Mumia conviction shows flaws in system

Last Friday, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 17-year struggle to gain a new trial was denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In 1982, Mumia was convicted of murdering Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. The court effectively sided with Judge Albert Sabo’s refusal to grant Mumia a new trial. This decision will result in the signing of a death warrant by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who had already promised to sign it immediately after the court’s decision.
Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which was pushed through Congress during the hysteria following the Oklahoma City bombing, Mumia stands to die in less than 60 days. This act speeds up executions across the board and makes it more difficult to stop them by transferring control of the process to individual states free from federal supervision.
All over the country, Mumia supporters are marshalling their forces for one last push to grant Mumia a new trial and to stave off the execution which, after the latest decision, appears inevitable.
Executing Mumia would be a grave error with dire effects for the flawed American judicial system, given the dubious nature of his conviction.
The star witness for the prosecution, an FBI prostitute-informant named Cynthia White, was not even at the scene of the crime. Robert Chobert, the second key witness, has changed his story numerous times. Chobert described the shooter as a man who ran from the scene, but Mumia had sustained a gunshot wound and was in no position to run.
Pamela Jenkins, another prostitute-informant, testified that White was coerced by police into testifying against Mumia. However, her testimony was deemed unacceptable by Judge Sabo and was stricken from the record.
Aside from the holes in the evidence, the judge who presided over Mumia’s case, Albert Sabo, has shown himself to be outrageously biased. One of Mumia’s supporters has provided an eyewitness account of a 1995 hearing, describing scenes in which Sabo ridiculed Mumia’s lawyer, joked with the prosecution and repeatedly threatened to throw out all Mumia supporters in the courtroom.
This case is not cut and dry, yet this man is scheduled to die.
The American judicial system has undergone a series of setbacks, most recently the fiasco of the O.J. Simpson trial. The public’s faith in the court system is shaken; many believe impartiality to be a myth.
No one can say for sure whether or not Mumia is innocent. Based on the evidence, there is absolutely no way this man should be executed without a public outcry.
If we allow cases such as this to proceed all the way to the electric chair, then the charged climate that created the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act will return us to a state of unwanted civil unrest.
Just as the Jim Crow laws created a climate in which racial segregation was institutionalized, leading to the civil rights movements of the 1960s, the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal should be a catalyst for today’s disenfranchised Americans to take to the streets in the name of change.