Abu-Jamal’s Lawyers Pursue Appeal
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ As 1,000 supporters protested, convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal complained Friday about his former legal team and the decision to bar him from a hearing where attorneys pursued a last-gasp state appeal.
``Today I am banned from a proceeding in my own name ... without justification,″ he said in a two-minute statement read to the judge by his attorney Marlene Kamish.
In the tense 30-minute hearing, Judge Pamela Dembe directed lawyers for both sides to file briefs on whether she should have jurisdiction over Abu-Jamal’s petition for a new trial. She also refused a request by Abu-Jamal’s new attorneys to immediately schedule oral arguments.
A former Black Panther and radio journalist, Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death for the 1981 shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer. Officer Daniel Faulkner had pulled over Abu-Jamal’s brother in an early-morning traffic stop.
Celebrities, death-penalty opponents and foreign politicians have rallied to Abu-Jamal’s cause, calling him a political prisoner and saying he was railroaded by a racist justice system.
About 1,000 protesters marched from the courthouse to City Hall before going to the federal courthouse for a sit-in. Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, watched the protesters through a window as they passed by the district attorney’s office shouting ``No justice, no peace.″
``They made the wrong decision in making Mumia Abu-Jamal their poster boy,″ Faulkner said. ``He knows what he did. He tried to portray himself as a martyr and a victim when the true victim was Danny.″
Said Faulkner’s former partner, Gary Bell: ``In this case, there is no gray area. There is absolutely no doubt about his guilt.″
The death-row inmate is housed at a western Pennsylvania prison.
Defense attorney Eliot Lee Grossman argued that Abu-Jamal should have been brought to the hearing, but prosecutor Hugh Burns said defendants almost never attend status hearings and Abu-Jamal was not singled out.
Abu-Jamal lost his first round of state appeals, but his latest petition argues that new evidence could clear him. The defense says it has an affidavit from a man the mob hired to kill Faulkner because the officer had interfered with mob payoffs to police.
Abu-Jamal’s former lawyers, who were fired in May after one published a book about the case, thought the confession was not believable. A federal judge last month refused to order the man to testify.
Burns called Abu-Jamal’s latest theory of the shooting ``a hoax being perpetrated upon the small group of fanatical followers.″
College student Khury Petersen-Smith of Albany, N.Y., had a different view.
``Mumia is the Nelson Mandela of today,″ said Petersen-Smith, 19, among the throng of death penalty opponents, black nationalists, back-to-nature types and justice-system critics typically drawn to Abu-Jamal rallies.
``In the case of Mumia, there is no absolute certainty that he did the killing in the first place,″ said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was among those in the courtroom.
Abu-Jamal’s federal appeal has been put on hold while he pursues the state appeal.
On The Net:
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal: http://www.mumia2000.org/
Justice For Police Officer Daniel Faulkner: http://www.danielfaulkner.com/