Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge just signed the death warrant for African-American activist and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. The state-sponsored murder of Mumia is scheduled for December 2, 1999. If you can, please protest on his behalf (http://mumia.org/story1.html).
The key witness whose testimony doomed Mumia admitted that her testimony was coerced by police. When she informed the court of this criminal outrage during an appeal for a new trial, the presiding judge had her ARRESTED ON THE SPOT on an old bad-check charge!! In so doing the judge was a willing party to an on-going effort to intimidate that witness in an effort to have Mumia killed in a state-sponsored ritual murder.
Below is my report on the witness intimidation. Also be sure to read Richard Poe's NewsMax article on MOVE, "The Waco Before Waco," where the FBI helped police bomb the MOVE group and then blame it on MOVE:
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I N A B U - J A M A L A P P E A L
By Ian Williams Goddard (11/02/96)
A key witness, Veronica Jones, whose testimony previously doomed MOVE activist Mumia Abu-Jamal to a death sentence for the Dec. 9, 1981 death of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, recently recanted her testimony, stating that her story was the result of police coercion.
However, the judge ruled yesterday that her testimony must be barred from being a factor of consideration in the ongoing appeal for a new trail in Philadelphia. 
Ms. Jones stated during appeals for a new trail that right after Faulkner was shot, she told police that she saw two men running from the crime scene. Abu-Jamal, a founding member of the Black Panther party, could not possibly run because he, caught in the cross-fire of the shoot out, was shot and seriously wounded. What is more, the officer was shot with a .44 caliber gun while Abu-Jamal carried a .38 caliber gun. 
Soon after her report to police, Ms. Jones found herself in prison charged with armed robbery. Ms. Jones says that two officers visited her in her prison cell and said that the 10-year prison charge would be dropped IF she would falsify her testimony to say that she saw nobody running from the crime scene, thereby effectively framing political activist Abu-Jamal. To ensure her freedom, she agreed to falsify her story. But 14 years later, she came clean with the truth.
Yet now Judge Albert Sabo, who presided over Abu-Jamal's original legal railroading, has just ruled that her new testimony must be barred as a factor of consideration in the appeal for a new trial. The judge said that this time the testimony of Veronica has suddenly become ``worthy of little or no belief,'' i.e., it's become unreliable. 
This is an attempt of the judge to scrub reality out of existence; an attempt to prohibit all that threatens to liberate this man from chains and from the hangman's noose.
Clearly, this part of a continuing conspiracy to kill a man, an outspoken critic of police brutality, that evidence strongly suggests is innocent. As if all this was not enough to prove that Abu-Jamal is continuing to be railroaded, consider this:
As Veronica was recanting her previously coerced testimony during appeal hearings, before she could even walk off the witness stand, she was ARRESTED on the spot on an old bad-check charge. Judge Sabo had courtroom deputies arrest her, handcuff her, and take her into custody right off the stand!! 
If we needed evidence that her previous testimony had been coerced, we surely got it right in the courtroom, with the hanging judge orchestrating the coercion this time. Abu-Jamal's attorney, Leonard Weinglass, blasted this gross act of intimidation, stating: ``It's brutal, it's coercive, it's shocking. It shouldn't happen...in this country.'' 
 "Witness Recanting Testimony Against Abu-Jamal Appears in Court," Associated Press (09/18/96).
 "Judge Bars Recantation of Witness Who Helped Convict Abu-Jamal," Associated Press (11/01/96).
 "The Case for Mumia Abu-Jamal," Rick Finley, Collegiate Times (4/17/96), see first URL below.
 "Witness Arrested After Recanting Statement Against Abu-Jamal," Associated Press (10/01/96).
Mumia's Situation Following the new Death Warrant and new Filing in the Federal Court
C. Clark Kissinger
What follows is a short summary of Mumia's current legal situation for activists and speakers working for Mumia. It explains why there must bea major focus at this time on demanding that the federal district court in Philadelphia grant a hearing on Mumia's new petition.
