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Appeal: Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Annette Schiffmann, TFF Board member

March 30, 2009

This April the US-American radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal will celebrate his 55th birthday – the 27th on death row. For 27 years he has been struggling to get the legal possibility to be able to prove his innocence.
Amnesty International has dedicated one of their rare personal reports to his case in 2000, listing one hair-raising judical scandal after the next, and in consequence ending the repot with the strong demand for a new trial – a demand the organisation is emphazising to this day.

The never-ending story is finally reaching the fringes of it’s end.
As the very last legal possibility Abu-Jamal’s case is waiting at the US Supreme Court to be allowed to be heard.

The prosecution, however, is not giving in and has demanded the re-installment of the death penalty, lifted in December 2001, and have Abu-Jamal executed without further legal examination.

Please sign the new online petition to the justices of the Supreme Court, and do it now – and spread the message to everyone who might do it too:

The first 1000 signatures were sent to the Supreme Court on March 20 – and the letter will be followed up after every respective 500 signatures.

German & Austrian Network Against the Death Penalty


To the Honorable Justices of the United States Supreme Court,
Chief Justice John Roberts,
Samuel Alito,
Stephen Breyer,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Anthony Kennedy,
Antonin Scalia,
David Hackett Souter,
John Paul Stevens,
Clarence Thomas,

Before you is the notorious case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, which is a difficult matter to deal with, a matter concerning fundamental fairness, as we are well aware.

But then - it offers the possibility to show some light at the end of the dark tunnel of racism that has been tainting America’s reputation in the world for a long time now.

We won’t go into all the contentious details of the case here.
To us, one thing is obvious: racism is the thread that runs through this case like a mismatching color in a fabric.
The blatant racism affronting America’s oft-stated core values of fairness and justice in this case has attracted widespread attention, including that of Amnesty International, which in 2000 dedicated a long report to this case, calling for a new trial, which it continues to do to this day.

The constitutionally guaranteed bedrock of a fair trial is a jury selected without bias, including racial bias. Undisputedly, the original trial started with only 3 and ended with 2 out of 12 jurors being African-Americans – in a city with then close to 40 percent Blacks. Prosecutor Joseph McGill used 10 of 15 peremptory strikes against blacks. This particular prosecutor’s strike pattern reflects impermissible race-based exclusions practiced by Philadelphia prosecutors during that era.

The racially loaded atmosphere at the time of Mr. Abu-Jamal’s trial in 1982 is sadly illustrated by the fact that later, an Assistant District Attorney for Philadelphia produced a training video for the city’s prosecutors about how to evade orders of this Court prohibiting prejudicial jury selection. Explicitly referring to the practices he recommends as “the wisdom of the ages” and the long-standing custom of the city’s prosecutors, you can watch him say:

"Let's face it, the blacks from the low-income areas are less likely to convict. There's a resentment to law enforcement... You don't want those guys on your jury...
If you get a white teacher in a black school who's sick of these guys, that may be the one to accept."

The courts of a country that is rightly proud of its unique Constitution granting equal rights for all should be able do a lot better.

Whether or not Mr. Abu-Jamal is guilty or innocent is not the issue here.
The issue is a fair trial – a constitutional right denied this defendant during the last 27 years.

Right now and before your Court, Mr. Abu-Jamal isn’t even asking for a new trial. He is only asking that his well documented claim of racial bias during the original trial be fully and fairly heard and that your Court order appropriate consequences.

With all due respect and urgency we ask you to use your power as the Supreme Court of the United States to grant him all the legal procedures necessary to finally provide him justice.


Yours respectfully,


One core factual source among many for the above is:

(A Life in the Balance – the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, report by Amnesty International)


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