US Supreme Court Rejects Latest Mumia Appeal
By Joann Loviglio
The U.S. Supreme Court on May 17 denied a request to consider death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamals latest appeal of his conviction for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.
The appeal contended that the trial judge was racially hostile and that a state Supreme Court justice should not have participated in the case because he was a former prosecutor.
Abu-Jamal has several appeals still pending in local and federal courts stemming from his 1982 conviction and death sentence for the murder of Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
The latest appeal alleged that Judge Albert F. Sabo was overheard saying he was going to help em fry Abu-Jamal, whom he referred to with a racist epithet. A court stenographer signed a sworn affidavit saying she heard Sabo, who died two years ago, make the statement to an unidentified court employee.
The appeal also said Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille acted improperly when he did not remove himself from the panel hearing Abu-Jamals appeal. Castille fought to uphold Abu-Jamals conviction and death sentence while serving as district attorney in Philadelphia from 1986 to 1991.
Assistant District Attorney Hugh Burns said that the appeal, like all of Abu-Jamals legal actions, has no validity. He also said it will not have great impact on the complex case.
Robert R. Bryan, Abu-Jamals lead attorney, said the high court only hears a very small percentage of cases that are brought before it, and the courts refusal to hear Abu-Jamals appeal is not a reflection of its merit.
Abu-Jamal, 50, a onetime radio reporter and former Black Panther, was convicted of shooting Faulkner, 25, after the white police officer pulled over Abu-Jamals brother on Dec. 9, 1981.
Prosecutors said Abu-Jamal, then a taxi driver, was in his cab when he saw the officer scuffling with his brother and ran toward the scene, shooting Faulkner point-blank in the face. Police arriving at the scene discovered the mortally wounded officer on the ground and Abu-Jamal, wounded by a bullet from Faulkners gun and with his own weapon nearby, slumped on a curb.
Abu-Jamals writings and taped speeches on the justice system have made his case a cause celebre among Hollywood activists, foreign politicians and death-penalty opponents, who believe he was the victim of a racist justice system.
In December 2001, U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn overturned Abu-Jamals death sentence but upheld his conviction. Both sides have appealed, and Abu-Jamal remains on death row in western Pennsylvania.
Associated Press, May 17, 2004