Arkansas Circuit Judge: Mumia Abu-Jamal Should Be Freed

This Friday, Mumia Abu-Jamal faces what could possibly be his final probability for a brand new trial to think about newly found proof that casts doubt on his 1982 conviction for homicide. The journalist and former Black Panther has spent 41 years in jail for the loss of life of police officer Daniel Faulkner, for which he has at all times maintained his innocence. His attorneys say proof in containers found within the Philadelphia District Lawyer’s Workplace in 2019 exhibits his trial was tainted by judicial bias, in addition to police and prosecutorial misconduct, like withholding proof, and bribing or coercing witnesses to lie. Philadelphia Widespread Pleas Court docket Decide Lucretia Clemons indicated she intends to dismiss Mumia’s request for a brand new trial, however mentioned she would announce her closing choice this Friday, December 16. For extra on this intently watched case, we communicate with Wendell Griffen, Arkansas circuit choose, who is looking for Abu-Jamal’s launch and says Decide Clemons ought to bear in mind how the irregularities in Abu-Jamal’s case ought to have already secured his freedom, suggesting a drive for vengeance is the principle purpose that hasn’t occurred. “The prosecution tousled, the investigation tousled, and Mumia Abu-Jamal was wrongfully prosecuted, wrongfully convicted, wrongfully sentenced and is now wrongfully incarcerated,” says Griffen. “However our bloodlust prevents us from acknowledging that.”

TRANSCRIPT

It is a rush transcript. Copy might not be in its closing type.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Struggle and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

After 41 years in jail, most of it on loss of life row, this Friday, the journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal faces what could possibly be his final probability for a brand new trial to think about newly found proof that casts doubt on his 1982 conviction for the homicide of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Mumia Abu-Jamal’s attorneys say proof in containers found within the Philadelphia District Lawyer’s Workplace by the brand new DA on the time, Larry Krasner in 2019, present his trial was tainted by judicial bias and police and prosecutorial misconduct, like withholding of proof, and bribing or coercing witnesses to lie. Proof within the containers included notes from one among two key witnesses to prosecutors requesting, quote, “the cash owed to me.”

Effectively, on Tuesday, a United Nations working group submitted an amicus transient urging the choose to grant Mumia Abu-Jamal a brand new trial to think about the proof, and in addition cited proof of racial bias within the case, quoting the assertion by Mumia Abu-Jamal’s authentic trial choose, Albert Sabo, overheard by a court docket stenographer, when he mentioned, quote, “I’m going to assist them, the jury, fry that [N-word],” however he used the phrase.

Final month, Philadelphia Widespread Pleas Court docket Decide Lucretia Clemons indicated she intends to dismiss Abu-Jamal’s request for a brand new trial, however mentioned she would announce her closing choice this Friday, December sixteenth. Decide Clemons is a member of the archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Fee on Racial Therapeutic. She spoke final yr in a video by Catholic Philly about how Catholics can deal with racial division by looking for the reality, justice and reconciliation.

JUDGE LUCRETIA CLEMONS: I feel one of the vital necessary issues to concentrate on is reality and reconciliation. A well-known cry on the street in the course of the social justice protests is “No justice, no peace.” And whereas I do know that many individuals need peace, they actually need quiet. Quiet just isn’t the identical as peace. Peace requires justice, and justice requires reality. And due to this fact, I consider that we begin this with some reality and reconciliation, with some understanding of the place we’ve come from, the historic implications of that, how it’s impacting folks immediately, and the way can we reconcile that historical past with the place we’re and the place we wish to go.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Philadelphia County Court docket of Widespread Pleas Decide Lucretia Clemons, who will subject a choice on Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case Friday.

For extra on this intently watched case, we’re joined by one other trial court docket choose, a outstanding voice calling for a brand new trial and the discharge of Mumia Abu-Jamal. That’s Decide Wendell Griffen, choose of the sixth Judicial Circuit of Arkansas, fifth Division. He spent greater than 10 years as a choose on the state Court docket of Appeals. He’s retiring this month after virtually 1 / 4 of a century on the bench and a profession that’s included talking out towards the loss of life penalty, in addition to the Struggle in Iraq. Decide Griffen can be the pastor of New Millennium Church and writer of The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope.

Decide Griffen, welcome again to Democracy Now! You wrote an essay final month headlined “Discovering justice for each Maureen Faulkner and Mumia Abu-Jamal,” referring to the widow of the slain Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Are you able to speak about that and why you might be calling for the discharge of Mumia Abu-Jamal, on this crucial week the place it could possibly be the final probability he has for a brand new trial?

JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: Thanks, Amy. It’s good to speak with you once more.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a Black American political activist and journalist, as you realize, who has been incarcerated since he was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to loss of life for the 1981 homicide of Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, police officer. His 1982 loss of life sentence was overturned by a federal choose in 2001 on account of sentencing irregularities. At the moment, the query was: Why wasn’t the entire conviction overturned?

However in 2019, the Philadelphia District Lawyer’s Workplace disclosed for the primary time that there have been six containers of supplies that had been hid and never delivered to the protection staff earlier than Mumia was tried. Underneath a 1963 choice that each regulation pupil is aware of about and each lawyer is aware of about who does felony regulation observe, Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court docket of United States held that due means of regulation is violated when the prosecution conceals proof related to guilt or punishment from protection. On this nation, that sort of precedent ought to have required Mumia to be launched, and the state, or the commonwealth, on this case, resolve whether or not or to not prosecute him based mostly upon having revealed the precise proof. That hasn’t been achieved. And so, the query is: Why is Mumia Abu-Jamal not being given, as one other federal choose has mentioned, the advantage of the precedents, since 1963 — that is 60 years — that he needs to be getting, as a result of the state or the commonwealth attorneys violated his due course of legal guidelines? He had a pretense of a trial. And that’s what the Supreme Court docket of the USA mentioned sooner than that, in 1935, in an earlier case.

