Longtime political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal had his appeal to the Supreme Court for a new trial denied today without comment. It’s not without irony that this decision comes on the very day that Little Bobby Hutton was killed forty-one years ago. Whatever one thinks of Abu-Jamal – and that certainly isn’t the issue here – he, like many others of his people, was denied fairness in a legal assassination by the so-called justice system of the United States.
Abu-Jamal’s appeal, which again was denied without comment, was based on the grounds that racism and the denial of qualified potential black jurors in his murder trial in 1982 had been unfair and unconstitutional. The former Black Panther and radio journalist was convicted of killing Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner by a jury of ten whites and only two blacks. The prosecutor in the case used 10 of his 15 challenges to exclude potential black jurors! Of course, the composition in the jury selection did not reflect the Philadelphia “peers” of Abu-Jamal as the city was forty percent black at the time.
The lopsidedness of the numbers game is familiar with people of color in dealing with the so-called justice system in the U.S. To properly contextualize the legal arguments of Abu-Jamal and his lawyers as well as the comments he gave during short interview he did with Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio we must understand “The Batson Ruling.” As author of the book, “The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” J. Patrick O’Conner noted in his most recent Crime Magazine article:
During last year’s term, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded its 1986 Batson ruling to warrant a new trial if a minority defendant could show the inference of racial bias in the prosecutor’s peremptory exclusion of one juror.
The Supreme Court had the exclusion of ten potential black jurors to scrutinize in Abu-Jamal’s appeal. Without offering any comments and furthermore by moving to deny the appeal, the High Court did an extreme disservice to the “Batson Ruling,” as cited by Abu-Jamal in his legal challenge. Whether or not you happen to believe that the 54-year old death row inmate is guilty or not, the question here is the integrity of the legal and judicial system. Today, they are both guilty of denying justice by not granting Abu-Jamal a new trial based on the overwhelming evidence of the unfairness of the original one. What makes today’s news even more unfortunate, is as O’Connor also notes, “Abu-Jamal will, barring the most unlikely intervention by a future governor of Pennsylvania, spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Don’t hold your breath for President Barack Obama to wield his pardoning powers anytime soon either…