This is an update on the case of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been
on Pennsylvania's death row for over a quarter of a century.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia: We continue to
await the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. I
am in contact with the court, and will alert everyone immediately upon the
issuance of a ruling. Oral argument was on May 17, 2007, thus people ask
why the court is taking so long. This is a highly complex case involving
issues of great constitutional significance and a voluminous amount of
material. In three decades of successfully defending people in numerous
murder cases involving the death penalty, I have not seen one more
It is impossible to know how the federal court will rule, but the briefing
and arguments could not have gone better even though there have been
problems due to mistakes by prior counsel. If the federal court follows
the mandate of the U.S. Constitution, the decision should be favorable.
However, Mumia's remains in jeopardy because courts are so unpredictable.
The pending issues, as set out in our federal briefing, are:
a. Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied the right to due process of law and a
fair trial under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments because of the
prosecutor's "appeal-after-appeal" argument which encouraged the jury to
disregard the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt, and err on
the side of guilt.
b. Whether the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to exclude
African Americans from sitting on the jury violated Mr. Abu-Jamal's rights
to due process and equal protection of the law under the Sixth and
Fourteenth Amendments, and contravened Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79
c. Whether the verdict form and jury instructions that resulted in the
death penalty deprived Mr. Abu-Jamal of rights guaranteed by the Eight and
Fourteenth Amendments to due process of law, equal protection of the law,
and not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and violated
Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367 (1988), since the judge precluded the
jurors from considering any mitigating evidence unless they all agreed on
the existence of a particular circumstance.
d. Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied due process and equal protection of
the law under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments during post-conviction
hearings as the result of the bias and racism of Judge Albert F. Sabo
which included the comment that he was "going to help'em fry the n----r�."
There are many scenarios of how the federal court might rule. Among these
are: (1) grant an entirely new jury trial; (2) order a new jury trial
limited to the issue of life or death; (3) remand the case back to the
U.S. District Court for further proceedings; or (4) deny everything,
thereby leaving the death judgment intact.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court: For over two years we have been litigating
issues in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court regarding the prosecution falsely
manipulating eyewitness testimony and fabricating evidence. Recently the
court denied relief. (Commonwealth v. Abu-Jamal, ___ A.2d ___, 2008 WL
434567 (Pa. Feb. 19, 2008).) Mumia and I talked just after the ruling on
February 19, and I then issued the following public statement:
"Mumia and I had a long conference this afternoon, shortly after the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court made its ruling. We were not surprised since
that court has a history of not addressing the racism and fraud that has
dominated the prosecution since its inception over a quarter of a century
ago. By dismissing the appeal on procedural grounds, the court avoided
dealing with the compelling facts establishing that the prosecution of my
client was based upon lies, half-truths, and bigotry. It is sad that the
state court used possible mistakes of the previous lawyers in the case as
an excuse to dodge the truth.
This state ruling has no bearing on the proceedings pending in the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. If the federal decision is
favorable, then the Pennsylvania Supreme Court judgment will be moot.
Otherwise, I plan to seek relief in the U.S. Supreme Court. I will not
rest until Mumia is free."
Germany: On January 12, 2008, I spoke on behalf of Mumia at the annual
Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Berlin. As I concluded, the thousands in
attendance gave a long and enthusiastic ovation. It was a nice tribute to
my client who has become a symbol in the international struggle against
the death penalty and human-rights abuses. Mumia asks that I convey his
gratitude to the many good people in Germany who work so tirelessly for
justice. These include especially his longtime German publisher and
confidant Jurgen Heiser, the human-rights attorney Eberhard Schultz,
Sabine Schubert, Petra Siemering, Victor Grossman, George and Doris
Pumphrey, the distinguished actor Rolf Becker, the renowned Berlin
filmmaker Thomas Giefer, the prominent writer Sabine Kebir, and German
France: Professor Claude Guillaumaud-Pujol has written an excellent book,
Mumia Abu-Jamal, un homme libre dans le couloir de la mort, which was
published late last year. It has Mumia's endorsement, and has sold well.
Claude has donated the proceeds from her book to help the defense of Mumia
in our struggle for his freedom. The author represents the highest
standard in the movement for she is totally committed to justice and the
freedom of Mumia, and does not seek to exploit my client. Mumia expresses
his gratitude to Claude, Jacky Hortaut, Mireille Mendes-France, Jacques
Lederer, the Collectif Unitaire National de Soutien Ã Mumia Abu-Jamal,
Senator Nicole Borvo Cohen-Seat, the Paris Bar, and the many others in
France who have done so much.
England: Mumia asked that I also thank Niki Adams, the legendary Selma
James, and their colleagues at the Legal Action for Women, London, for
their ongoing work on behalf of justice not only in England but throughout
the world. I am particularly indebted for their extraordinary commitment
that has resulted in programs on Mumia in the Inns of Court and other
British venues, a petition for justice and a new trial signed by over 100
prominent lawyers there, and drawning public attention to the injustice in
this case. And, of course, the efforts of Ian Mcdonald QC, Garden Court
North Chambers, an outstanding barrister and friend, have been
In Prison My Whole Life, British film: The new documentary film on Mumia,
In Prison My Whole Life, has been shown at a number of prestigious film
festivals, e.g., International Film Festival & Forum on Human Rights,
Geneva, Switzerland; Sundance Film Festival; Belfast Film Festival; London
Film Festival; Rome Film Festival; Copenhagen International Film Festival;
Dublin International Film Festival. It was also recently screened by
members of the House of Commons, London. Mumia and I are grateful to
Colin and Livia Firth, and their associates, for having the courage to
make this extraordinary film. They have my full support and that of my
client, for this worthwhile film which deals with the larger issues of the
death penalty, racism and injustice.
Donations in the United States for Mumia's Legal Defense: With Mumia's
authorization, a process exists which guarantees that U.S. donations go
only to the legal defense, and are tax-deductible. Checks should be made
payable to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation (indicate "Mumia" on the
bottom left), and mailed to:
Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012
Conclusion: The issues in this case concern the right to a fair trial,
the struggle against the death penalty, and the political repression of a
courageous writer and journalist. My goal is to win a new and fair trial
for Mumia, and a jury acquittal upon his retrial. I want him to go home
to his family. Nevertheless, Mumia is in great danger, for if all is lost
he will be executed. We must never forget that racism, fraud, and
politics are threads that have run through this case since the beginning
and continue today.
Your interest is appreciated.
Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110