Is Mumia going to be executed on December 2?
No, but his life is in great danger. With the filing on October 15 of a petition in the federal district court for a new trial for Mumia, the federal judge is expected to soon grant a stay of execution. A stay, of course, is only a postponement to allow the federal judge to consider the new petition. Mumia remains under order of death, and the stay will be lifted after the federal district court finishes considering the case.
Governor Ridge signed this death warrant knowing full well that Mumia would be filing for a new trial in a matter of days, and the death warrant would be stayed. This is the same thing he did in 1995 when he signed a death warrant just before Mumia filed a petition for a new trial in the state courts. It is a political step designed to mislead people and pressure the courts.
What is the significance of Mumia's new petition?
This is a most critical moment in the whole appeals process. A federal district judge in Philadelphia is being asked to hold a hearing on Mumia's petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
A motion for habeas corpus (Latin for "let's have the body") comes from English common law, where it was an appeal to a court to review whether the King's detention of somebody was legal. In granting the motion, the court told the King's sheriff to "bring the body" into court and justify why you are holding him. This practice developed into a procedure in the U.S. by which federal courts are asked to review criminal convictions by state courts. What it means in practice is that state governments do not have an absolute right to take away a person's freedom or life.
So why would a hearing be so important?
Up to this point, all hearings have been in the Pennsylvania state court system and presided over by Judge Sabo. Sabo routinely denied motions for discovery and denied subpoenas for key witnesses sought by the defense. Sabo's actions were then approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme, most of whose justices are endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.
Thus a hearing in federal district court be Mumia FIRST real opportunity to have the evidence heard and reviewed. It will also be Mumia's LAST opportunity to present the evidence and witnesses denied by the Pennsylvania court system. After the federal district court, all higher federal appeals courts will only review transcripts -- they will not hear any new evidence.
What is the effect of the new federal laws on death penalty appeals?
The danger is this: the federal district judge who gets this case is not required to grant Mumia a hearing. He could simply read the Pennsylvania trial transcripts and issue a ruling. In fact, the 1996 Effective Death Penalty Act (EDPA) is specifically designed to discourage federal courts from reviewing and overturning death sentences handed down in the state courts. This is why public action for Mumia is so important. The government has to hear a loud popular demand for a hearing, so the evidence can be heard that would justify a new trial for Mumia.
What the Effective Death Penalty Act attempts to do is to repeal the federal right of habeas corpus. Under the signboard of "federalism", both this new law and recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court are attempting to make decisions by state courts final, and far less subject to federal review. "Federalism" is just a new name for the old doctrine of "states rights" that attempted to prevent any federal review of white supremacist courts in the South. Such federal review was a major gain of the Civil Rights Movement, which the government is now seeking to reverse. This has to be called out and exposed.
What is the effect of the Supreme Court turning down Mumia's appeal on October 4?
Earlier this year, Mumia's legal team also petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a "writ of certiorari." This is a request to the Supreme Court to look at the case before it works its way up through the normal habeas corpus process. Sometimes the Supreme Court will do this, when an important legal question is presented. In Mumia's case, the Supreme Court was asked to consider whether it was constitutional to deny him the right to act as his own attorney and to bar him from the court room when he protested this denial. In denying this petition, the Supreme Court was saying that it would not consider these issues now -- the case will have to go through the federal district court and the circuit court of appeals first. The U.S. Supreme Court did NOT rule against Mumia on merit of the issues he raised.
What happens if the federal district judge denies Mumia a new trial (denies habeas corpus)?
If the judge at the federal district court level rules against him, Mumia will then appeal to the federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. But if the judge rules in favor of Mumia, the state of Pennsylvania is sure to appeal to the 3rd Circuit Court. So there will be two rounds of federal court action in Philadelphia over the next year (the district court and the circuit court of appeals).
In general, action in the federal courts will go much faster than it did in the state courts. Thus we are now entering the final phase of the battle to save Mumia's life. This is why we must proceed with a greater sense of urgency and determination.
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