Denial of Mumia’s appeal: An affront to basic justice and the law

By Betsey Piette
April 3, 2023


Mumia Abu-Jamal, his family and his supporters around the world had every reason and right to hope that all their hard work would pay off in persuading Judge Lucretia Clemons from the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas to follow and apply the law, as has been done in other cases involving Brady and Batson violations.

Since her Dec. 16, 2022, notice of intention to dismiss Abu-Jamal’s current appeal, thousands of people have signed petitions, written letters and passed resolutions on Abu-Jamal’s behalf directed to Clemons. Supporters include the 20-million-member International Transport Workers’ Federation and various political leaders. In December 2022, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent filed an amicus brief on Abu-Jamal’s behalf.

But as journalist Linn Washington Jr. has warned so many times in the past: “The fact that state and federal judges have consistently upheld Abu-Jamal’s conviction is cited as solid confirmation of his guilt. Brushed aside is the fact that judges have upheld Abu-Jamal’s conviction by skirting established legal procedure (precedence), creating new legal standards that undercut Abu-Jamal’s claims and rejecting newly discovered evidence of improprieties by police, prosecutors and even judges.” (WHYY, Dec. 9, 2022)

Following in the bloody footsteps of her predecessor, racist hanging-judge Albert Sabo, on March 31 Clemons again filed notice of her intent to dismiss Abu-Jamal’s appeal petition. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys were given 20 days to respond and the district attorney’s office 10 days.

Clemons was previously an attorney with Ballard Spahr, a national firm specializing in business law, with a notorious reputation in Philadelphia and known countrywide as a union-buster. That she has not strayed one millimeter from the party line should be considered in this context.

Repeating her arguments from her earlier decision to reject the appeal, in her latest 31-page decision, Clemons called Mumia’s Batson claim “untimely,” even though the U.N.’s Expert Group’s amicus brief reminds us that racism can never become time-barred.

Clemons stated “Defendant failed to object during voir dire to the prosecutors’ use of peremptory strikes to remove prospective Black jurors based on their race.” In other words Abu-Jamal should have somehow been able to see Prosecutor Joseph McGill’s handwritten notes that showed he was tracking jurists by race.

And outrageously she calls his Brady claims “immaterial,” saying it would not have mattered to the jury, had they learned that the first and by far the most important witnesses at the trial had been bought.

Taking it to the streets 

Loudly proclaiming that Judge Clemons is on the wrong side of history and that Abu-Jamal’s supporters won’t go away, demonstrations sprang up in dozens of cities in the U.S. and abroad on April 1.

Protesters outside DA Krasner’s office demand justice for Mumia, April 1, Philadelphia. Credit: Joe Piette

In Philadelphia, protesters rallied outside the Criminal Justice Center to denounce Clemons’ ruling before marching to District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office. Krasner established the Conviction Integrity Unit to review past convictions won through judicial bias and interference, fabricated police testimony and evidence and prosecutorial misconduct. While the unit has exonerated over 30 people to date, Krasner has consistently refused to bring Abu-Jamal’s case up for review.

Mumia supporters demonstrate in New York City, April 1, 2023.

In Detroit protesters came out in the rain to demand freedom for Mumia. In New York City demonstrators gathered at Union Square. There will be protests in Germany and France in the coming weeks.

Mumia has been a political prisoner in Pennsylvania for 41 years — 28 on death row. He is a veteran Philadelphia Black Panther, radical radio journalist, grandfather and foremost revolutionary thinker and writer. Mumia is a loving movement elder, who uplifts struggles worldwide with his powerful voice and writings. At 15 he was a Black Panther newspaper journalist, and later he was an award-winning Philadelphia radio journalist.

Mumia has made thousands of radio commentaries from prison and written more than a dozen books including “We Want Freedom,” “Live from Death Row,” “Jailhouse Lawyers,” “All Things Censored” and co-authored three volumes of “Murder Incorporated,” a searing critique of U.S. imperialism. Mumia’s writings are extraordinarily political and deeply moving. Mumia is a victim of racism, targeted by the police and FBI in its war on Black people and Black freedom movements.

Release Mumia Now!