POLITICAL EXECUTIONS are no stranger to America. The Haymarket Martyrs, Joe Hill, Sacco and Vanzetti are just a few of the victims. The most recent political show trial and execution was back in the 1950s when alleged "atom bomb spies" Julius and Ethel Rosenburg were put to death. Now the US establishment wants to revive this nasty practice. Rock group Chumbawamba have written this article about death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
This is not Hollywood, Brookside, Coronation St or Eastenders. In the films and soaps someone gets accused of a crime they didn't commit, they have a few traumatic months, maybe even end up in custody. There are sleepless nights and dedicated lawyers unearthing lies and corrupt cops, and no matter how convincing the false evidence is, justice always raises its golden head and in the closing scene the hero walks free from the courtroom.
In the Hollywood version Mumia Abu-Jamal would be shaking hands with his lawyers and hugging his loved ones. The appeal court judge would be gruff but fair and the jury would have tears in their eyes as they acquitted him. Well, this isn't Hollywood and Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on death row for 16 years for a crime he didn't commit.
The supreme court has turned down Mumia's request for a new trial and there's severe political pressure for Governor Tom Ridge to sign Mumia's death warrant. Once his signature is on the line Mumia will be executed within a 30 to 90 day period. This isn't Hollywood and golden haired justice needs a severe kick up the arse. Unless there's a massive outcry - and quickly - Mumia Abu-Jamal will be executed.
Journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted in 1982 of killing a white Philadelphia police officer. Despite serious questions about his trial and the evidence used against him he's been refused the right to a new hearing. There has been an orchestrated campaign to obscure the facts and speed up his execution - including a full page ad in the New York Times demanding his death. The advert was paid for by the police.
Denzel Washington would have played Mumia's lawyer in the Hollywood version but this isn't Hollywood and the lawyer Mumia was allocated was crap. Forget all that guff about judges being paternal and wise; the Judge presiding over Mumia's trial in 1982 had sentenced more people to death than any other sitting judge in the United States. Six former Philadelphia prosecutors have sworn in court statements that no accused could receive a fair trial in the court of Judge Albert Sabo.
The Prosecution removed eleven African-Americans from the jury; African-Americans might have brought in a verdict which wasn't racially motivated.
The Defence attorney testified that he didn't interview a single witness in preparation for the trial and he told the court he wasn't prepared. Mumia was refused the right to act as his own attorney.
The Prosecutor used the fact that 12 years earlier Mumia had been a member of the Black Panther Party as an argument for imposing the death penalty.
Philadelphia kills according to colour, there are now 120 people on death row in Philadelphia, only 13 of them are white.
The Prosecution claimed that Mumia confessed all at the hospital he was taken to after being shot and beaten by the police. But the jury never heard from Gary Wakshul who was guarding Mumia at the hospital and reported "the Negro male made no comments". Wakshul was called as a defence witness, the prosecution said he was on holiday and unavailable. The judge refused a continuance so he could be brought in; Wakshul was actually sat at home. His story didn't match the police line so it wasn't introduced as evidence.
Oddly, the police officers who claimed to have heard Mumia's confession didn't remember it until two months after it had allegedly occurred. After Mumia filed police brutality charges the police officers came up with the 'confession'. The doctor at tending Mumia says he didn't hear Mumia confess anything.
The gun that the dead officer was shot with was a 44 calibre, Mumia's gun was a 38 calibre but this fact wasn't introduced in court. The police never tested Mumia's gun to see if it had been fired, never tested Mumia's hands to see if he'd fired a gun and then managed to lose the bullet fragment which would have helped prove Mumia's innocence.
An eye witness who saw the incident and said Mumia wasn't the shooter wasn't called to testify. One of the key prosecution witness Veronica Jones has now admitted that she lied in court because the police threatened her with the loss of her kids if she didn't back up their story. When Veronica Jones tried to testify in support of Mumia she was arrested.
Mumia's political background had made him a prime target for the police even before the incident where the officer died. A former member of the Black Panther Party and a member of the MOVE organisation, he was critical of police violence. The FBI and Philadelphia police amassed hundreds of pages of surveillance files on Mumia, beginning when he was 15 years old, for his outspoken opposition to racism and police brutality.
This isn't Hollywood, the police and the courts aren't interested in justice, and a man can still end up being executed for his political beliefs. There is massive political pressure on to kill Mumia, the governor is being urged to sign his death warrant and we have to act now before it's too late.
In the US there are a series of events, demonstrations and concerts happening to publicise Mumia's case, but the outcry has to be international as well as internal.
At the moment the State of Pennsylvania is busy trying to set a new execution date for Mumia. The Workers Solidarity Movement has already helped to organise a picket outside the US Embassy in Dublin. The 'Justice for Abu-Jamal' campaign plans to hold a demonstration as part of the international day of protest on April 24th. In Cork WSM members have helped to set up a Mumia Abu-Jamal Action Group.
Please make contact with them so that you can be involved in trying stop this planned state murder. Your actions could help save his life. International pressure has, so far, saved Mumia from being executed. Dublin: Justice for Abu-Jamal campaign::c/o 22 Melrose Avenue, Dublin 3. Cork: Mumia Action Group: 021-503262 (Kevin).