Jury of Peers? (Mumia’s message to CR10)
Check out Mumia’s new radio-essay on the issue of the fair jury, including this special message to the CR10 conference: http://prisonradio.org/JuryofPeersMumia.htm
Read Journalists for Mumia’s interview with CR10’s Rose Braz:
As well as Portland’s KBOO radio interview with Journalists for Mumia: http://kboo.fm/node/9541
Also, the Sept./Oct. flyer update from Journalists for Mumia (Abu-Jamal-News.com), with a new legal update:
The Batson issue is central to Mumia’s case. These are just a few facts:
—On May 17, before The US Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Christina Swarns of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund argued that that there is strong evidence of racist jury selection at the 1982 trial. The LDF Amicus Brief concludes, “it becomes abundantly clear that he has set forth a prima facie case of discrimination,” based on the standards established by the US Supreme Court’s 1986 Batson v. Kentucky ruling, establishing a defendant’s right to a new trial if proven that jurors were excluded on the basis of race.
—The LDF argues that DA prosecutor McGill’s conduct “strongly suggested discriminatory intent,” and other evidence “strongly suggests” that this discrimination “was common practice,” in the DA’s office. At Abu-Jamal’s trial, McGill used 10-11 of his 15 peremptory challenges to remove otherwise acceptable black jurors.
—Philadelphia was over 40% black, but the jury had 10 whites and only 2 blacks. A survey of homicide cases tried by McGill from Sept., 1981 to Oct., 1983, reveals, “the odds that Mr. McGill would peremptorily challenge an African-American potential juror were 8.47 times greater than for non-black jurors.”
—From 1977-1986 (when current Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was the District Attorney), Philadelphia prosecutors struck 58% of black jurors, but only 22% of the white jurors.
The Batson issue is central to Mumia’s appeal before the US Supreme Court. Check out more below here.
Listen to Christina Swarns of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund present on the Batson issue for Mumia on May 17, 2007: http://abu-jamal-news.com/audio/m17/LDF.mp3
And, other shorter clips from Swarns’ presentation: http://abu-jamal-news.com/article?name=May17Audio
New Guilt-Phase Trial Denied!
Ruling against three different appeal issues, the court has refused to grant either a new guilt-phase trial or a preliminary hearing that could have led to a new guilt-phase trial for Mumia.
However, on the issue of racist jury selection, also known as the Batson claim, the three judge panel of Thomas Ambro, Anthony Scirica, and Robert Cowen split 2-1, with Ambro dissenting.
The 1986 Batson v. Kentucky ruling established the right to a new trial if jurors were excluded on the basis of race. At the 1982 trial Prosecutor McGill used 10 of his 15 peremptory strikes to remove otherwise acceptable black jurors, yet the court ruled that there was not even the appearance of discrimination.
Judge Thomas Ambro’s Dissent
In his dissenting opinion, he wrote that the denial of a preliminary Batson hearing “goes against the grain of our prior actions…I see no reason why we should not afford Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents.”
Mumia will be filing an appeal with the US Supreme Court by the deadline of Oct. 20, unless he applies for a 60 day extension.
Mumia can still be executed!
On March 27, the three-judge panel unanimously affirmed Federal District Court Judge William Yohn’s 2001 decision overturning the death sentence. Citing the 1988 Mills v. Maryland precedent, Yohn had ruled that sentencing forms used by jurors and Judge Sabo’s instructions to the jury were potentially confusing, and jurors could have mistakenly believed that they had to unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances in order to consider them as weighing against a death sentence.
A New Penalty-Phase Trial?
Now, if the District Attorney wants to re-instate the death sentence, the DA must call for a new penalty-phase jury trial where new evidence of Mumia’s innocence can be presented. However, the jury can only choose between a sentence of life in prison without parole or a death sentence.
Or, the DA can appeal this ruling to the US Supreme Court by the deadline of Oct. 20. The DA has not stated whether or not it will:
(1) appeal this to the US Supreme Court, or
(2) accept the Third Circuit ruling and either request a new sentencing trial or accept life in prison without the chance of parole.