legal update von der Verteidigung
Update on Mumia's Hepatitis C Legal Case (25.08.16)
From Bob Boyle, one of Mumia's two attorneys fighting his case around health care
On August 23, 2015, over a year ago, Mumia filed a motion for an injunction to require that the Pennsylvania DOC provide him with the cure for Hepatitis C. Evidence presented at a hearing in December 2015 showed that the disease is causing extreme suffering for Mumia. His blood work is abnormal, his liver is deteriorating. He has a skin condition that causes constant itching, and he suffers from side effects of medication used to alleviate some of the symptoms.
There has been no ruling from the Court despite the fact that it is fully briefed. We have updated the court with more recent medical records that show MAJ's current condition. We hope the court rules soon. Either way, the court rules there will likely be an appeal to the United States Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit.
In the meantime, there has been much "motion practice" in the civil case from which the injunction motion stems. The defendants (DOC officials) have filed motions to dismiss. We (the plaintiff) have filed an amended complaint as well as a motion to add Department of Corrections chief John Wetzel and Dr. Paul Noel as defendants. Once we prevail on the motions to dismiss, we will be in the "discovery" phase and able to get documents and take the depositions of the defendants and others.
In other words: no matter what happens with the injunction motion, the case continues and we can continue to seek necessary medical care.
From the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
The movement to Free Mumia is awaiting a ruling by District Court Judge Robert Mariani on whether or not the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) is bound, by law, to administer the known Hepatitis C cure to Mumia. This important ruling will set a precedent for thousands of prisoners in Pennsylvania suffering with Hepatitis C, a disease that destroys the liver.
As of this writing, Mumia is once again experiencing itching all over his body as well as diarrhea. We suspect, but cannot confirm, that the diarrhea is linked to the severe contamination of the prison's water supply, which began two weeks ago. Prisoners at SCI Mahanoy, the prison that houses Mumia, have reported that water coming out of all water sources is dark and emits a foul odor.
Mumia's itching is a symptom of his ongoing skin problem, a condition disproportionally seen in black patients with active Hep C.
In general, Mumia's health has waxed and waned over the last months, which is customary with patients with Hep C. However, Mumia's disease process is chronic and active. This means that even if the symptoms of Hep C are not immediately visible, the liver is still being damaged silently.
According to all of the medical specialists who testified in Mumia's health hearing in December 2015, there is a 60% likelihood that Mumia has serious liver damage.
Despite these findings, for the last year, instead of administering the Hep C cure to Mumia, the prison infirmary has been giving him a legion of topical medications including light therapy. The topical treatments suppress his skin condition temporarily, but have harmful side effect. For example, recently, Mumia experienced a first-degree burn on his right arm near the elbow. Prison doctors believe that the burn was caused by the combination of the new skin medication, Otezla, they administered to him, the light therapy he has been getting three times a week, and his exposure to sunlight during yard.
There are also new developments in Mumia's conviction case. On August 8, 2016, Judith Ritter and Christina Swarns filed a petition based on the June 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Williams v. Commonwealth. This important ruling determined that a judge can not fairly adjudicate an appeal of a case for which he/she has previously authorized a conviction, as a DA, for example. In this case, the high court ruled that Chief Justice of the PA Supreme Court, Ronald Castille, should have recused himself from Williams's appellate review because he had previously authorized the Williams death sentence as the Philadelphia district attorney.
In Mumia's case, the same judge, Ronald Castille, heard Mumia's appeal to the PA Supreme Court in 1998 despite a petition requesting his recusal by Mumia's attorneys. Castille had been assistant DA during Mumia's original trial and DA during Mumia's first appeal.
On the international front: the French support group, Collectif Français Liberon Mumia, is organizing a meeting in September with members of the European Parliament to discuss Mumia's health crisis and that of the approximately 10 thousand PA prisoners with Hep C. This follows the visit with Mumia last year of Patrick Le Hyaric, a member of the European Parliament and vice-chair of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left Group. Le Hyaric has collected 108 signatures in support of Mumia from members of the European Parliament representing 16 countries and including many French deputies and senators. Bob Boyle, Mumia's attorney, and Nyle Forte, a young minister and Ph.D. candidate in religion at Princeton University, will join that delegation in September.
Note: Minor correction: it looks like, according to Pam Africa, the diarrhea preceded the water problem and may well be another side effect of the horrible medication Mumia is being given.
Todestraktgefangene in Pennsylvania kämpfen gegen Unrechtsverurteilungen (20.08.16)
Jimmy Dennis, Mumias ehemaliger Mitgefangener im Todestrakt von Pennsylvania, hat einen grossen juristischen Sieg errungen (Mehr hier...) . Wir alle hoffen, dass Jimmy Dennis bald frei ist. Ähnlich wie vor einigen Wochen bereits Terence "Butter" Williams gelingt es Gefangenen nun nach Jahrzehnten im Todestrakt von Pennsylvania, ihre Unrechtsurteile erfolgreich anzufechten.
Mumias Anwältinnen Christina Swarns und Judith Ritter haben deswegen auch eine erneute Berufung von Mumias Fall beantragt ( (Mehr hier...) , da es sich bei Mumia um den selben Berufungsrichter wie im Fall von "Butter" handelt und auch dort die gleichen Massnahmen von Rechtsvereitelung durch die Justiz zu beobachten sind.
Genauers enthält ein neues Legal Update von Noelle Hanrahan (Prison Radio).
Here is an update on both Mumia Abu-Jamal's criminal conviction appeal and his medical care case, Abu-Jamal vs. Kerestes.
Court action has potential to re-open Mumia's criminal conviction!
On August 7, Mumia Abu-Jamal filed an appeal based on a U.S. Supreme Court case decided in June. In a startling 5-3 decision (Williams v. the Commonwealth of PA), the U.S. Supreme Court held that former DA and retired Pennsylvania Chief Justice, Ronald D. Castille, violated death row inmate Terence "Butter" Williams's 5th Amendment due process rights when he refused to remove himself from Williams's appeal. This Supreme Court precedential ruling calls into direct question the validity of Mumia Abu-Jamal's criminal conviction and the denial of his appeals. Ronald D. Castille was a senior district attorney while Mumia's case was being tried. He was also the District Attorney of Philadelphia during Mumia's direct appeals, and in addition, while serving on the PA Supreme Court, he rejected a recusal motion filed by Mumia's defense. (Click here for the brief filed by Judith Ritter, Esq. & Christina Swairns Esq....)
Abu-Jamal vs. Kerestes hep C ruling overdue
We are waiting for Judge Mariani's ruling on the preliminary injunction. Stay tuned. Mariani will decided if Mumia receives immediate life-saving care or if he will be denied the cure. According to the PA DOC, Mumia is not yet sick enough to get treatment for his illness. This case seeks treatment and redress for chronic hepatitis C, which led to Mumia's hospitalization and near death in March of 2015. Here is a brief summary of where the case stands from his lawyers:
"...On Friday, August 5, Judge Mariani issued three decisions on various motions to dismiss by defendants. These decisions do not impact the merits of our motion for preliminary injunction for hepatitis C treatment, which is still pending before the court. The main decision of Judge Mariani ist hat we need to refile an amended complaint alleging more specific facts of personal involvement of defendants Kerestes, Steinhart, and Oppman to bring our medical care claims, including the hepatitis C claims, against them. We have 14 days to do this (as of August 8) and are already working on it. Next, the medical center Geisinger was dismissed because Mumia has been transferred from Geisinger and is no longer subject to its authority. The judge held his claim against Geisinger as moot. However, he permitted the same First Amendment association claim (based on the prohibition on visits and communication with his attorneys, wife and family during his May 2015 hospitalization) to proceed against defendant Kerestes. We are putting together the amended complaint now and still waiting on the decision on the preliminary injunction. We have no idea why it is taking this long to rule on, though the judge has a reputation for moving slowly, apparently a very well-earned reputation... " Bret Grote, Esq. (Abolitionist Law Center) & Robert Boyle Esq.
Cuando luchamos ganamos, When We Fight, We Win
Legal Update - Mumia v. Kerestes on lifesaving medical treatment in Pennsylvania's prisons - briefs filed (09.10.15)
Mumia's Condition and his reaction to DOC lies and Stonewalling
Mumia's reaction to the Magistrate's denial
"The Representative or the Represented?"
Middle U.S. District Court Judge Robert Mariani, is going to rule on whether Mumia gets medical treatment or not. The papers are on his desk.
