Reprinted from IACenter.org,
By Betsey Piette
December 28, 2018
Demonstrations, calling on Krasner not to appeal Tucker’s decision, are scheduled outside of Krasner’s office at 3 South Penn Square, across from City Hall, on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, at 4 p.m. and again on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, at noon.
A split ruling issued Dec. 27, 2018, by Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker has opened the door for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal to appeal his 1982 conviction in a Philadelphia police officer’s death.
Tucker ruled for Abu-Jamal, saying that former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille should have recused himself from hearing Abu-Jamal’s state appeals. This was because of statements Castille made as Philadelphia district attorney that suggested potential bias. Castile’s statements included campaign speeches and letters advocating the issuance of death warrants — allowing an execution — in cases like Mumia’s.
The ruling referenced Castille’s public statements of being a “law and order” prosecutor, who was responsible for putting 45 men on death row, his support for the Fraternal Order of Police and new evidence of Castille singling out men convicted as “police killers.” The judge agreed that these statements created an appearance of bias and impropriety in the appeals process.
However, Tucker did reject arguments by Abu-Jamal’s attorneys based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Williams v. Pennsylvania. He did not hold that Castille, while serving as Philadelphia district attorney, played a significant personal role in denying Abu-Jamal’s appeals and later in ruling on the case while a judge.
Tucker’s split decision still presents a major break in the long legal struggle to free Abu-Jamal. Defense lawyer Judith Ritter said Tucker recognized the “need for a new appeal untainted by such bias.”
Abu-Jamal’s appeals restored
Judge Tucker’s ruling means that Abu-Jamal’s appeals of his 1982 conviction are restored and must be re-heard in the Pennsylvania appeals court. Mumia appealed on the ground that he was framed by police and that the prosecution manufactured evidence of guilt and suppressed proof of his innocence, as well as other due process trial rights.
Abu-Jamal has 30 days from Tucker’s ruling to file a notice of appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court on the grounds of the appearance of bias and impropriety.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office has stated he is reviewing Tucker’s decision and has not yet decided whether to challenge it.
Krasner, a former progressive defense attorney, ran for the DA’s office in 2017 on a platform that included reviewing past convictions and freeing the wrongfully convicted. In Philadelphia, Abu-Jamal’s frame-up stands out as the most notorious wrongful conviction. To date, Krasner’s office has chosen to side with the Fraternal Order of Police in opposing Abu-Jamal’s appeals.
Abu-Jamal’s brother, Keith Cook, praised everyone “who has come out in protests, stood in the snow, in the rain, written letters, sent postcards, filled courtrooms and more, for being part of the first break Mumia has had in years. We have to take this all the way … to stay on Krasner’s ass as much as we can.”
Abu-Jamal has always maintained his innocence in the fatal shooting of police officer Daniel Faulkner. His prosecution was politically motivated because of his Black Panther Party membership, his support of the MOVE organization and his work as a radical journalist.
There is no doubt that Abu-Jamal’s trial was racially biased: The prosecution excluded African Americans from the jury, and during the trial Judge Albert Sabo declared, “I’m gonna help them fry the n—-r.”
Pam Africa, of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, announced: “The people’s movement is responsible for this victory. A new appeal opens the door to Mumia’s freedom. After 37 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the charges should be dismissed and he should be freed.”