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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 98 17:39:05 -0800
Subject: Mumia Abu-Jamal
[This letter is from a friend whose thoughtfulness, clarity of view, and
caution I have come to trust over the years. Although I don't know every
Fun_Person as well as Dan knows his recipients, I feel close enough to Dan
and the Fun_People to forward his message as if it were from me to you.
It certainly meets the Fun_People requirement of "interesting."
Forwarded-by: "Dan 'Dante' Tenenbaum" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: A Personal Appeal
As you may know I am involved in some political activism. Many of you
however do not know the details and I usually do not bore you with them.
Sometimes I am involved in something so important that I want to let all my
friends know about it. Now is one of those times, and what I want to talk
about is not the imminent attack on Iraq, though we should all be concerned
about that, but the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal [As I write, I realize that
this letter has gotten a little long. Well, I ask you to read the whole
thing. If this was an unsolicited spam I would not expect you to read it.
But you are all people that I know personally. I am invoking that, and the
power of the Guilt Trip, to insist that you not only read this whole thing,
but act on it. The very least I ask is that you read it, since it took time
Some of you may know a bit about his case. Others may know nothing. I'll
try to keep this note brief and focused on the following topics:
--Who is Mumia Abu-Jamal?
--Why should you care?
--What can you do?
And then I will provide some resources where you can get more information
about Mumia's case.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an African American journalist and lifelong activist.
As a teenager he was Minister of Information for the Philadelphia branch
of the Black Panther Party (the FBI began to keep their file on him when
he was 15). Since that time, Mumia has been a particular thorn in the side
of the Philadelphia Police Department whose brutal excesses are well
known. Every few years a federal investigation unearths more and more
officers who beat suspects, frame them on false charges, and generally
terrorize minority neighborhoods. Mumia Abu-Jamal reported constantly on
these police crimes, and he wasn't just some wild-eyed radical--he was
elected the Philadelphia chapter president of the Society of Black
Journalists and was named one of Philadelphia's "people to watch" in 1981.
Everything changed on an evening in early December, 1981. Mumia came upon
a police officer beating his brother Billy with a flashlight. Shots were
fired and soon Mumia and the officer lay wounded in the street. The
officer died and Mumia was convicted of his murder and sentenced to death.
On October 30 of this year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Mumia's
request for an appeal, meaning he could be executed at any time.
SO? SOUNDS LIKE HE GOT WHAT HE DESERVED. WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
Well, I happen to believe that Mumia is innocent. When you check out some
of the information I am going to provide, you may come to believe that
too. HOWEVER---WHETHER MUMIA IS INNOCENT OR NOT IS **NOT WHAT IS IMPORTANT
HERE**. The facts demonstrate that Mumia did not receive a fair trial (nor
have any of his subsequent encounters with the justice system been fair),
so WHETHER HE IS INNOCENT OR NOT, HE DESERVES A FAIR TRIAL.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THIS ONE GUY? PEOPLE ARE EXECUTED ALL THE TIME?
That's right, and I deplore every single execution. I am active against
the death penalty, but that's not what I am writing about here. Mumia is
important because he was denied justice at every turn and his political
history was explicitly used against him to put him on Death Row. That is
to say: regardless of his innocence or guilt, Mumia is a political
prisoner. The first US political prisoner since the Rosenbergs, in fact,
to face state execution. Whether he is innocent or not, this is wrong.
Whether you agree with his politics or not, this is wrong, because the
travesties of justice that happened to him could happen to you. Or anyone.
Because these travesties do happen every day. Because the stakes are much
higher in this case. Because nobody should be executed merely to be
SO WHAT ARE ALL THESE INJUSTICES THAT HAPPENED IN MUMIA'S CASE?
To list them all would fill hundreds of pages (and has--I will point you
towards more information). To name just a few of the more egregious
- A coroner's report, which Mumia's trial jury never saw, said that the
bullet that killed the officer was a different caliber than that of
Mumia's gun. The police mysteriously "lost" some of the bullet fragments
taken out of the officer. Very odd for a murder case involving a police
- The gun was not tested to see if it had been fired. Mumia's hands were
not tested to see if he had fired one. Both of these things are normally
routine in handgun murder cases.
- Mumia's arresting officer noted in his initial report that "the negro
male made no statements." Two months later, after Mumia had filed police
brutality charges, he suddenly "remembered" that Mumia had loudly
confessed that he had killed the officer. This officer was subpoenaed by
the defense but they were told that he was on vacation and unavailable
when in fact (it was discovered later) he was at home and available. The
jury never got to hear him try to explain the discrepancy between his
initial report and later fabrication. The alleged confession has since
been discredited, even by the prosecution.
- Mumia had for his judge the notorious "hanging judge" Albert Sabo, who
has sent more people to death row than any other judge in the US. Most of
these people were African American. Judge Sabo, a former sheriff's deputy
and lifelong member of the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) has been called
a "prosecutor in robes." Even groups of district attorneys (prosecutors!)
have formally protested his unfairness and obvious bias towards the
prosecution. In Mumia's trial judge Sabo essentially disallowed all
evidence and witnesses in Mumia's favor, while allowing even the most
egregious and doubtful evidence against Mumia. Naturally Sabo's behavior
formed a large part of the argument's that Mumia's lawyers used to argue
for a new trial. Who presided at that hearing? Judge Albert Sabo, who
refused to acknowledge his own partiality by stepping aside, and once
again refused to acknowledge anything that might have pointed towards
- Numerous witnesses were intimidated by the police into changing their
testimony. Many later came forward and told what they really saw, at great
risk to themselves (one such witness was arrested in the courtroom after
- Mumia's court-appointed attorney was not prepared to handle the case and
asked to be excused from the case several times. This request was denied
so he stayed on the case but had no time to prepare and no money for
expert witnesses and investigators. When Mumia finally decided to
represent himself, he was often denied this right by being kicked out of
- The prosecution repeatedly abused their peremptory challenges, removing
about a dozen prospective African American jurors from the jury pool,
including the only juror that Mumia had helped to select. This abuse of
the peremptory challenge is well-known by all prosecutors and defense
attorneys to be illegal.
