4 Questions With Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Attorney

Christina Swarns says the high-profile death-penalty case is not at all unique.

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CS: I think they both really clearly demonstrate the shortcomings of how the American death-penalty system works. In Mumia’s case, this is a person who never should have had the death penalty. In Troy Davis’ case as well, it just shows that something happens in the process where decisions are made, and when a light is shined on them and you get an objective, clear look at them, they don’t make any sense at all.

The reaction shows the discomfort people are having with the death penalty. There’s no question people are being wrongfully convicted. Both cases are really good examples of how unreliable evidence can still yield convictions.

TR: Who’s the next Mumia? Who else is on death row despite questionable evidence against them?

CS: I represent people throughout the South in death cases, and my colleagues represent people condemned thought this country. In every case I have handled, there are similar issues to Mumia’s case — improper jury instructions, evidence of mitigation that’s not presented and evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.

The problem with Mumia’s case is that it’s not at all unique. The story is being told and retold in courtrooms around the country. It is the norm, not the exception.

Jenée Desmond-Harris is a contributing editor to The Root.

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