So, we’ve to ask ourselves the query: Why is that this journalist, why is that this Black activist not free? And why is it so arduous for a choose to say, “Hey, we’ve acquired the regulation that requires him to be free. I’m going to comply with the regulation and declare him free”? And if the commonwealth desires to retry him, they will achieve this. If the commonwealth decides we are able to’t retry him as a result of the proof is now not there, folks have handed away, witnesses have forgotten data, then that isn’t Mumia’s fault. That’s the fault of prosecutors, and Mumia shouldn’t be imprisoned as a result of, A, he had a pretense of a trial within the first place, and, B, as a result of, for some causes, bloodlust or the need to maintain a Black activist journalist in jail signifies that we don’t wish to do what’s proper.

AMY GOODMAN: In the event you may speak particularly, as a choose, across the regulation on the subject of, for instance, discovering a handwritten observe on this proof field, that was simply discovered —

JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: Sure.

AMY GOODMAN: — within the workplaces of now the DA Larry Krasner, one of many two key witnesses requesting “the cash you owed me,” writing that to the prosecution, after which, in fact, the well-known remark of the choose himself? I imply, human rights teams have decried the racism within the authentic trial. However Decide Sabo being heard by the court docket stenographer saying, “I’m going to assist them” — referring to the jury — “I’m going to assist them fry that [N-word],” however he used the phrase.

JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: He used the phrase.

AMY GOODMAN: That is the choose.

JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: He used the N-I-G-G-E-R phrase. It was heard by the stenographer. That will have and will have been adequate to disqualify that choose level clean. Past that, there was proof that there have been peremptory challenges that have been exercised by the prosecution based mostly upon racial, racist inclinations, which violates the Supreme Court docket choice in Batson v. Kentucky. That ought to have been sufficient to disqualify the trial.

However then, you referred to this observe that was discovered the place a witness for the prosecution, that allegedly fingered Mumia, writes the prosecutor and desires to know, “The place is my cash?” Now, if you happen to’re a protection lawyer, that’s highly effective data, as a result of it signifies that this witness has been bribed or has an incentive to lie. That’s a purpose to disqualify — or, that’s a purpose to overturn the conviction in and of itself. That is the sort of due course of violation that any regulation pupil would acknowledge on a felony regulation or constitutional regulation examination. So, this isn’t arduous stuff. This isn’t arduous stuff for any trial choose.

And so, the problem just isn’t whether or not or not this can be a robust authorized query; the problem is whether or not or not a choose — on this case, Decide Clemons — has the energy, the braveness, the compassion and the dedication to comply with the regulation to do what the regulation requires, which is, principally, declare the person who had a pretense of a trial, declare him free and inform the commonwealth, “If you wish to strive him once more, have at it. However you possibly can’t maintain him in jail since you merely tousled and don’t wish to confess it.”

AMY GOODMAN: The daughter of the novelist, the well-known novelist, Richard Wright, Julia Wright, wrote a letter to the Philadelphia Widespread Pleas Court docket Decide Lucretia Clemons this week. Partially, it learn, “We, Black ladies, who carry such intergenerational trauma have in frequent the present of ‘wounded healers’ within the phrases of the late Archbishop Tutu who referred to as for Mumia’s launch in 2011 on behalf of peace and reconciliation. I belief you’ll choose righteously,” she mentioned. Julia Wright is so attention-grabbing in that she was not too long ago concerned with the case in Elaine, Arkansas, of 5 Black males who have been tried and convicted of homicide in lower than half-hour in a mob rule trial. It was 1919 in your state of Arkansas. Are you able to speak about what you see because the parallels?

JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: You consult with the landmark case of Moore v. Dempsey, a 1923 case the place the Supreme Court docket of the USA Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the bulk opinion and wrote that the place there was a mob-dominated trial, it violates due course of. And in that case once more, the Supreme Court docket invalidated the homicide convictions, the first-degree homicide convictions, of 5 Black males who have been sentenced to loss of life. And that, once more, is precedent. That’s, once more, a connection. And Julia Wright, bless her coronary heart, has linked the dots between the Elaine race bloodbath, the bloodbath of Black folks in southeast Arkansas by white vigilantes and by federal troops, by the best way, and the incarceration and the refusal to launch Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is now in jail as a result of — and let’s be clear — due to bloodlust. There’s the notion {that a} police officer was murdered. Daniel Faulkner was murdered. And the prosecution tousled. The investigation tousled. And Mumia Abu-Jamal was wrongfully prosecuted, wrongfully convicted, wrongfully sentenced and is now wrongfully incarcerated. However our bloodlust prevents us from acknowledging that. And I perceive that. As a state court docket trial choose who has tried homicide instances, I perceive that, the ache of victims. I perceive the need of colleagues to get revenge. Nevertheless, justice is rarely about revenge. We don’t enable victims, or the chums or companions of the murdered, to resolve what justice is. Justice is doing proper, not getting revenge. And we have to perceive the distinction between the 2.

AMY GOODMAN: Decide Wendell Griffen, there’s a lot extra to speak about. Decide Griffen wrote the essay, “Discovering justice for each Maureen Faulkner and Mumia Abu-Jamal,” referring to the widow of the slain Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. We are going to hyperlink to your piece, and we can even do a Part 2 dialog with you as you come to the top of your judicial profession. You’ll be retiring on the finish of December after 24 years on the bench. You’re additionally the pastor of the New Millennium Church and writer of The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope. In Half 2 of our dialog, we’re going to speak about your illustrious profession on the bench. Folks ought to test it out at democracynow.org.

That does it for our present. Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena.

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