Mumia Abu-Jamal remains in the infirmary; his health in danger. Bret
Grote (Abolitionist Law Center) and Bob Boyle have filed their
objections to Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick's "Report and
Recommendation" that Judge Mariani deny Mumia's request for a
preliminary injunction, an injunction that would order the DOC to
immediately treat his Hepatitis C and prevent irreparable harm.
The objections filed yesterday make clear that the Department of Correction's is NOT PROVIDING ANY TREATMENT for Mumia's active Hepatitis C in violation of its obligation under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Mumia is seeking a preliminary injunction that would order the state to immediately provide him with the antiviral drugs that have a 90+% cure rate. Defendants have 14 days to respond to the objections, then Mumia and his attorneys have 7 days to reply to their response, and then the judge rules.
You can watch the disease progress or you can cure it.
Seems pretty simple what the court should order.
Untreated active Hepatitis C is fatal in many cases. 60-70 of those
infected experience Cirrhosis of the liver. Mumia's extrahepatic
symptoms, that is symptoms of hepatitis C that appear outside of the
liver, have been chronic and severe: extreme weight loss, edema
(swelling), severe full-body skin eruptions, and diabetes.
In the past year almost 1,600 supporters have raised over $96K thousand
dollars to support the effort to get him treatment. This has been a
tremendous effort and one that continues. If you have participated
We are going to win, it is just a matter of how many battles we will have to wage, but we are on the path toward freedom and justice. This campaign is about justice: all people deserve ethical and effective medical care. Thank you for being there with us.
We will continue.
P.S. Every few essays Mumia uses a word I don't know - beautiful and
nuanced, I always have my Websters ready. I thought of this when I used
** Call for Health Care Providers!
** Sign Appeal for Treatment of Hep C for Mumia & 10K PA Prisoners
An Appeal signed by healthcare providers was mailed today to four Pennsylvania officials: Governor Tom Wolf, Secretary of Health Karen Murphy, Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, and Superintendent SCI Mahanoy John Kerestes.
To send a check, our address is:
Thank you for being a part of this work!
Summary of Medical Crisis of Mumia Abu-Jamal (09.09.15)
From Mumia's Lawyers Robert Boyle and Bret Grote
The following is a summary of the medical issues currently confronting Mumia Abu-Jamal, now a prisoner at SCI Mahanoy in Pennsylvania. A detailed presentation of his issues is contained in the papers filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in the case of Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes and will be made available upon request.
Mumia Abu Jamal is suffering from "active" hepatitis C, a serious liver disease. Tests performed over the last several months show that Mr. Abu-Jamal’s liver likely has "significant fibrosis" (scarring) and deteriorated function. The disease has also manifested itself in other ways. He has a persistent, painful skin rash over most of his body.
Our consulting physician, who visited Mr. Abu-Jamal has concluded that it is likely a disease known as necrolytic acral erythma, a condition that is almost always associated with an untreated hepatitis C infection. Mr. Abu-Jamal has been diagnosed with "anemia of chronic disease", another common consequence of hepatitis C. He has sudden-onset adult diabetes, a complication that led to an episode of diabetic shock on March 30, 2015. Most recently, he has begun to lose weight again.
Mr. Abu Jamal’s hepatitis C can be cured – and the painful and dangerous consequences alleviated– if the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) would administer the direct acting anti-viral medication that has now become the standard for treatment for hepatitis C infections.
According to the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD), this hepatitis C treatment "results in sustained virologic response (SVR) which is tantamount to virologic cure". The AASLD protocol has been adopted by the United States Bureau of Prisons.
Under that protocol, Mr. Abu-Jamal is a candidate for immediate treatment.
The DOC has known of Mr. Abu-Jamal’s hepatitis C infection since 2012- but never conducted a complete hepatitis C workup until recently. His skin condition, which had been intermittent for several years, worsened and became constant in August 2014. His health had deteriorated to such an extent that he was admitted to the hospital in May 2015. Over those eight days numerous tests were conducted that ruled out many conditions, including some cancers.
Those tests led the doctors to conclude that the symptoms were likely caused by the hepatitis C. In June 2015, after Mr. Abu-Jamal’s release from the hospital, his attorneys demanded that a complete hepatitis C workup be conducted and treatment administered. But it took several weeks for those simple blood tests to be taken.
They concluded that Mr. Abu-Jamal does, in fact, have an active hepatitis C infection. Notwithstanding that determination, and Mr. Abu-Jamal’s continued suffering and deteriorated health, he has not been given the anti-viral drugs.
As our consulting expert had concluded, "failure to treat Mr. Abu-Jamal’s hepatitis C will result in serious harm to his health, as his current-hepatic symptoms will not be cured, and he faces an increasingly serious risk of suffering from fibrosis and cirrhosis, liver cancer, complications of his diabetes, and eventual death."
A motion for an injunction seeking treatment is pending in federal court.
However, the treatment, as our medical expert has stated, should begin "immediately". Given the overwhelming and undisputed evidence that Mr. Abu-Jamal is suffering from an active infection, treatment should not await a determination by the court. It must begin now.
Mumia Abu-Jamal files suit over prison's refusal to provide medical care (03.08.15)
Untreated diabetes nearly killed Abu-Jamal in March, and the DOC is refusing to treat his active Hepatitis C.
August 3, 2015: Attorneys for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal filed an amended lawsuit yesterday in the Middle District of Pennsylvania federal court to challenge prison medical staff’s denial of necessary medical treatment – denial that nearly killed Abu-Jamal earlier this year.
On March 30, 2015, Abu-Jamal was rushed to the hospital after losing consciousness and going into diabetic shock. Although prison medical staff were aware that Abu-Jamal had a dangerously high blood glucose level of 419 on March 6, they failed to treat, monitor, or even inform Abu-Jamal of his condition. Glucose levels like those that Abu-Jamal had can result in diabetic shock, diabetic coma, and death.
Abu-Jamal’s diabetic shock came in the midst of an escalating year-long health crisis that began with a rash in August 2014. The skin condition grew in intensity over the course of the next several months, eventually covering most of his body with a painful, severe rash that is resistant to conventional treatments. The skin condition is abnormal in its duration and intensity, and has led to lesions, open wounds, and swelling.
The lawsuit filed yesterday seeks injunctive relief for prison medical staff’s failure to treat Abu-Jamal’s active Hepatitis C. Recent blood tests provided at the insistence of Abu-Jamal, his lawyers, and consulting doctors have confirmed that Abu-Jamal has active Hepatitis C, which has likely been the underlying cause of his health crisis. Despite the undeniable medical evidence that he is in need of treatment for his Hepatitis C, prison medical staff is refusing to provide any.
Advances in Hepatitis C treatment in recent years have revolutionized the way the disease is treated, with new direct-acting anti-viral medications that have had over 95% success rates in curing the illness in clinical trials. The medications, however, are extraordinarily expensive in the United States due to monopoly pricing practices by the pharmaceutical companies that have patented them.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has yet to promulgate a new protocol for treating Hepatitis C with the new medications, meaning that the estimated 10,000-plus people in DOC custody who have Hepatitis C are not receiving any treatment.
This issue is the subject of a class action lawsuit
Abu-Jamal is represented by Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center and Robert J. Boyle of New York City.
Press Release - Mumia Abu-Jamal's Death Sentence is Unconstitutional (11.10.11)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
United States Supreme Court Rejects Appeal from Philadelphia DA's Office
(New York, NY) -- Today the United States Supreme Court rejected a request from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to overturn the most recent federal appeals court decision declaring Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence unconstitutional. The Court's decision brings to an end nearly thirty years of litigation over the fairness of the sentencing hearing that resulted in Mr. Abu-Jamal's being condemned to death. Mr. Abu-Jamal will be automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole unless the District Attorney elects to seek another death sentence from a new jury.
The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and Professor Judith Ritter of Widener Law School represent Mr. Abu-Jamal in the appeal of his conviction and death sentence for the 1981 murder of a police officer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court's decision marks the fourth time that the federal courts have found that Mr. Abu-Jamal's sentencing jury was misled about the constitutionally mandated process for considering evidence supporting a life sentence.
"At long last, the profoundly troubling prospect of Mr. Abu-Jamal facing an execution that was produced by an unfair and unreliable penalty phase has been eliminated," said John Payton, Director-Counsel of LDF. "Like all Americans, Mr. Abu-Jamal was entitled to a proper proceeding that takes into account the many substantial reasons why death was an inappropriate sentence." Professor Ritter stated, "Our system should never condone an execution that stems from a trial in which the jury was improperly instructed on the law."
