarchists Nicola
Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in the 1920's, or the accused
atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1950-53.

Several things need to be said about this support. First, it
is broad. Literally scores of union locals in the U.S. have
passed resolutions demanding the justice which Mumia
has never received. Unions are involved which are not nor-
mally thought of as in the being in the fore of social strug-
gles, like the California state AFL-CIO and the American
Postal Workers Union (APWU). Second, it is international.
Not only did the West Coast dock-workers stop work in
1999; teachers in Brazil also put down their pens and chalk
for several hours in solidarity with Mumia. Also, two
international delegations of unionists visited a reluctant
Justice Department last year in a vain effort to get that
agency to investigate the egregious violations of Mumia's
civil rights. Third, the movement has drawn in some of
labor's new constituency groups, most notably the lesbian-
gay group Pride at Work, which was present at the Justice
Department, and the Asia Pacific American Labor Alliance.
Most of these events in the U.S. wouldn't have happened
without determined organizing by members and ex-mem-
bers of Left groups in the unions. Some of these people are
anarchists. But these events also wouldn't have happened but
for the systematic racism which permeates every corner of
U.S. society and the shredding of due process which has
marked Mumia's case from the beginning.

Most labor supporters of Mumia have taken a two-track
approach in the unions. These tracks are not mutually exclu-
sive. The first track is working with the rank and file, explain-
ing, educating, and trying to get them involved directly in the
struggle to free Mumia. In Oakland a group of rank and file
teachers established a Mumia video lending library. In
Chicago Mumia defenders and rank and file Teamsters passed
out leaflets, ribbons and tapes of Mumia's commentaries at
the Jefferson Street UPS facility. In New York a group of rank
and file postal workers established Morgan for Mumia at the
large Morgan processing center and held two similar days of
action over the past two years.

The second track is working with sympathetic union lead-
ers, pushing them to get the union to sponsor the same
kinds of leafletting, video showings, etc., which rank and
file supporters are doing on their own, plus events like
lunch hour rallies. The results have been mixed. By far the
biggest success was the ILWU port shutdown. But also sig-
nificant has been New York Service Employees
International Union Local 1199's support in sponsoring
buses to demonstrations defending Mumia. Finally, the
national APWU resolution went beyond a mere expression
of support and mandated the national union to work with
Mumia's lawyers in developing an amicus brief. However,
these are exceptions; by far most union resolutions have
been just that. The leaders of the vast majority of unions
will not mobilize the rank and file.

Clearly such mobilization is what will be needed to get justice
for Mumia. Twenty years of legal struggle have still not over-
turned Mumia's conviction, much less freed him. The only
way that the authoritarian and racist conspiracy will crack is
if it faces a threat of no business as usual. I will leave it to the
imagination of the readers of this piece to carry this out, but I
will also point to the examples of the struggle of 1995 and the
ILWU and Brazilian teachers as guides.

Some addresses for Mumia support and information
Labor sources:
Labor for Mumia
c/o San Francisco Labor Council
1188 Franklin St. #203
San Francisco, Calif. 94109
Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 1622
Oakland, Calif. 94610
Labor for Mumia

c/o New York Free Mumia Coalition
(212) 330-8029
www.aspenlinx.com/labor
General information:
International Concerned Friends and Family of
Mumia Abu-Jamal
(215) 476-8812
www.freemumia.org

A Tale of Two Judges

In the summer of 1927, amid growing protests
against the imminent execution of Nicola Sacco
and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Massachusetts
Governor Alvan T. Fuller appointed a special
commission chaired by Harvard President A.
Lawrence Lowell to review their case. Among
other things the members of the commission
concluded that the trial judge, Webster Thayer,
had committed a "grave breach of official deco-
rum" because of his off-the-bench comments
against the defendants. However, the commis-
sion also concluded that these remarks did not
affect the fairness of the trial and that the ver-
dict and death sentence of Sacco and Vanzetti
were just.

Skip to 2001 and the anti-trust proceeding
against the Microsoft Corporation. Early in the
summer the federal Circuit Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia removed Dist.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson from the case
and revoked his order to break Microsoft into
two parts. The appellate court ruled that
Jackson's out-of-court characterization of Bill
Gates as "Napoleon," among other comments,
had prejudiced his decision. Left unwritten, but
digitally clear, was the rule that it pays to be a
giant corporation in the capitalist U.S.


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