Former Black Panther and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal has won a significant victory that opens a legal path to overturning his frame-up for the 1981 killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner. On 27 December 2018, Judge Leon Tucker of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ruled that Mumia can re-argue his appeals due to the role of former Philly District Attorney Ronald Castille in his case.
In 1982, Ronald Castille was a member of the same District Attorney’s Office that convicted Mumia at his original trial. As D.A. of Philadelphia, Castille successfully fought to uphold Mumia’s conviction and death sentence. In 1990, when Mumia sat on death row, Castille petitioned the governor of Pennsylvania to expedite the executions of convicted prisoners on death row. In a letter to the governor, Castille wrote the following: “I urge you to send a clear and dramatic message to all police killers that the death penalty actually means something.” Castille was later elevated to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where he turned down Mumia’s appeals. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the “Williams decision” (also involving Castille), ruled it is unconstitutional for a judge who had previously been personally involved in a case to subsequently hear an appeal of the same case.
The day after Tucker’s decision, the Philadelphia D.A.’s office, led by “progressive” Democrat Larry Krasner, claimed to have accidentally “discovered” six boxes of files in Mumia’s case while “looking for office furniture.” While the exact contents of the boxes remain unknown at this point, they may contain documents demonstrating not only Castille’s direct “personal significant involvement” during Mumia’s appeals process, but exculpatory evidence further exposing his racist frame-up.
Krasner has been endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, who enthusiastically declared:
“Philadelphia made history in November 2017, when a labor-backed multiracial coalition proudly elected movement activist Larry Krasner as Philadelphia District Attorney on a platform of ending mass incarceration, protecting immigrants, and confronting abusive police. Krasner’s victory showed the world the collective power that Philadelphians have when we rally together, electing somebody who fights for us.”
—dsausa.org, 7 June 2018
Far from fighting “for us,” Krasner is a tool of the Democratic Party and his primary loyalty is to defend the interests of the ruling class. While Krasner initially threatened to challenge Tucker's ruling and seek to reimpose Mumia's bogus conviction, he ultimately withdrew his appeal. Instead of a lengthy court battle to decide whether Mumia can get a new appeal, he can now proceed to legally contest his frame-up.
While we support every possible legal path to win Mumia’s freedom, we have no illusions that the same “justice” system that put him on death row in the first place will allow a new and fair trial. Mumia is innocent and was framed. Release him now!
For background on Mumia's case, see The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
We reprint below a lightly edited version of a speech given by IBT supporter Adaire Hannah at a rally in Wellington, New Zealand on 30 August 2018. The demonstration coincided with the legal hearing involving evidence pertaining to Castille in Mumia’s case.
Today, we stand here in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal as in a few hours’ time, in a Philadelphia court, evidence will be heard that in 1982 Ronald Castille, of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, intervened in the prosecution of Mumia and was, years later, a judge on the Philadelphia Supreme Court sitting in judgement over Mumia’s case. This behavior, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, is illegal.
Mumia joined the Black Panthers Party as a 14 year old and was an active member until its implosion in 1970.
He became a radio journalist while at college. He saw journalism as a means of exposing police brutality, racism, oppression and exploitation. Philadelphia police were notorious for their corruption, and harassment of the working poor and the oppressed. In 1980, Mumia was elected the president of Philadelphia’s Association of Black Journalists and in January 1981 the Philadelphia Magazine noted him as someone to watch.
In December 1981, Mumia was arrested for allegedly killing Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police officer.
The police provided contradictory evidence; forensic evidence disappeared; witnesses were coerced to lie; and Mumia was repeatedly denied his legal rights. And we all remember the infamous statement by the judge, Albert Sabo, that he would “fry the nigger.”
Even an affidavit provided in June 1999, by the man who actually did kill Daniel Faulkner, has been denied consideration.
Mumia’s case exposes that there is no justice for the poor, oppressed and exploited. The capitalist system is rigged against us, which is why we, the International Bolshevik Tendency, have never called for a retrial of Mumia’s case.
Mumia was framed for the murder of Daniel Faulkner because of his political commitment to fighting against injustice and oppression. He would not be silenced.
For three decades Mumia was condemned to solitary confinement on death row. In December 2011 the death penalty was lifted but Mumia was condemned to a life sentence without parole.
In 2016 we met here to protest at the refusal of the judicial system to provide Mumia with medical treatment for his Hepatitis C condition. His ill health was ignored until he lost consciousness. It seemed that the judicial system, having failed to execute him, was prepared to allow him to die from a treatable disease.
The involvement of the workers’ movement in the fight to free Mumia is crucial, involvement such as in April 1999 when ILWU members stopped work from San Diego to Bellingham for a day.
Winning Mumia’s freedom is part of the struggle for our liberation.
His incarceration for a crime he did not commit is one of hundreds of thousands of examples of how capitalist justice is class justice. Here in New Zealand, if you are part of the working poor, Maori, Pasifika, homeless, unemployed or suffering from mental health issues, you will be over represented in the prisons.
That racism is a structural component of capitalism is exemplified by the American and New Zealand judicial systems. Maori make up about 15% of our population but make up over half of the prison muster.
We need to defy the labor laws that restrict our right to strike for anything other than our own contract renewals. We need to reject this political silencing of workers and the oppressed by united class action.
Today, we stand in solidarity with Mumia against this unjust system. However, justice for workers and the oppressed can only be achieved by the overthrow of the capitalist system which exploits and oppresses us.
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!