Mr. Abu-Jamal's case will now return to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas for final sentencing.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is America's premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 70 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments.
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan (22.09.10)
There is a significant new development regarding my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the journalist and author who has been on Pennsylvania's death row for nearly three decades.
Oral argument scheduled, United States Court of Appeals: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has just granted oral argument in Mumia's case. (Abu-Jamal v. Beard, No. 01-9014.) The arguments will be before a three-judge panel on November 9, 2010, 2:00 pm. This will be in the Ceremonial Courtroom, U.S. Courthouse, 6th & Market Streets, Philadelphia.
Mumia & I spoke shortly after the order was received. He was humbled by the good news. We are cautiously encouraged that the federal court has taken this step.
This is significant in the ongoing litigation to save Mumia's life and win the case. At stake is whether he will be executed, or granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. We previously won on this issue, but early this year the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that decision and ordered that the case be again reviewed by the federal court.
New movie, Justice On Trial: Yesterday Justice On Trial premiered in Philadelphia. It is by Johanna Fernandez, a professor at Baruch College, New York, and Kouross Esmaeli of Big Noise Films. The release of this superb film comes at a perfect time since it counters another movie,The Barrel of a Gun, that was also shown the same day. The Barrel production is replete with distortions and wild theories, and is supported by those who wish to see my client executed including the Fraternal Order of Police.
Petition to President Barack Obama (Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty): Over 24,000 people from around the world have signed the petition, including three Nobel Prize winners. We need many more for this to benefit Mumia. Some of the signers are: Desmond Tutu, South Africa (Nobel Peace Prize, 1984); Günter Grass, Germany (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1999); Elfriede Jelinek, Austria (Nobel Prize in Literature, 2004); Danielle Mitterrand, Paris (former First Lady of France); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Colin Firth (Academy Award Best-Actor nominee, 2010); Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher and author); Ed Asner (actor); Mike Farrell (actor); Robert Meeropol (son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953); Michael Radford (director of the Oscar winning film Il Postino); members of the European Parliament; members of the German Bundestag; European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights; and Reporters Without Borders, Paris.
How to Help: For information on how to help, both by signing the Obama petition & donating funds, please go to Mumia's website (http://www.MumiaLegalDefense.org).
Conclusion: Mumia is in the greatest danger since being arrested in 1981. We will not stop until he is saved.
Yours very truly,
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan (30.07.10)
There are new developments regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal, the journalist who has been on Pennsylvania's death row for nearly three decades.
Federal Litigation: A major step has been taken in the ongoing litigation to save my client's life. On July 28 we filed the Brief on Remand from the Supreme Court of the United States, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. (Abu-Jamal v. Beard, No. 01-9014.) It is attached. At stake is whether Mumia will be executed, or granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. We previously won on this issue, but early this year the Supreme Court ordered that the case be again reviewed by the federal court.
Petition to President Barack Obama (Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty): Over 23,000 people from around the world have signed the petition, including three Nobel Prize winners. We need many more for this to benefit Mumia. Some of the signers are: Desmond Tutu, South Africa (Nobel Peace rize, 1984); Günter Grass, Germany (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1999); Elfriede Jelinek, Austria (Nobel Prize in Literature, 2004); Danielle Mitterrand, Paris (former First Lady of France); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Colin Firth (Academy Award Best-Actor nominee, 2010); Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher & author); Ed Asner (actor); Mike Farrell (actor); Robert Meeropol (son of Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher & author); Ed Asner (actor); Mike Farrell (actor); Michael Radford (director of the Oscar winning film Il Postino); members of the European Parliament; members of the German Bundestag; European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights; and Reporters Without Borders, Paris.
How to Help: For information on how to help, both by signing the Obama petition & donating funds, please go to Mumia's website.
Conclusion: Mumia is in great danger. I will not stop until he is saved.
Yours very truly,
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan (09.06.10)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, etc.
There are significant developments on various fronts in the coordinated legal campaign to save and free Mumia Abu-Jamal. The complex court proceedings are moving forward at a fast pace. Mumia’s life is on the line.
Court Developments: We are engaged in pivotal litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. At stake is whether Mumia will be executed or granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. Two years ago we won on that issue, with the federal court finding that the trial judge misled the jury thereby rendering the proceedings constitutionally unfair. Then in January 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that victorious ruling based upon its decision in another case, and ordered that the case be again reviewed by the Court of Appeals.
The prosecution continues its vengeful obsession to kill my client, regardless of the truth as to what happened at the time of the 1981 police shooting. Its opening brief was filed April 26. Our initial brief will be submitted on July 28. At issue is the death penalty.
We are also awaiting a decision in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on prosecutorial abuses, having completed all briefing in April. The focus is on ballistics.
Petition for President Barack Obama: It is crucial for people to sign the petition for President Barack Obama, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty, which was initially in 10 languages (Swahili and Turkish have since been added). This is the only petition approved by Mumia and me, and is a vital part of the legal effort to save his life. Please sign the petition and circulate its link.
Over 22,000 people from around the globe have signed. These include: Bishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa (Nobel Peace Prize); G&uumnl;nter Grass, Germany (Nobel Prize in Literature); Danielle Mitterrand, Paris (former First Lady of France); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Colin Firth (Academy Award Best-Actor nominee), Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher and author); Ed Asner (actor); Elliott Gould (actor); Mike Farrell (actor); and Michael Radford (director of the Oscar winning film Il Postino); Robert Meeropol (son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953); members of the European Parliament; members of the German Bundestag; European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights; Reporters Without Borders, Paris.
European Parliament; Rosa Luxemburg Conference; World Congress Against the Death Penalty; Geneva Human Rights Film Festival: We began the year with a major address to the annual Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Berlin, Germany, sponsored by the newspaper junge Welt. The large auditorium was filled with a standing-room audience. Mumia joined me by telephone. We announced the launching of the online petition, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty. On the concluding night of the World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Geneva, Switzerland, February 25, a large audience heard Mumia by telephone. He spoke as a symbolic representative of the over 20,000 men, women and children on death rows around the world. The call came as a surprise, since we thought it had been canceled. Mumia’s comments from inside his death-row cell brought to reality the horror of daily life in which death is a common denominator. During an earlier panel discussion I discussed racism in capital cases around the globe with the case of Mumia as a prime example. A day before the Congress on February 23, I talked at the Geneva Human Rights Film Festival on the power of films in fighting the death penalty and saving Mumia.
In the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium on March 2, members Søren Søndergaard (Denmark) and Sabine Lösing (Germany) announced the beginning of a worldwide campaign to save Mumia and end executions. They were joined by Sabine Kebir, the noted German author and PEN member, Nicole Bryan, and me. We discussed the online petition which helps not only Mumia, but all the condemned around the globe.
Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense and Online Petition: The complex litigation and investigation that is being pursued on behalf of Mumia is enormously expensive. We are in both the federal and state courts on the issue of the death penalty, prosecutorial wrongdoing, etc. Mumia's life is on the line.
How to Help: For information on how to help, both through donations and signing the Obama petition, please go to Mumia's legal defense website.
Conclusion: Mumia remains on death row under a death judgment. He is in greater danger than at any time since his arrest 28 1/2 years ago. The prosecution is pursuing his execution. I win cases, and will not let them kill my client. He must be free.
Yours very truly,
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan (19.01.10)
United State Supreme Court
"The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for further consideration in light of Smith v. Spisak, 558 U.S. ___ (2010)."
The decision is not bad and was unavoidable in view of the Spisak case ruling. Now we must resume litigating the issue of the death penalty in the lower federal court. It previous ruled that the trial judge misled the jury and thus Mumia was entitled to a new jury trial on the issue of death or life. That is still the issue.
What occurred in Mumia's case is different both procedurally and factually from the jury instructions in Spisak. The prosecution disagrees.
Soon I will be posting more information on our website: http://www.MumiaLegalDefense.org. That may be checked regularly for updated information.
Petition for President Barack Obama
Over 8,000 people, mostly from Germany, have signed in the few days since we launched the petition. These include: Günter Grass, Germany (Nobel Prize in Literature); Bishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa (Nobel Peace Prize); Danielle Mitterrand, Paris (former First Lady of France); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher & author); Ed Asner (actor; Mike Farrell (actor); and Michael Radford (director of the Oscar winning film Il Postino).
