Petitioning Eric Holder, Department of Justice.
Release Mumia Abu-Jamal
Because of the international attention it would attract, a victory in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal – one of the most widely recognized political prisoners in the world – would create a crisis of legitimacy in and signal the beginning of the end of the system of mass incarceration in the U.S. The constitutional violations in this case are exceptional, but also typical of a greater problem in the administration of justice in local, U.S. courts that disproportionately incarcerate communities of color in cities like Philadelphia and beyond. The violations in the Abu-Jamal case are exceptional because of the politicized nature of the case, which involves the alleged murder of a white police officer by a black man, and because prior to his arrest Abu-Jamal was heavily surveilled by the FBI and by the Philadelphia Police Department for his activism and dissenting journalism. However, most of the violations in the case speak to the broader crisis of unlawful incarceration in the U.S. criminal justice system. These include corruption and tampering with evidence on the part of the police to obtain a conviction, prosecutorial misconduct, judicial bias, and discrimination in jury selection. Over the last 40 years, these violations have produced the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in the United States and have made the mass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos one of the gravest human rights crises of our time.
Eric Holder, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
Tom Corbett, Governor, Pennsylvania Office of the Governor
R. Seth Williams, District Attorney, Office of the District Attorney of Philadelphia
We, the undersigned, call on Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal and recommend that Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania immediately release Abu-Jamal from prison. In 2011, the death sentence of this world-renowned journalist was declared unconstitutional and commuted to life without parole for allegedly murdering Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. Abu-Jamal is an outstanding citizen, who has been racially profiled and targeted for his political affiliations by a Philadelphia police department with a long history of brutality and corruption. For thirty years, he has been denied basic rights.
Systemic police corruption, judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, and Abu-Jamal’s steadfast assertion of innocence, have all made this case a global symbol of U.S. justice gone wrong. In 2000, Amnesty International found that the case “was irredeemably tainted by politics and race and failed to meet international fair trial standards.”
Because for 28 years Abu-Jamal was wrongly subjected to inhumane conditions on death row, because he has been denied his Fifth Amendment right to a fair trial, and because of the uninterrupted history of police corruption and conspiracy in this case, we call on the Department of Justice to recommend that Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania immediately release Mumia Abu-Jamal from prison.
Judicial and Prosecutorial Misconduct
• The prosecution’s case is built on the erroneous assumption that only three people were present at the time of the shooting, but a fourth person – the probable perpetrator – was seen fleeing the scene after Officer Faulkner was shot. The police, prosecutor Joe McGill, and the trial judge suppressed this from both the defense and jury.
• Abu-Jamal was convicted in the absence of material evidence. The bullet that killed Officer Faulkner could not be matched to Abu-Jamal’s gun. The police also failed to perform routine tests on Abu-Jamal’s hands, which would have determined that he had not shot a gun that night.
• A freelance journalist’s photographs of the crime scene – which also disprove key points of the state’s case theory – were never made available to the defense or the jury.
• A court stenographer testified in an affidavit that during the trial she heard the presiding judge, Albert Sabo, say, “I’m going to help them fry the nigger.”
• In 1979, the Department of Justice filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Philadelphia’s mayor and 21 top city and police officials. Its conclusions? That the police department’s behavior – which included shooting nonviolent suspects, abusing handcuffed prisoners, and tampering with evidence – “shocks the conscience.”
• The officers who arrested and later brutalized Abu-Jamal came from the 6th District, which was under yet another federal investigation for police corruption by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, with the approval of the U.S. Department of Justice under Ronald Reagan.
• As a result, fully a third of the 35 officers involved in this case, including the top officer at the crime scene, Inspector Alfonzo Giordano, were subsequently convicted of rank corruption, extortion and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.
We call on the Department of Justice to support the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal.