Click here to go to the Home Page Fire All the Lawyers! - Point Blank By Chris Stevenson, Columnist

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Note: BC is pleased to welcome Chris Stevenson as a Columnist.� Point Blank will appear on a regular basis. 

"It's a political case and no one wants to touch it. And in Philadelphia if you touch Mumia, you don't have a job for the rest of your life. You are blackballed"Johanna Fernandez

Most guys on Death Row spend their decades saying "I'm innocent I tell ya," or they just give up. Not Mumia Abu-Jamal, he writes really good books, he cans attorneys, he adds drama. So it was, one day before his hearing Abu-Jamal fired his attorney Robert Bryan. 'Didn't I just speak with Bryan a couple weeks ago,' I asked myself? Of course if you followed this case for any length of significant time, you know this is Mumia's 5th lawyer booting after Anthony Jackson, Leonard Weinglass, Eliot Grossman and Marlene Kamish (this doesn't include the resignation of pro-bono lawyers Rachel Wolkenstein and Jonathan Piper). And his 2nd just short of a pivotal hearing. Maybe his next book should be titled 'Fire All the Lawyers.'

I'm kicking myself because it took me this long to figure out why Mumia is still alive, many of you think it's public pressure, what can't be discounted is his 'you can't kill me, I just fired my lawyer' strategy. And it's not like I haven't been through it myself throughout my own life. Lawyer-searching makes for a good delay tactic.

Seriously I really can't tell you whether Mumia is guilty or innocent, I wasn't there. But there are enough questions about how this case has been handled by the police and prosecution to warrant a 2nd look at the trial and verdict. I also know how badly they want to execute Mumia or at the very least keep him locked up for the rest of his life even in light of the Philadelphia Police-corruption scandal that brought down many of their officers and freed a lot of suspects; some of those same evidence-tampering cops are the officers who handled Mumia's investigation. Did those officers take a rare departure from their norm and call only Abu-Jamal's case down the middle?

When Mumia was sentenced back in '82 the computer-era was just jumping out of cards and into programming languages. Now in the age of high-speed Internet we find his case dragging through the Tea Party era, and invariably Tea Party cops. When Mumia was on trial for shooting officer Daniel Faulkner, the Governor of PA was then a typical white District Attorney bent on seeing him fry. Today Philadelphia's District Attorney is a typical black conservative (Seth Williams) bent on seeing him fry.

According to author/film producer Johanna Fernandez during a recent public debate between her and Defense Attorney Michael Coard vs. Tigre (Tigger?) Hill; the maker of the anti-Mumia film "Barrel of a Gun" and Williams: "They had a theory of what happened and they had to cook up the crime scene to match the theory." Abu-Jamal evidently wasn't the only victim of this cook-the-books mentality pervasive with so many Philly cops, 15 officers were cited for habitual tampering and corruption in order to obtain a conviction back in '81. There was the bravery and sacrifice of William Singletary (btw never allowed to testify at the trial), a storefront owner Philly police tried to intimidate to the point of vandalizing his family's business. There is the most basic discrepancy; the gun that killed officer Faulkner was a .44 caliber and Abu-Jamal was registered to have a .38. The prosecution was both unable to connect Mumia's gun to the murder or that he even fired a gun that night. There is the relatively new evidence of photographs taken by photojournalist Pedro Polakoff with pictures showing how Police Officer James Ford was evidence-tampering; "mishandling guns, moving Officer Faulkner's hat around. I first saw those pics a couple years ago. No doubt Professor Fernandez has details about this in her own new Mumia documentary "Justice On Trial," Mumia needs all he can get because there won't be a retrial.

The appellate court established 3-years-ago that Mumia will never get another trial or retrial. If you are a righty-whitey the first trial completely satisfies you. The most recent hearing actually deals with the issue of whether or not the late Judge Albert Sabo's instructions to the jury in '82 were valid or did he mislead the jury as to aggravating or mitigating circumstances. Sabo is the (putting it mildly) extremely biased judge with less credibility on the bench than Sarah Palin had as Governor of Alaska. Unless of course "I gonna help them fry the nigger" is Ok by you, as it no-doubt is with Hill and Willliams.