There is also a Facebook page for Mumia and our work to save him:
Yours very truly,
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan (17.01.10)
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan (29.10.09)
In nearly three decades of being on Pennsylvania's death row, Mumia Abu-Jamal has become a global symbol in the campaign against the death penalty and human rights abuses. There is an escalated effort by the authorities to see him die at the hands of the executioner. This is the most dangerous time for Mumia since his 1981 arrest. I am fighting for his life. Public support is crucial to this campaign to save and free him. There follows an overview of recent significant developments.
United State Supreme Court: We continue to litigate on behalf of Mumia in the U.S. Supreme Court. Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, ruled that he was entitled to a new jury trial on the issue of the death penalty. That victory never took effect because the state petitioned the Supreme Court for review. The matter is pending. Thus Mumia remains on death row and under a death sentence.
Even though the major briefing has been completed, the Supreme Court has withheld rendering a decision due to the pendency of a case from Ohio, Smith v. Spisak, which has a similar issue regarding instructional errors at the penalty phase. In Mumia's case the jurors were instructed that they were precluded from considering any mitigating evidence unless all 12 agreed on the particular circumstance. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Spisak on October 13. Mumia and I are anxious about the effect of that case because it is one of the worst imaginable. As Shannon P. Duffy of The Legal Intelligencer wrote the next day: "In a bizarre twist of fate, Mumia Abu-Jamal . . . may find that his very life hinges on the outcome of the case of a neo-Nazi triple murderer who wore a Hitler mustache at trial as he testified proudly about his desire to kill blacks, Jews and gays." That is ironic, for Mumia's life as a journalist and author has been committed to speaking out against racism, discrimination of any sort, inequality, injustice, and human rights abuses.
My office has received many inquiries as to when the Supreme Court will rule, my analysis of what occurred in Spisak, and what will the court decide. First, I anticipate a decision within two months even though it is always difficult to accurately make such predictions. Secondly, there are significant differences between the Spisak case and that of Mumia. Most importantly, the controlling decision of Mills v. Maryland applies to Mumia's case but not to Spisak. Mills was decided in 1988, a year before the Pennsylvania state proceedings became final in our case. However, Spisak had already been decided when Mills came down; Mills is not retroactive. The Spisak case actually concerns both the instructional issue and another on the ineffectiveness of the defense attorney due to his penalty phase argument. Only the former has any relevance to Mumia.
The hearing was lively with Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the outset questioning the Ohio attorney general about the applicability of the Mills decision since it was decided after Spisak became final. It seems that all the justices, with the exception of Clarence Thomas, had questions. Finally, my impression at the end of the day was that clearly some of the justices were poised to reverse and rule for Ohio on the legal incompetence issue. Whether there are enough votes for such a decision remains to be seen. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel A, Alito, Jr. were clearly bothered by the trial lawyer's poor penalty-phase jury argument, while Anthony Scalia thought it was "brilliant." As to the instructional issue that affects Mumia, it does not seem so clear for there are different ways the court could go. On the one hand it might not reach the issue since Mills does not apply, or because the court finds that the death penalty cannot stand in view of the lawyer's ineffectiveness. On the other hand, the court could address the Mills issue which might affect my client's situation in different ways.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court: We are also litigating an issue concerning the reliability of the ballistics evidence presented at trial. On April 20, 2009, we filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief in the trial court, the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia. The petition, based upon newly discovered evidence, was denied without a hearing on May 27, 2009. The matter is being appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Recent activities: In recent months there have been many events regarding Mumia. A few of the more interesting, were:
Germany: There are organization and individuals in Germany who are dong incredible things to save Mumia. Their work is a model of positive activism. Last spring the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts), Berlin, hosted a panel discussion on Mumia to a capacity crowd. It began with an except from In Prison My Whole Life. Participating on the panel, was: Madame Danielle Mitterrand, former First Lady of France; Klaus Staeck, President of the Akademie; Johano Strasser, President of PEN Germany; Günter Wallraff, a well known author; Gerhart Rudolf Baum, member of the Bundestag (parliament), former Minister of the Interior, and United Nations representative; and me. A video of the event is available, here...
The Netherlands and World Day Against the Death Penalty October 10 was World Day Against the Death Penalty. I was in the Netherlands at the invitation of Amnesty International to speak on behalf of Mumia. That included a lecture at the prestigious Utrecht University school of law, sponsored by Ad Informandum. My topic: Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Death Penalty: A Global Human Rights Crisis. It was a great experience, for I have not encountered more bright and inquisitive students. They were interested in why the United States, in company with countries such as Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia, is still in the business of executing people. I also spoke at the showing of the extraordinary movie, In Prison My Whole Life, concerning my client and the death penalty. Mumia and I are particularly indebted to Amnesty's Stef Arens, who was responsible for organizing these events. Another highlight was seeing Arlette Stuip, who attended Goddard College with Mumia. She and her husband Tom have remained his good friends.
Reporters Without Borders, Paris: Recently Reporters Without Borders published a video interview regarding Mumia and the latest case developments. It is in English, French and German, and can be found here...
France: The movement for Mumia in France is strong, led by the Ensemble Sauvons Mumia Abu-Jamal which is composed of approximately 80 organizations. Come rain, sleet or snow, supporters continue to demonstrate each week at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. The film In Prison My Whole Life is being shown in theaters around France. In September, Nicole and I joined Claudine Cordillot, Mayor of Villejuif, a Paris suburb, for a showing of the movie and a presentation afterwards. One of Mme. Cordillot's first acts upon taking office in 1999 was to come out in support of Mumia. The Council of Villejuif unanimously declared both him and Nelson Mandela citizens of honor.
Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense Our legal effort is the front line of the battle for Mumia's freedom and life. His legal defense needs help. The costs are substantial for our litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court and other court. To help, please make your donations as follows:
Spendenkonto für BR Deutschland und umliegendes europäisches Ausland:
Archiv 92/Sonderkonto Jamal
Conclusion: Mumia's life remains in great danger. My career has been marked by successfully representing people facing death in murder cases. My goal is to save Mumia's life and win his freedom.
Yours very truly,
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan (11.10.09)
October 10 was World Day Against the Death Penalty. I am in The Netherlands at the invitation of Amnesty International. On Friday I gave a lecture at a prestigious law school to an wonderful group of students on behalf of Mumia. Yesterday I spoke at the showing of In Prison My Whole Life, sponsored by Amnesty, concerning my client and the death penalty. Mumia is now a global symbol in the campaign against the death penalty.
I am presenting litigating the issue of the death penalty in the United States Supreme Court. Last year we won a new jury trial in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. The state has gone to to the Supreme Court seeking a reversal of that ruling and the execution of my client. We are presently litigating the matter. Next week the court will hear arguments in an older case from Ohio, Smith v. Spisak, which has a similar issue.
There is a new effort underway to destroy the support for Mumia, who has been on Pennsylvania's death row for nearly three decades. The government's purpose is to kill him. This is the most dangerous time for Mumia since his 1981 arrest. I am fighting for his life. The support of the movement in Germany is crucial to the fight to save and free him.
Der Spiegel magazine published an article on 24 August 2009 which contained misquotes, distortions, false facts, and outright lies. Under influence from the right wing, it was a clear effort to promote the government effort to kill Mumia. The reporter could not even get right the simple fact of where I live in San Francisco, writing stupidly that Pacific Heights is an "alternative area." It states that Mumia was a hight school drop out, overlooking the fact that he finished, attended university, and now has two university degrees: a Bachelor of Arts from Goddard College; a Master of Arts from California State University. She falsely stated that Mumia was not working as a journalist at the time of his arrest. Her description of the homicide scene was wrong. In a transparent effort to destroy raising needed funds for the defense, the reporter lied in writing that one million dollars has been raised. In fact the defense has no money - we are broke and thus cannot do things needed for Mumia; the reporter was aware of this. She criticized Mumia because he must wait until a new jury trial to explain in court what happened at the time of the shooting.
This week Reporters Without Borders, headquartered in Paris, published a video interview regarding Mumia's case and the latest case developments. It is in English, French and German, and can be found here...
Finally, last spring at the Akademie der Künste I announced that we would we issuing an online petition for Mumia. He and I decided to wait until this month for its release. It will be coming soon.
You in Germany have been wonderful in the outpouring of your concern for Mumia. At this crucial time your activism is needed more than ever.
