A huge victory occurred yesterday with the announcement of the defeat of efforts to execute journalist and activist Mumia Abu Jamal.
Abu Jamal has been on death row in Pennsylvania for 30 years, unjustly accused of killing police officer David Faulker.
The Free Mumia movement, centered in Philadelphia but worldwide in scope and character, fought long and hard for this victory. It deserves a hearty congratulations.
It is a victory for Mumia himself, who has kept the faith despite the tortuous isolation of decades long death-row imprisonment.
It is also a victory for the movement, its activists, attorneys and the ordinary working people who sustained it.
It is a victory against over systemic racism in the U.S. criminal justice system.
Coming in the aftermath of the execution of Troy Davis it is yet another sign of the birth of a new movement to abolish the death penalty in the U.S.
Davis’s murder by the state of Georgia represents a turning point in this effort.
Outraged and horrified by the blatant injustice of the Davis case, public sentiment is beginning to make a significant shift.
The decision by the Philadelphia’s district attorney Seth Williams, encouraged by the slain officer’s widow, takes place within this context.
Philadelphia prosecutors earlier efforts to obtain the death penalty against Abu Jamal was blocked by a federal appeals court 2008 ruling ordering a new sentencing hearing because of improper jury instructions. Afer 3 years of internal debate and public pressure the DA’s office faced with the prospect of years of new appeals finally relented.
Jamal will now receive life imprisonment without parole.
The struggle to free Mumia therefore continues. As in the case of literally hundreds of death row convictions there was ample evidence of police tampering, withholding of evidence and improper legal procedures including excluding of African American jurors.
It is this overwhelming evidence of systemically racist application of the death penalty that repulses the U.S. public.
Public revulsion however must be broadened and deepened to have a lasting impact and achieve final success.
In this regard, next year’s election will be an important testing ground. Will those those tea party led elements who in recent GOP candidate forums cheered state sanctioned executions prevail or will the the civilized democratic majority regain control of Congress.
If the latter, Mumia Abu Jamal’s important victory will have made a significant contribution.
On a Friday an event in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center will commemorate the 30th anniversary of Mumia’s conviction. It will surely be an occasion to mark this significant victory and build on the movement to Free Mumia and abolish the death penalty completely.