Mumia Barred From Court Appearance

Some 2,000 people came to Philadelphia on August 17 to demonstrate for justice for Pennsylvania death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Mumia was supposed to appear in court at a hearing to decide whether or not new evidence of his innocence can be presented. But he was barred from attending when a city prison official said there was "no room" at the city jail. That was clearly an excuse to silence Mumia, probably the best-known prisoner on death row in the U.S.

But there were several thousand people gathered outside the courthouse to show their support. Speakers at the rally included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Ossie Davis and poet Sonia Sanchez. Others came from as far away as Spain, France, South Africa and Belgium.

The crowd who listened to the speeches was young and multiracial. "Whenever young people participate in something like this, adults often say, 'You don't know what you're talking about,'" one protester told a Philadelphia newspaper. "But we do. We care. And for me, Mumia is an inspiration. Even though he's in jail, he talks about the real issues that affect us all."

Mumia's new defense team is trying to get the state courts to hear new evidence -- an affidavit from a man named Arnold Beverly, who has signed a sworn confession stating that he, and not Mumia, shot Officer Daniel Faulkner in December 1981.

Mumia had an appeal in the federal courts -- before Judge William Yohn Jr. But Yohn denied a motion in July to order the state of Pennsylvania to take a deposition from Beverly, saying that it wasn't appropriate for a federal court to hear a new claim of innocence!

That's why Mumia's lawyers have gone back to Pennsylvania court to try to pursue the new evidence. Judge Dembe is expected to make a decision on their motion by the end of September or in early October. The August protest is part of a new campaign to put pressure on Dembe and Pennsylvania officials to hear the new evidence -- and free Mumia Abu-Jamal!