With best wishes,
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan (04.06.09)
Like so many on death row, Mumia has been a victim of poverty, racial bigotry, fraud, inadequate legal representation, and an unfair trial. The trial judge was a racist who referred to my client as a "nigger" whom he was going to help the prosecution "fry." Prior case lawyers failed to investigate and present pivotal issues both at trial and in the post-conviction process, thereby limiting what could be considered by the Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. Below is a brief summary of case developments.
U.S. Supreme Court, Washington
Abu-Jamal v. Beard, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 08-8483
On April 6, 2009, the Supreme Court declined to hear our case. This came as a profound disappointment and shock, even though the court rejects 98-99% of cases presented for review. Mumia's case was exceptional, especially in view of the powerful dissenting decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals. Our strong constitutional position was bolstered by briefing from the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, which I had invited into the case to address the racism issue. Tragically the court turned its back on it own case law which held that racism in jury selection offends the U.S. Constitution and mandates a new trial. Our extensive briefing had laid out the overwhelming evidence establishing the prosecutor's race-based behavior and the racially-charged atmosphere of the trial. On May 1, I submitted a Petition for Rehearing which has been rejected.
Beard v. Abu-Jamal, Sup. Ct. No. 08-652
Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia, Commonwealth v. Abu-Jamal, Nos. 1357-1359
Developments in Europe
Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense in Germany
Archiv 92/Sonderkonto Jamal
With best wishes,
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan (09.02.09)
Subject: Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row - U.S. Supreme Court
New case filing in Supreme Court
Prosecution's separate Supreme Court petition
Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense
Spendenkonto für BR Deutschland und umliegendes europäisches Ausland:
Archiv 92/Sonderkonto Jamal
As I have previously pointed out, Mumia is in greater danger than at any time since his 1981 arrest. Your support and activism is needed. This great journalist and author does not belong on death row or in prison. We must not rest until he is free.
Yours very truly,
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan (15.12.08)
Subject: U.S. Supreme Court developments regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row
Introduction Mumia Abu-Jamal remains on Pennsylvania's death row. Last week marked the 27th anniversary of his unjust imprisonment. Racism, fraud and politics have been threads that have run through the case since its inception, and continue today. We are in extensive litigation on two fronts before the United States Supreme Court. The prosecution is continuing it quest for the execution of my client. In a separate case before the court, I am seeking an entirely new trial and Mumia’s freedom. Based upon my experience in having successfully represented numerous people in murder cases involving the death penalty, I am convinced that we can win if I can just get it back before a jury.
U.S. Supreme Court The following is a brief overview of recent developments and filing deadlines:
Conclusion his is a life and death struggle to save Mumia. He is in greater danger than at any time since being arrested. Your support and activism is needed. That Mumia remains in prison and on death row is an affront to basic human rights. We must aggressively continue this struggle until he is free.
Yours very truly,
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
Legal update regarding U.S. Supreme Court litigation on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Date: September 12, 2008
IntroductionThere has been extensive news attention to the ongoing federal proceedings concerning my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, on the hotly contested issue of racism in jury selection and the ordering of a new jury trial on the question of life or death. (Abu-Jamal v. Horn, 520 F.3d 272 (3rd Cir. 2008).) The massive issue of racism will be presented to the U.S. Supreme Court later this year. However, few are aware that we have been actively litigating separate issues concerning fraud and the subornation of perjury by the Philadelphia Police Department and the District Attorney of Philadelphia. We are now before the Supreme Court regarding this governmental misconduct which resulted in Mumia being convicted and sentenced to death.
U.S. Supreme Court On July 18, 2008, I filed on behalf of Mumia in the Supreme Court, a Petition for Writ of Certiorari. (Abu-Jamal v. Pennsylvania, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 08-5456.) This arises from adverse rulings by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The basis of the current litigation is that the prosecution persuaded witnesses to lie in order to obtain a conviction and death judgment against my client. The following are excerpts from what I have presented to the Supreme Court (without case citations and legal argument):
Questions presented for review
Reasons for granting the writ
THE NEWLY DISCOVERED EVIDENCE ESTABLISHES THAT THE PROSECUTION MANIPULATED A PURPORTED EYEWITNESS TO FALSELY IDENTIFY PETITIONER AS THE SHOOTER, IN VIOLATION OF THE FIFTH, SIXTH EIGHTH, AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS
Petitioner was deprived of his right to a fair and reliable determination of guilt and penalty, as guaranteed by the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution because the state's purported eyewitness, Cynthia White, was coaxed and coerced into providing false testimony against him. Her testimony was critical to the prosecution. If the jury had learned that her testimony was the product of threats and favors, there is a reasonable probability that the result of the trial would have been different. . . .
Newly discovered evidence from [Yvette} Williams establishes that White lied by falsely testifying that she observed Petitioner shoot police officer Daniel Faulkner. In fact, she did not see the shooting. White was threatened with imprisonment and in fear of being killed by the police if she did not help them by testifying against Petitioner. As Ms. Williams explained:
6. When [Cynthia White] told me she didn't see who shot Officer Faulkner, I asked her why she was "lying on that man" (Mumia Abu-Jamal). She told me it was because for the police and vice threatened her life. Additionally, the police were giving her money for tricks. "The way she talked, we were talking "G's" ($1,000.00). She also said she was terrified of what the police would do to her if she didn't say that Mumia shot Officer Faulkner. According to Lucky (White), the police told her they would . . . send her "up" . . . for a long time if she didn't testify to what they told her to say. . . .
7. Lucky was worried the police would kill her if she didn’t say what they wanted. . . . She was scared when she told me all of this plus she was crying and shaking. Whenever she talked about testifying against Mumia Abu-Jamal, and how the police were making her lie, she was nervous and very excited and I could tell how scared she was from the way she was talking and crying.
8. Lucky told me that what really happened that night was that she was . . . in the area . . . when Officer Faulkner got shot, but she definitely did not see who did it. She also told me that she had a drug habit and was high on drugs when it happened. She tried to run away after the shooting, but the cops grabbed her and wouldn't let her go. They took her in the car first and told her that she saw Mumia shoot Officer Faulkner.
Declaration of Yvette Williams, Jan. 28, 2002 at 2-3.
The declaration of Ms. Williams does not merely provide direct contradiction of the prosecution's key witness at trial, but it also materially undermines the integrity of the case against Petitioner. The fact that the prosecution witness testified falsely as a result of police inducement taints all of the evidence upon which the prosecution relied at the original trial, and offends the Constitution. Such proof would not only have impeached White’s testimony, but would have created doubt about the motives and trustworthiness of law enforcement personnel involved in this case. . . . The subornation of perjury from White results in the inescapable conclusion that the investigating officers caused other witnesses to lie, and that exculpatory and impeachment evidence was suppressed. Evidence that White was coerced into lying would have been far more significance than simply canceling out her testimony, which in and of itself was of major significance. It would raise a host of questions regarding why the police felt the need to fabricate evidence. . . .
NEWLY DISCOVERED EVIDENCE DEMONSTRATES THAT PETITIONER WAS FOUND GUILTY AND SENTENCED TO DEATH THROUGH THE USE OF A POLICE FABRICATED CONFESSION IN VIOLATION OF THE FIFTH, SIXTH EIGHTH, AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS
Petitioner was deprived of his right to a fair and reliable determination of guilt and penalty, as guaranteed by the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, because of the state's reliance on a fabricated confession and by its thwarting of defense efforts to expose that falsehood. Newly discovered evidence has established that Priscilla Durham, a hospital security guard who testified at trial to hearing Petitioner allegedly confess, has since admitted to concocting the story. Declaration of Kenneth Pate, Apr. 18, 2003. She admitted to Mr. Pate that in fact she never heard Petitioner make any incriminating statements. He recalls:
2. Sometime around the end of 1983 or the beginning of 1984 I had a telephone conversation with Priscilla Durham in which the subject of Mumia Abu-Jamal came up.
. . . .
5. Then Priscilla started talking about Mumia Abu-Jamal. She said that when the police brought him in that night she was working at the hospital. Mumia was all bloody and the police were interfering with his treatment, saying "let him die."
6. Priscilla said that the police told her that she was part of the "brotherhood" of police since she was a security guard and that she had to stick with them and say that she heard Mumia say that he killed the police officer, when they brought Mumia in on a stretcher.
7. I asked Priscilla: "Did you hear him say that?" Priscilla said: "All I heard him say was "Get off me, get off me, they're trying to kill me.
Declaration of Kenneth Pate, Apr. 18, 2003.
