Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former Philadelphia radio journalist convicted and imprisoned almost 40 years for the 1981 murder of a police officer, has the chance to appeal anew for a new trial now that the city district attorney has dropped his objections to it.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner on Wednesday dropped his objections to a December lower court ruling that Abu-Jamal be able to re-argue his appeal before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The lower court ruled in Abu-Jamal’s favor after the U.S. Supreme Court found that a justice on Pennsylvania’s highest court should have recused himself from hearing Abu-Jamal’s appeal because the justice had served as a district attorney in Philadelphia, where the murder took place, and also had written a note to Pennsylvania’s governor expressing support for the death penalty for cop killers.
Supporters of Abu-Jamal praised the latest move in the decades-old case.
“Exculpatory evidence was withheld during Abu-Jamal’s initial hearing,” Johanna Fernandez, a professor and member of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, said during a press conference Thursday, Workers World reports.
Saying that a number of officers involved in Abu-Jamal’s arrest and conviction were later convicted of corruption in other cases, Fernandez commented: “When Mumia comes home, the entire establishment of Philadelphia will be on trial.”
Krasner initially objected to Abu-Jamal getting the chance to re-argue his appeal, saying that the ruling could impact other cases. He gave in after getting a more narrow ruling from the lower court.
Krasner, according to the Associated Press, agreed that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice at issue
should not have worn “two hats” in the case, a fact made more egregious, he suggested, by the discovery of a 1990 note [the justice] sent [then Pennsylvania] Gov. Robert Casey about “police killers,” urging him to issue death warrants to “send a clear and dramatic message to all police killers that the death penalty actually means something.”
“Although the issue is technical,” said Krasner, a longtime civil rights lawyer, “it is also an important cautionary tale on the systemic problems that flow from a judge’s failing to recuse where there is an appearance of bias.”
Abu-Jamal, a former reporter for Philly radio station WDAS-FM and Black Panther, has consistently maintained his innocence in the December 1981 shooting death of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. He was convicted of shooting Faulkner in an altercation after the officer pulled over Abu Jamal’s younger brother, William Cook, during a traffic stop.
Abu-Jamal, who has written numerous books while behind bars, has become a cause cèlébre among the Black Power movement and those opposed to the death penalty, and a villain among police unions.