Social movements and supporters of prominent U.S. political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal plan to pack the courtroom for his upcoming court date on April 24, as well as fill the streets of Philadelphia to demand his release.
Activists hope the hearing could reverse the court decisions that have, so far, prevented the celebrated journalist and former Black Panther Party leader from gaining his freedom.
On April 24, on his birthday, Abu-Jamal faces a Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing on a petition filed to overturn a previous Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that upheld his conviction on the basis of dubious “proof” and suppressed evidence.
Abu-Jamal's death sentence was found unconstitutional in 2011 by the United States Supreme Court, which commuted his sentence to life imprisonment without parole — a fate most advocates have called a “slow death.” He has since suffered from a life-threatening Hepatitis C infection while imprisoned. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections denied Abu-Jamal critical treatment from 2015 until April 2017.
A popular radio journalist known for his commitment to the Black liberation cause, Abu-Jamal was arrested and charged with killing white police Officer Daniel Faulkner in Philadelphia in December 1981. One year later, he was tried and convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
During Abu-Jamal's trial, Judge Albert Sabo was overheard saying "Yeah, and I'm going to help fry the (N-word)." Meanwhile, the Fraternal Order of Police feverishly pushed for the Black activist's execution.
Since his conviction, the case against him — which garnered national attention and was marked by highly-conflicted testimony — has shown numerous gaping holes, with witnesses stepping forward to admit that they lied under oath, physical evidence being disproved, and even the alleged killer of Faulkner signing an affidavit admitting that he and another assailant murdered the officer.
Despite these factors, opponents of Abu-Jamal — including open racists and far-right police officers — have relentlessly celebrated his ruthless persecution and slandered him as a “cop killer” deserving of the worst treatment.
The upcoming hearing is based on a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that an appellate judge cannot participate in a case in which they formerly had a personal role in a significant prosecutorial decision.
During Abu-Jamal's 1989 appeal of his death sentence, then-District Attorney Ronald Castille was personally involved in the prosecution's case, refusing to recuse himself during the appeal process.
Following his election to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1994, Castille blocked every single appeal from Abu-Jamal's legal team that challenged his impartiality.
Honored by the FOP as “Man of the Year,” Castille bragged while campaigning for the state Supreme Court election seat that he had sentenced 45 people to death.
Organizations such as Black Lives Matter Philadelphia, Workers World Party, Philly REAL Justice, the MOVE Organization and others are calling upon supporters to pack the court and fill the streets to win freedom for one of the U.S.' most prominent political prisoners.
“Thirty-five (years) in prison is 35 years too long,” supporters of Abu-Jamal proclaimed in a statement.