Ms. Durham was the only civilian to claim that Petitioner admitted the shooting. There is a reasonable probability that if the jury was informed that Durham was pressured by police into lying, it certainly would have disregarded the alleged confession. Without proof of a confession, there is a reasonable probability that the verdict would have been different. . . .
Moreover, as in the situation of the fabricated testimony of Cynthia White, disclosure of the pressure placed upon Durham to falsely claim she heard the confession, would likewise create a reasonable probability that the other witnesses and evidence presented would be viewed by the jury with skepticism. In effect disclosure that the police caused both Durham and White to lie, would have brought into question the credibility and legitimacy of the other evidence presented again Petitioner. In that even the prosecution case against Petitioner would have collapsed like a house of cards.
By the prosecution concealing evidence that two of its crucial witnesses lied, Petitioner was deprived of his right to a fair trial and due process of law under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. The petition filed on behalf of him in the state court addressed both governmental interference and newly discovered evidence that could not have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence. Both claims allege violations of recognized constitutional rights under Amendments Five, Six, Eight and Fourteen. Both claims allege the prosecutorial suppression of exculpatory material evidence and the presentation of false evidence in contravention of the right to a fair trial and due process of law guaranteed by the Constitution . . .
The newly discovered facts establish that the police as part of the prosecution were involved in obtaining false material testimony against Petitioner at trial. The result compromised not only his fair trial rights, but led to a death judgment that violated the very essence of the Eighth Amendment.
The declaration of Yvette Williams discloses that Cynthia White told her that she lied on the stand because she feared reprisals from the police if she refused to do so. The declaration of Kenneth Pate reveals that Priscilla Durham lied in testifying against Petitioner because she was pressured to so by the police. The witnesses’ fears, created by the prosecution through the police, not only explains the false testimony but also why the witnesses did not come forward. The prosecutor in Petitioner’s trial had an absolute obligation to disclose the threats and efforts to suborn perjury. . . . By suppressing exculpatory evidence which included the fact that (a) a witness was persuaded to lie that she had witnessed the homicide, and (b) another was encouraged to manufacture a false confession attributed to Petitioner, contravened the right to a fair trial, due process of law, and a fair penalty trial, guaranteed by the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
On August 21, 2008, the Philadelphia District Attorney filed a brief in opposition to the relief we seek on procedural grounds, that prior counsel failed to raise the issues in a timely manner. Even though the Supreme Court considers only an incredibly small number of cases at this stage, we remain hopeful in view of the prosecution's egregious misconduct.
Later in the year we will be going separately before the Supreme Court concerning the denial of an entirely new trial by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Third Circuit. That court did grant a new jury trial on the question of penalty, life of death. Nonetheless, we are pursing an entirely new trial. The issue of racism in jury selection will be presented, along with the fact that the prosecutor made misrepresentations to the jury in order to obtain a murder conviction against Mumia.
Conclusion I will not rest until Mumia is free. That he remains in prison and on death row is a travesty of justice and an affront to civilized standards. We must all continue to fight for what is right, and not lose hope. Free Mumia.
Yours very truly,
Robert R. Bryan
NYC Mumia supporters and Abu-Jamal-News adding to the legal update
The New York City Coaltion To Free MumiA Abu-Jamal added to this: This is not the appeal to the US Supreme Court on the Batson issue for a new trial that will be filed later this year.
This is a new very important legal initiative appealing to the US Supreme Court on the use of police-coerced testimony and fabricated confessions both by the Common Court of Appeals and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in convicting Mumia and sentencing him to death in clear violation of his constitutional rights.
Hans Bennett ( http://Abu-Jamal-News.com ) added to this:
This statement below was just sent out by Mumia’s attorney. To give some background on this, you can link to the press release that I assembled in February when the PA Supreme Court rejected the PCRA appeal concerning the affidavits from both Kenneth Pate and Yvette Williams, which this appeal is a response to...
(note that my comments here are completely separate from Bryan’s legal update---but I wanted to provide some context to help folks understand this new update)
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan July 22, 2008: "en banc" appeal denied
Federal ruling regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row, Pennsylvania
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia
Today our Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc, submitted on behalf of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Simply put, we did not receive the needed majority vote from the nine sitting judges; at least five votes for a rehearing were necessary. However, Justice Thomas L. Ambro continues to urge the granting of relief on the issue of racism in jury selection. That position, as detailed in his brilliant dissenting opinion of March 27, 2008, will continue to serve as a beacon of hope as we press on for a new trial and Mumia's freedom. Judge Ambro said that the “core guarantee of equal protection, ensuring citizens that their State will not discriminate on account of race, would be meaningless were we to approve the exclusion of jurors on the basis of . . . race. . . . I respectfully dissent. "A copy of today's decision is attached.
Mumia and I had a legal conference this afternoon. He, as I, was stunned by the federal court's refusal to grant relief since it flies in the face of established legal precedent in both the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. I am furious because racism continues to raise its ugly head in this country, and should have no place in our legal system. The indisputable facts are that the prosecutor engaged in racism in selecting the jury in this case, and that bigotry lingers today in Philadelphia. It would be naive not to realize that this case continues to reek of politics and injustice.
U.S. Supreme Court
We will be seeking relief in the Supreme Court. The Petition for Writ of Certiorari will be filed by October 20, 2008, unless there is an extension. The racism issue will be presented, along with the fact that the prosecutor made misrepresentations to the jury in order to obtain a murder conviction against Mumia.
My goal remains a complete reversal of the conviction, even though the federal court has already granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. We will not rest until Mumia is free.
Yours very truly,
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan July 8, 2008 and to corresponding articles by Emilie Lounsberry (Philaldephia Inquirer) and Dave Lindorff (OpEdNews) on filing of "en banc" rehearing petition"
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia On June 27, 2008, I submitted on behalf of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc in the U .S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Yesterday it was deemed &qoutfiled&qout by the court following rulings on related motions.
The focus of the Petition is the issue of racism in jury selection. If unsuccessful, we will proceed to the United States Supreme Court.
Below are two news articles concerning the Petition. Today's Philadelphia Inquirer piece gives an overview of this newest development, while that by Dave Lindorff is a brilliant analysis of these case developments and its politics. A copy of the actual Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc, which is before the federal court, is attached.
Conclusion Even though the federal court granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty, we want a complete reversal of the conviction. I will not rest until my client is free.
Yours very truly,
Posted on Mon, Jul. 7, 2008
Abu-Jamal seeks new trial in Phila. officer's slaying
By Emilie Lounsberry
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Pennsylvania death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal has asked a federal appeals court to reconsider the decision that denied him a new trial in the 1981 slaying of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
In late March, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit left intact Abu-Jamal's conviction but said a new jury should decide whether he deserved death or should be sentenced to life behind bars.
In court papers docketed today, Robert R. Bryan, the San Francisco lawyer representing Abu-Jamal with Widener University law professor Judith Ritter, asked the three-judge panel and the full Third Circuit court to take another look.
They contended that the panel should have ordered a hearing on Abu-Jamal's contention that prosecutors intentionally excluded blacks from his jury in violation of a later 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
They noted that one of the panel members, Judge Thomas Ambro, wanted a hearing held on that issue, and said the majority &qouthas backed away from this Circuit's historical commitment to equal justice for all.&qout
The three-judge panel affirmed the December 2001 ruling by U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr., who had thrown out the death sentence after concluding that the jury might have been confused by the trial judge's instructions and wording on the verdict form filled out when the jury decided on death.
Yohn found that the jury might have mistakenly believed it had to agree unanimously on any mitigating circumstances - factors that might have persuaded jurors to decide on a life sentence, rather than death.
Abu-Jamal, 54, has been on death row since his 1982 conviction in the killing of Faulkner, who was shot to death near 13th and Locust Streets early in the morning of Dec. 9, 1981.
While Abu-Jamal is appealing because he wants a new trial, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the death sentence. Assistant District Attorney Hugh Burns said last month that no decision had been made on whether to ask the high court to consider the matter.
Abu-Jamal has written books and given taped speeches from death row, and his case has been followed in many parts of the world.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence in 1989, and also rejected three other appeals - including one earlier this year.
July 7, 2008
Mumia Abu-Jamal's Long-Shot Appeal for Reversal of Last Year's Disastrous Third Circuit Ruling
By Dave Lindorff
Mumia Abu-Jamal and his attorney Robert R. Bryan yesterday filed a formal petition seeking a full en banc reconsideration of last spring’s decision by a three-member panel of the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals rejecting his claim of a constitutional violation in the selection of jurors at his 1982 murder trial in the shooting death of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.
