AN URGENT APPEAL

Don't let them execute Mumia!

On October 30, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to grant a new trial for celebrated death-row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The Supreme Court decision is a signal that the mountain of evidence collected to show Mumia's innocence and of prosecutorial, police, and judicial misconduct in his original 1982 trial (see reverse) means nothing to the authorities.

The politicians and police are out to make an example of Mumia. We can't let that happen.

As has been the case at every stage of Mumia's attempts to appeal his frameup, the Supreme Court decision was biased against him.

One of the justices who considered Mumia's appeal was Ronald Castille, a former Philadelphia district attorney who 10 years ago played a key role in preventing Mumia from receiving a new trial.

Then-D.A. Castille signed all the prosecution briefs against Mumia's appeal to the state Supreme Court. In a mockery of fair judicial proceedings, Castille was reviewing his own 10-year-old arguments to determine whether there were grounds for granting Mumia a new trial.

And it's clear that Castille hasn't changed. He was voted "Man of the Year" by Lodge No. 6 of the Fraternal Order of Police, an organization that has campaigned relentlessly for Mumia's execution.

Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Ridge has long vowed to sign a death warrant for Mumia as quickly as possible, and he is expected to sign one soon.

Mumia's will still be able to appeal his case to the federal courts. If Ridge signs a death warrant, the federal court will have to grant a temporary stay of execution while it considers Mumia's federal appeal. But this is a temporary stay that will give us only some months to fight for Mumia's life.

Though every legal effort needs to be pushed to the limit, we can't put our hopes there. The 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, signed into law by Clinton, severely restricts the ability of federal courts to overturn death sentences handed down by state courts.

For example, federal courts are not supposed to take a fresh look at the evidence in a death penalty case. They are meant to presume that all the findings of the state court are true.

In Mumia's case, this means that evidence of witness tampering by the police; of an officer changing his testimony after the fact to claim that Mumia had "confessed;" of witnesses coming forward and recanting their previous testimony coerced from them by police - all of this will simply be ignored at the federal level.

In 1995 hundreds of thousands of people around the world demonstrated and won a stay of execution for Mumia. Now that his appeal has been denied, we have to mobilize even larger forces to stop Pennsylvania's machinery of death.

That can mean only one thing. We need to build mass pressure - through meetings, demonstrations and other protests - to force them to free Mumia, or at the very least grant him a new trial.