Live From Death Row - Mumia Abu Jamal
Last week in "Making a Difference" we talked about a controversy over the death penalty in Colombia, but the debate is happening here in America, too. Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist and political activist, has been imprisoned since 1981. He was accused and sentenced to die for killing police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal was driving a cab at the time of the incident when he saw his brother being beaten by Faulkner. Although Abu-Jamal is sentenced to die for shooting Faulkner, it is disputed if he really killed the police officer. Mumia says it was someone else, and several witnesses say they saw another shooter flee the scene. Supporters of Adu-Jamal believe that withheld and false evidence contributed to Abu-Jamal's unfair trial and sentencing. They believe Abu-Jamal should be released. Others argue that, regardless, the death penalty is unjust.
Many activists believe Abu-Jamal was falsely accused because of his involvement in radical politics. Mumia Abu-Jamal began his journalism career with the Black Panther Party. The Panthers were radical advocate of justice for African Americans, and Mumia (who was then known as Wesley Cook) was "Minister of Information" for the Philadelphia Black Panthers at age 15, writing for the national newspaper. An outspoken critic of Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo and the police for their racism and brutality, he was marked as their enemy and targeted for surveillance and harassment. The police and FBI watched him throughout the 60's and 70's. At the time of his arrest, he was
President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.
In June of 1995, Pennsylvania's governor Thomas Ridge, who had been recently elected on a pro-death penalty campaign, signed Mumia's death warrant. The execution was called off, but only following an international outcry of support for a new trial. Mumia's appeal was argued before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. But in October 1998, that court officially denied Mumia a new impartial trial, which means that he may face another execution date in the near future. Mumia's supporters are protesting that
this is unfair because his conviction was obtained through numerous legal and factual errors. Mumia may be able to appeal to federal court but new restrictions on habeas corpus (imposed by the Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996), and the negative political climate, may cause the federal courts to avoid addressing this case.
Mumia continues to defend his innocence and fight for the rights of political prisoners world-wide. He has is monthly online program can be heard at www.pacifica.org/programs/mumia.
We couldn't find anybody on the Web who thinks Mumia got a fair trial. An important question either way is whether you agree with the death penalty. It's not easy to defend someone who's been accused of murdering a policeman. What do you think? Click here to share YOUR opinion.
How do you feel about Capital punishment? If you disagree with Abu-Jamal's
execution, you can send an instant e-mail on this website.