The three-judge panel, in a 2-1 ruling, rejected Abu-Jamal’s claim of a so-called Batson violation—namely that the city prosecutor trying his case had denied him a fair trial by improperly barring qualified African Americans from sitting on his jury. The two judges in the majority--both appointed to their posts by President Ronald Reagan--stated that Abu-Jamal had failed to raise the issue at the time of his trial, and that he had failed to make a prima facie case of racial discrimination.
In their majority opinion rejecting Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim, Judge Anthony Scirica and Judge Robert Cowan had argued that even though it was demonstrably true that Assistant DA Joseph McGill had used 10 of his 15 peremptory challenges to reject two-thirds of the potential black jurors who had agreed that they could vote for a death penalty in the case, it could not be seen as a prima facie case of impermissible racial discrimination, because no one had established the racial make-up of the total jury pool. In other words, as one of the two judges actually stated during the hearing, "perhaps the jury pool itself was two-thirds black." The majority also ruled that because Abu-Jamal had not formally raised the objection about the number of racial jury strikes at the time they occurred, his claim was denied.
As attorney Bryan pointed out in his request for a re-examination of the ruling by the full Third Circuit panel of 12 judges, however, both these arguments fly in the face of both US Supreme Court and Third Circuit precedents. Under Batson, a defendant, in order to obtain a full hearing into the issue of race discrimination in jury selection, need only demonstrate that one single juror was improperly rejected by the prosecution on the basis of race. Furthermore, both those courts have also established that all relevant issues must be taken into consideration, not just the juror strike (dismissal) rate. Bryan noted, for example, that the case was racially charged, given that the defendant was black and the victim was white, and that it was especially charged, given that the defendant had been a Black Panther and had been associated with the MOVE organization, while the victim had been a police officer. Both the Supreme Court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals have held that such issues can contribute to making a prima facie case of discrimination, yet neither was considered by the three-judge panel in its ruling in this case. Bryan also noted that at the time of the trial, there was no Batson standard to raise an objection to (the US Supreme Court’s Batson standard was established in 1986, but was made retroactive for all cases). Indeed, in 1982, at the time of Abu-Jamal’s trial, it was technically legal for prosecutors to reject jurors on the basis of race, so he and his trial attorney would have been making a pointless objection at trial had they formally complained back then.
All these points, Bryan argues in his petition for a re-consideration of his client's Batson claim, were also powerfully made in a dissent by the third appellate judge, Thomas Ambro (a Clinton appointee), who charged that his two senior colleagues on the bench were making "a newly created contemporaneous objection rule for habeas petitions," which he warned would conflict with all the court's prior decisions.
Judge Ambro, Bryan points out, also was dismissive in his dissent of his two colleagues’ claim that they needed to know the composition of the jury pool before they could say the prosecutor’s dismissal of two thirds of the qualified black jurors might constitute improper discrimination in jury selection. "It is my belief," he wrote, "that this strike rate without reference to total venire (jury pool) can stand on its own for the purpose of raising an inference of discrimination."
In any event, Bryan went on to demonstrate, using the trial transcript record and some simple math, that in fact the racial composition of the original jury pool can be established: it was 14 blacks and 31 whites, or in other words, 31 percent black. Since it has been stipulated by the district attorney’s office, and accepted as fact by the state courts, that the prosecutor used his ability to dismiss jurors peremptorily (without cause) to eliminate 10 black jurors already considered acceptable by the court, that gives the prosecution a strike rate of 66.67 percent, or more than double the actual percentage of available black jurors in the pool. Admittedly it would have been better had the defense been able to make that damning point at the Third Circuit hearing last year, when the two Republican judges on the bench were demanding it, properly or not. That said, it is still a point that the full Third Circuit bench should consider carefully, in examining lst year's bizarre ruling by the three-judge panel of Scirica, Cowen and Ambro.
The challenge faced by Abu-Jamal in this bid for a reconsideration of his Batson claim ruling is that the three judges who already ruled, including Judge Cowen, could be part of any en banc reconsideration. Judge Marjorie Rendell, one of the 12 active members of the Third Circuit, has recused herself from the hearing because her husband, Gov. Ed Rendell, was district attorney and as such was boss of the prosecutor, Joe McGill, when the case was tried. Another judge, Clinton appointee Theodore McKee, also recused himself, as did Bush appointee D. Michael Fisher. Ordinarily, en banc deliberations are limited to active judges, but Judge Cowen, though retired, might be able to participate, since he was one of the judges who issued the ruling in question. If Judge Cowan did not participate in an en banc session, that would mean four additional judges would have to side with Judge Ambro, for a reversal and an order for a hearing on Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim. If Cowan were to join the bench, however, that would mean a total of 10 judges, and thus a majority of six--or five in addition to Ambro--would be needed for a reversal.
Without Cowan, the odds would be daunting enough. Even if the other two Clinton appointees to the Third Circuit Court and one remaining Carter appointee were to side with Ambro, Abu-Jamal would need one Bush appointee to come over to get five votes for a reversal. With Cowan voting, five votes would just give a tie, leaving last year’s ruling standing. For a reversal, a second Bush appointee would have to be swayed to Abu-Jamal’s side.
That is quite a hurdle. Then again, stranger things have happened: One of the key Third Circuit rulings establishing the precedent that it should be relatively easy for a death row prisoner to establish prima facie evidence of race-based jury selection (to which Judge Ambro referred when he said his colleagues were ignoring the precedents of their own circuit) and gain a full hearing of the evidence, was written by a recent member of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Samuel Alito. Alito, recall, left the Third Circuit when he was appointed last year to the Supreme Court by Bush.
Technically, what Abu-Jamal is seeking at this point is an order from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for a full Batson hearing, at which all evidence could be presented, and the prosecution questioned, about the prevailing practice by the district attorney's office in 1982 of excluding blacks from juries in Philadelphia (academic research shows that under Rendell's direction, prosecutors struck blacks from capital-case juries 58 percent of the time, compared to only 22 percent for whites), the record of prosecutor Joe McGill (who records show struck black jurors from the capital cases he tried 74 percent of the time, vs. 25 percent of the time for whites), and about what actually happened during jury selection process at Abu-Jamal's own trial, when two-thirds of black jurors were struck by the prosecutor.
If a judge were to establish after such a hearing that there was a racial motive behind McGill's actions during jury selection, or during the removal of one seated black juror early in the trial, or that even one juror was removed for racial reasons, under Batson rules, it would result automatically in Abu-Jamal's getting a new trial before a new, fairly selected jury.
The Third Circuit drama over Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim plays out as evidence continues to mount that his trial was a sham and a travestry. Among these are new photographs showing: 1) police manipulation of the evidence at the crime scene, 2) a lack of any bullet holes in the sidewalk surrounding the spot where officer Faulkner was lying when he was allegedly shot by Abu-Jamal, and 3) no indication of a taxi cab parked where cab driver Robert Chobert, a key prosecution "eye-witness," claimed he had been located during the shooting incident. Other credible witnesses are also surfacing with evidence that there was never a shouted out "confession" in Jefferson Hospital’s emergency room, and that witness Chobert was actually not a witness to the shooting, but was rather parked on another street, facing away from the incident.
The District Attorney’s office is expected to file a counter petition opposing an en banc review of last year's Third Circuit ruling.
Author's Bio: Dave Lindorff, a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("his Can't Be Happening! Resisting the Disintegration of American Democracy" and "Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal"). His latest book, coauthored with Barbara Olshanshky, is "The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office (St. Martin's Press, May 2006). His writing is available at here...
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan 10.06.08
This Legal Update is made on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on Pennsylvania's death row.
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit entered an order extending the due date for submitting the Petition for Rehearing En Banc on behalf of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal. We will file it on June 27, 2008.
There apparently is still confusion regarding the March 27 federal decision. A new jury trial was ordered on the question of whether the penalty should be life or death. The court did not rule that Mumia should receive a life sentence as some have stated. The penalty-phase was reversed because the trial judge gave misleading and unconstitutional jury instructions. Nonetheless, I expect far greater gains.
There was a lengthy dissenting opinion on the issue of racism in jury selection. It found that there was prima facie evidence of the prosecutor engaging in racism. He removed prospective African-American jurors for no reason other than the color of their skin. That violates the United States Constitution. This extraordinary dissent goes to the core of our effort to secure an entirely new trial. The first step in that process is what we presently are about - convincing the entire federal court that the case should be reheard and full relief granted. This dissent serves as the basis for that effort and, if need be, going to the United States Supreme Court.