Strange that Hill would title his documentary after the very quote that was used to get the guilty verdict for Mumia. He said the film is based on his comparison of the JFK shooting and the Abu-Jamal case. Hill also said even though he was in 9th grade and failing algebra during the 1981/82 school year, he became assured of Mumia's guilt by reading the leaflets. What an astute young man. Some things just don't add up I say. lol. So I welcome Mumia to the age of angry middle-class, poor and dumb whites and gullible blacks who actually think they're conservatives. It is to laugh, if I weren't crying so hard. Williams words during this debate should leave you gasping for air at the very least: "I recognize there's no one here who's mind will be changed tonight... this isn't a debate to talk about the facts." Oh excuse me, can't let any "facts" get in the way of a whole state trying to execute what is possibly the wrong man for shooting a cop. "I can't just sit here and refute every type of situation when the prosecution didn't make it's case up and tell people what facts to go get." Pssst... Seth, then what the hell are you doing sitting in the DA's chair?

The 11/9 hearing was presented before the same 3 judges who sat during '07; Anthony Sirica (a Reagan appointee), Robert Cowan (Bush-41) and Thomas Ambro (Clinton). All originally agreed with Judge William Yohn that the jury ballot had been poorly worded and instructions from previous trial Judge (the late Albert Sabo) were flawed ("Remember again, your verdict must be unanimous"). Initially this was good news for Abu-Jamal. It either meant he would avoid execution-possibly leaving him open for clemency-or the Philadelphia DA had to order a new penalty-phase trial. Once again these people are trying to avoid a new trial of any kind regarding Abu-Jamal.

Then came a US Supreme Court (SC) ruling on an unrelated case; Smith v. Spizak. Frank Spizak; a burned-out Ohio neo-Nazi originally sentenced to death for killing Jews and Blacks. It was then determined that a lower court order nullifying his death sentence due to what was seen as the same erring jury ballot and Judge instructions was in error in itself according to the land's highest court. Since the SC had a pending appeal in front of them for the Philly DA on Abu-Jamal's case, they sent his case back down to the 3rd Circuit no-doubt hoping Abu-Jamal's case would be in compliance with the Spizak decision.

The 3 Judges bone of contention is that there are no similarities between Spizak and Abu-Jamal. In fact Mumia's new lead attorney Judith Ritter successfully argued the similarities while an assistant counsel to Bryan during the '07 hearing. It seems the words unanimous was uttered and posted all over the jury ballots (and probably on the doors of restroom toilets) during Mumia's original hearings and trial in '82, whereas they weren't during Spizak's trial.

In short this new 11/9 decision was more indecision than a ruling. All 3 judges dismissed any question of Abu-Jamal's innocence (just as they did in '07). Judge Sirica said he would "take the matter under advisement," and the only issue with the 3rd Circuit would be whether or not Abu-Jamal gets life without parole or is sentenced to death. A final ruling on that won't come for months. Remember how long it took these 3 to make a ruling back in '07.

Can it be that vitriol from a historically race-combustive city is strong enough to influence the decision making in the two most powerful courts in the USA? If so that makes the Justices on the US. Supreme Court and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals look pretty weak. Perhaps we should look to Virginia for cohones. Not the southern state, but the wife of the notoriously silent conservative SC Justice Clarence Thomas to intervene. She would have enough nerve to make one of her infamous 7am calls to the 3rd Circuit triumvirate to get them to actually look honestly at the case on it's own judgmental merits and render a decision based on it's own inconsistencies. Columnist Chris Stevenson is a syndicated columnist, his articles also appear on his blog; the Buffalo Bullet. Follow him on Twitter(pointblank009) and Facebook (pointblank009 ) Click here to contact Mr. Stevenson.

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Dec 9, 2010 - Issue 405
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