- Mumia's earlier membership in the Black Panther Party was used by the
prosecution to prejudice the jury, even though the U.S. Supreme Court
barred a similar argument for a white prisoner who had been a member of a
white racist gang.
I could go on and on. Because there were a lot of other things just like
this that also happened. The really important thing, though, is that on
October 30, 1998, the PA Supreme Court considered every one of these
things and said that they were PERFECTLY OK. They have cleared the way for
the execution to take place.
And unfortunately, to quote C. Clark Kissinger, "Given the new federal
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, that requires federal courts to
accept the findings of state courts regarding factual issues, state courts
like those in Pennsylvania can now abuse the process by tailoring the
official record to defeat effective review." Thanks a lot, Bill Clinton.
It's clear that the legal system has failed Mumia. His best hope now is to
have international attention brought to bear on his case.
I urge you to read Kissinger's complete analysis of the PA Supreme Court's
WHAT CAN I DO?
The most important task facing Mumia's supporters is to GET THE WORD OUT.
We don't want any American to be able to say they don't know who Mumia is.
The more people who know, the less chance there is to perpetrate the
monstrous injustice of executing him. (If you don't want to support any
effort that seems too far out of the mainstream, consider that figures
such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Jesse Jackson, E.L. Doctorow, and
many Hollywood celebrities as well as hundreds of thousands of ordinary
people have spoken out on behalf of Mumia's right to justice.)
Here are some concrete ways in which you can help. (If you have any
doubts, questions, or concerns I invite you to talk with me personally
about it. I will be happy to talk to you.)
-Educate yourself about Mumia's case. I don't expect you to help out just
because I asked you to (though that would be fine). There is enough
information out there to convince any reasonable person that an injustice
is being perpetrated. I urge you to read Mumia's two books, "Live From
Death Row" and "Death Blossoms," and "Race For Justice: Mumia Abu-Jamal's
fight against the death penalty," by Mumia's attorney Leonard Weinglass.
(Proceeds from all of these books will go to Mumia's defense). On the web
there is also a lot of great information. Here are three very
-International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia
-Refuse & Resist
-European Solidarity site
-Write letters! Letters to the players (Supreme Court Justices, PA
Governor, Janet Reno and Bill Clinton) are always good, but what's even
better at this point is to write letters to the editors of your local
newspapers. (I am working on a page on the SMDC Web site [see below] that
will automatically send custom or pre-written letters to many different
organizations at the click of a mouse.) It doesn't matter if you are in
Seattle or elsewhere--this is an international issue. They cannot be
allowed to ignore what is going on, and if they get enough letters, they
won't be able to.
Addresses of national political and media figures can be found on this web
As for local media (in Seattle anyway), the P-I is at
email@example.com, the Times is at firstname.lastname@example.org, the Tacoma
News Tribune is at email@example.com, the Eastside Journal is at
firstname.lastname@example.org, and the Everett Herald is at
email@example.com. You can also call up your favorite (or
not-so-favorite) talk-radio show. Discuss the case with friends. Feel free
to forward this letter to anyone.
-Join us! I am involved in the Seattle Mumia Defense Committee. We meet
every Tuesday at 8:00PM at 2222 2nd Avenue (2nd Floor) between Bell and
Blanchard. SMDC information line is at (206) 728-9781; contact us by email
at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our web page is at http://www.speakeasy.org/~smdc and it
will soon have a page making it easy to send lots of outraged letters. We
are planning actions and media saturation. If you can't make the meetings,
check with us frequently for updates on upcoming events. We are poised for
a large demonstration the moment Mumia's death warrant is signed (which
could happen any day now).
- We are also going to put full-page ads in the daily Seattle papers, as
was done recently in the New York Times. For this we need money! Contact
me if you would like to donate. If you are interested in donating in other
ways, such as playing a benefit show, that would help too.
- You can donate money directly to Mumia's defense. Send a check or money
order made payable to Black United Fund/MAJ defense, and mail to:
Black United Fund,
419 S. 15th St.,
-Write to Mumia and let him know you care. His address is:
Mumia Abu-Jamal, #AM-8335,
1040 East Roy Furman Highway,
Waynesburg, PA 15370.
E-mail sent to email@example.com
will be forwarded promptly to him.
-If you own or work for a small business, consider displaying a Mumia
poster in your window. I can supply you with posters. You can even put
them in your windows at home.
Thanks for reading this long message. To close, the only point I want to
make (again) is that this is not just about Mumia. He is eloquent and
certainly heroic. Some compare him to Dr. King or to Nelson Mandela, and
the reaction if he is killed will probably be like the reaction when Dr.
King was killed (though Mumia does not want violence done in his name).
Aside from Mumia as a person, this case is about a lot of things. Some
people talk about single-issue campaigns versus broad-based campaigns. In
one sense Mumia's case is a single-issue campaign, but in another it is
about every issue that is at the heart of the current crisis in the US:
racism, classism, the rise of the prison-industrial complex, the erosion
of human rights and civil liberties, and many other things.
I don't know Mumia. Never met the man. I even disagree with him on a lot
of important things. But I cannot allow him or anyone else to be murdered
by the state.
Thanks again for reading,
Dan "Dante" Tenenbaum
© 1998 Peter Langston