Mumia remains on death row. The prosecution has vowed to appeal and continue its quest to see him executed. I will not let that happen.
Conclusion This case can be won. In over three decades of successfully defending people in capital murder cases, I have not seen one more compelling. Racism is a thread that has run through the case since its inception. My objective remains to obtain a new jury trial in which Mumia will be acquitted by a jury so that he can return to his family, a free person.
On behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, I thank you.
Yours very truly,
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan 31.05.08
This Legal Update is made on behalf of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on Pennsylvania's death row.
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, has granted my motion for a 14-day extension of time to file the Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc. It will be submitted on June 10. The following is a related news story:
Posted on Wed., May. 28, 2008
Abu-Jamal lawyers granted two-week extension
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit yesterday granted a two-week extension for lawyers for death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal to file a petition for a rehearing on his effort to get a new trial.
Abu-Jamal was convicted in 1982 of the murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner and was sentenced to death. In late March, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit affirmed Abu-Jamal's conviction but vacated the death sentence. The court said Abu-Jamal should be sentenced to life in prison or get a chance to persuade a new Philadelphia jury that he deserves a life sentence rather than death.
Defense lawyer Robert R. Bryan of San Francisco intends to seek a rehearing before the court on his contention that Abu-Jamal deserves a new trial, or at least a hearing on his argument that some blacks were intentionally excluded from his jury. The court said the new filing deadline is June 10. - Emilie Lounsberry
On March 27 the U.S. Court of Appeals court ordered a new jury trial on whether Mumia should be sentenced to life or death because of the trial judge's unconstitutional jury instructions. Mumia remains on death row since the ruling has not taken effect and the prosecution has vowed to appeal and continue its quest to see him executed. It is always good when there is a determination that the death penalty was wrongfully imposed, especially where, as here, it could help other inmates sentenced to death. Yet, we are not pleased with the ruling because the court refused to reverse the conviction and order a new trial on the question of innocence. The indisputable facts are that the prosecutor engaged in racism to select the jury, made a misleading argument to the jury which turned the concept of reasonable doubt on its head, and the trial judge was biased.
The bright side of the federal decision is that Justice Thomas L. Ambro wrote a lengthy dissenting opinion on the issue of racism in jury selection. His first sentence set the tone: "Excluding even a single person from a jury because of race violates the Equal Protection Clause of our Constitution." He concluded that the "core guarantee of equal protection, ensuring citizens that their State will not discriminate on account of race, would be meaningless were we to approve the exclusion of jurors on the basis of . . . race. . . . I respectfully dissent." The words of Justice Ambro are a light in the darkness, a roadmap as to our effort to seek a rehearing before the full court.
United States Supreme Court On separate issues arising directly from the state courts, recently I filed pleadings on behalf of Mumia in the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice David H. Souter has granted my motion setting the filing date for the certiorari petition as July 18, 2008. This concerns issues we litigated for three years in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, that the prosecution falsely manipulated eyewitness testimony and used fabricated evidence. This has no bearing on the proceedings pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Conclusion My goal remains a new jury trial in which Mumia will be found "not guilty" so that he can return home to his family. The ongoing concern by so many people for human rights is appreciated. Mumia and I thank you.
Yours very truly,
Robert R. Bryan
Legal update from Robert R. Bryan 12.04.2008
2008 WL 723750, at *4 (Mar. 19, 2008).
Justice Ambro concluded that everyone
is entitled to a fair and impartial trial by a jury of his or her peers. As Batson reminds us, "(t)he core guarantee of equal protection, ensuring citizens that their State will not discriminate on account of race, would be meaningless were we to approve the exclusion of jurors on the basis of . . . race." Id. at 97-98. I fear today that we weaken the effect of Batson by imposing a contemporaneous objection requirement where none was previously present in our Court's jurisprudence and by raising the low bar for a prima facie case of discrimination in jury selection to a height unattainable if enough time has passed such that original jury records are not available. In so holding, we do a disservice to Batson. I respectfully dissent.
Shortly before the decision, we brought the Snyder decision to the attention of the federal court in a Notice of Supplemental Authority. I wrote on March 23, 2008:
In Snyder v. Louisiana, ___ U.S. ___, 2008 WL 723750 (Mar. 19, 2008), the judgment of the Louisiana Supreme Court was reversed with the United States Supreme Court holding that the trial court should have disallowed a peremptory challenge based upon race because it violated Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). Justice Alito, in writing for the majority, reaffirmed that evidence of discriminatory intent should be taken from a broad array of factors. Citing Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231, 239 (2005), he pointed out that "in considering a Batson objection, or in reviewing a ruling claimed to be Batson error, all of the circumstances that bear upon the issue of racial animosity must be consulted . . ." Snyder underscores the point made by Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mr. Abu-Jamal, urged in oral argument on May 17, 2007, and in briefing, that the existence of a prima facie Batson claim depends upon, inter alia, the connection between race and the pattern of strikes, the nature of the case, comments made during jury selection, and the time and place of the trial. Brief of Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, July 26, 2006, at 17-46; Fourth-Step Reply Brief of Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Oct. 23, 2006, at 11-58.
The high court also reiterated that "the Constitution forbids striking even a single prospective juror for a discriminatory purpose." Snyder v. Louisiana, 2008 WL 723750 at *4 (quoting United States v. Vasquez-Lopez, 22 F.3d 900, 902 (C.A.9 1994)). This too was pointed out in oral argument and briefing. Brief of Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, supra, at 41-42. Finally, the case recognized that an "inference of discriminatory intent" is supported when the prosecution's proffered reasons for striking African Americans do not apply even-handedly to non-African Americans. Snyder v. Louisiana, 2008 WL 723750 at *8. Again, this point was presented in oral argument and our briefing. See, e.g., Brief of Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, supra, at 32-36.
The "Mumia Exception" The latest denial of a new trial to Mumia has been referred to as part of the "Mumia Exception." David Lindorff, a noted investigative journalist and author of Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 2, 2008, that the "courts have altered the rules just to keep Abu-Jamal on course for death." What Professor Linn Washington earlier dubbed the "Mumia Exception", could not have been more on target.
Reaction of the District Attorney of Philadelphia The District Attorney appeared livid that the federal court had ordered a new penalty-phase jury trial. At a press conference on March 27, 2008, the day of the decision, she vowed that her office will continue pursuing the execution of my client. Sadly, the prosecution could not resist distorting the truth as it has from the outset over a quarter of a century ago. The DA falsely said that the court "finally decided in its wisdom . . . that Mr. Jamal was guilty." That is not what the U.S. Court of Appeals found and is nonsense; there was no retrial or verdict. That is not what appellate courts do. Rather, the federal decision dealt with issues of law and procedure. The prosecution's suggestion that my client was found "guilty" of anything on appeal is absurd and patently false.
Where we go from here The dissent of Justice Ambro is a light in the darkness, a roadmap as to where we go from here. On April 9, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals granted my 45-day Motion for Extension of Time To File Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc. The rehearing petition, now due on May 27, 2008, will be seeking review of the case by all the judges in the Third Circuit. The basis will be that "the panel decision conflicts with a decision of the United States Supreme Court or of the court to which the petition is addressed and consideration of the full court is therefore necessary to secure uniformity of the court's decisions," and, "the proceeding involves one or more questions of exceptional importance". (Fed. R. App. P. 35(b)(1).) If unsuccessful, we will proceed to the Supreme Court.
Conclusion The issues in this case concern the right to a fair trial, the ongoing struggle against the death penalty, and the political repression of a courageous author and journalist. Based upon three decades of successfully litigating murder cases involving the death penalty, I am convinced that we can win an acquittal upon a new jury trial. My goal is his acquittal upon retrial. I intend to see Mumia go home to his family. I will not ret until that occurs.
Mumia is still on death row and in great danger. His life is hanging in the balance. We must remember that racism, fraud, politics, and unfairness are threads that have run through this case since the beginning. As reflected by the comments at its recent press conference, the prosecution has learned little from its shameful behavior in this case. The misconduct continues, and the prosecutorial wrongs of the past are thus visited on the present.
Finally, we are grateful for all those who do so much to bring the injustice in this case to public attention, whether it be through demonstrations, writing to newspapers, meetings, or circulating information on the Internet. This is all important. We are of one voice in this campaign for justice: Free Mumia!
Yours very truly,
Robert R. Bryan