Death Row stand-off stirs racial tensions Abu-Jamal hearings stir racial tensions
Monday 31 July 1995
Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, sympathiser of the radical Move group and erstwhile radio talk show commentator, was convicted of the murder of a Philadelphia police officer 14 years ago.
If all his appeals fail, Abu- Jamal will die by lethal injection in a Pennsylvania prison on 17 August. For the state authorities, that is just deserts for a cop killer. But for the growing legion of Abu-Jamal's supporters, he is merely the victim of a race-driven travesty of justice.
Now 41, Abu-Jamal has been on Death Row since 1982, when he was found guilty of shooting to death Daniel Faulkner, a white policeman who had arrested his brother for a traffic offence, on 9 December 1981.
Ballistic evidence and an alleged confession helped convict him. But Abu-Jamal's attorneys say key witnesses who saw another man running from the crime scene and identified by some as the real killer, were never called to testify.
These same conflicting arguments are now being played out one last time in retrial hearings in Philadelphia, to the accompaniment of noisy pro- Abu-Jamal demonstrators at the heavily guarded courthouse and protests from Hollywood, the labour movement, black members of Congress and European sympathisers.
But although Leonard Weinglass, the chief defence lawyer, is optimistic of securing a delay, the circumstances of the case have barely changed. The judge is Alfred Sabo - hardliner and former member of Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police - who has handed down more death sentences than any other judge in the state. By all accounts he is giving defence lawyers as short a shrift now as he did then.
But as Abu-Jamal's fight for life moves towards a climax, tensions are palpably rising. At a time when the OJ Simpson case is generating as much heat as ever, his own case threatens to reinforce suspicions that the justice system is tilted against blacks and minorities.
Abu-Jamal has done nothing to lessen such a belief with his book Live From Death Row, a collection of commentaries and essays from his cell at the maximum security Huntingdon prison in southern Pennsylvania, describing life on Death Row.
But what propelled the case to the front pages was the advent of a Republican governor after last autumn's election. Tom Ridge is a strong supporter of capital punishment. Earlier this year, Pennsylvania carried out its first execution since the 1960s. Abu-Jamal's could be the next.
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...