Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal

By: Tristin Adie

Mumia Abu-Jamal, perhaps America's best-known political prisoner, has been on death row since 1982. After worldwide protests won a suspension of his execution in 1995, Mumia has continued to fight to win his freedom.

Activists are currently focusing attention on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as it hears Mumia's second appeal of his conviction. As in so many other phases of his case, Mumia may not receive a fair hearing from the Court. One of the justices considering the appeal is Ronald Castille, a former Philadelphia district attorney. Ten years ago, then-D.A. Castille played a key role in preventing Mumia from receiving a new trial. Despite a clear record of gross misconduct on the part of the police, the prosecution and the judge overseeing Mumia's case when he was first framed for the murder of a police officer in 1981, Castille signed all the prosecution's briefs filed against Mumia's appeal to the State Supreme Court.

This is clearly a conflict of interest for Castille, for he is now in a position of reviewing his own 10-year-old arguments while making a decision about whether to grant Mumia a new trial.

And it is clear where Castille's sympathies lie in this case. In 1986, Castille was voted "Man of the Year" by Lodge No. 6 of the Fraternal Order of Police. This organization has campaigned exhaustively, and sometimes violently, for Mumia's execution. The FOP supported Castille for re-election in 1989 and went on to endorse him in his campaign for the Supreme Court in 1993.

Castille was also District Attorney when Lynn Abrams made a now-infamous training tape for new prosecutors about keeping Black people off juries. Abrams made this while working in Castille's office.

With this kind of atmosphere in the D.A.'s office, it should come as no surprise to anyone that only two Black people sat on the jury in Mumia's trial, even though Black people constitute 40% of the population in Philadelphia.

Despite his long-standing relationship to Mumia's case, Castille has refused to recuse himself from the Supreme Court proceedings. Any decision the Court makes on Mumia's appeal will be tainted by this conflict of interest and Castille's racist and pro-cop sympathies. Activists are urging people to protest this situation. Write to Castille, urging him to recuse himself from Mumia's case, and to his superior, John P. Flaherty, Jr., Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, urging him to put pressure on Castille to recuse himself:

Justice Ronald Castille, 818 Market Street, Suite 3730, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Telephone: (215)560-5663, Fax: (215)560-1808.

Chief Justice John P. Flaherty, 6 Gateway Center, Suite 616, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Telephone: (412)565-5545, Fax: (215)560-1808

The above was written with the help of information from International Friends and Family of Mumia.

Click here to read a reprint of parts of a letter Mumia wrote recently to Tristin Adie, of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in New York City.