October 9, 2018
Dear International Friends of Mumia,
Back almost a year ago, you signed an international letter directed to Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and the newly elected District Attorney of Philadelphia Larry Krasner. It called on them to free Mumia based on extensive evidence of his innocence and to release all the DA and Police files relevant to his case. There were over 400 signers, many of them organizations, especially with hundreds or thousands of members, and from dozens of countries across the globe. The letter was widely distributed and had the impact of demonstrating once again the enormous support Mumia continues to have not only in the US but also internationally. The letter explained Mumia’s new legal action that, if won, would allow him to re-appeal the evidence of his innocence and all the issues of the denial of due process in his trial, and the police, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct that led to his conviction.
We are now asking you to sign another letter to DA Krasner. On October 29, 2018, Mumia’s case is back in court for the 6th time since Krasner has been the District Attorney in Mumia’s case. DA Krasner first officially announced his opposition to Mumia’s new legal action in court on April 30. He submitted a formal legal brief on August 30 stating that Mumia’s petition should be denied. He is opposing additional rulings from the judge to continue to search prosecution files for additional documents. He is closing any opportunity to reopen the internationally denounced conviction of Mumia in 1982, and the subsequent equally outrageous appeals process which locked in the conviction.
DA Krasner continues the policy of the former Philadelphia District Attorneys in opposing every legal appeal made by Mumia, despite court precedents and clear evidence supporting Mumia’s appeal. He has met with Maureen Faulkner but refused to meet with Pam Africa, Keith Cook, Mumia’s elder brother, and international representatives.
In the current legal action, Mumia is challenging the judicial bias and conflict of interest of Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille who was also the District Attorney during the first direct appeals of his conviction and death sentence. The legal precedent on which Mumia’s challenge is based is a 2016 US Supreme Court ruling, Williams v. Pennsylvania. In that case the U.S. Supreme Court held that it violated due process rights to a fair and impartial appeal for a judge to participate in an appeal if he was previously personally involved in that same case as a prosecutor. The judge in the Williams case was PA Supreme Court Judge Ronald Castille. He was also the prosecutor and then judge in Mumia’s case.
Ronald Castille was the District Attorney responsible for making sure that Mumia’s conviction and death sentence were upheld. He was also personally involved in trying to get a warrant of execution signed against Mumia. Petitions made by Mumia that Castille recuse himself were rejected by Castille. With Castille’s participation, all of Mumia’s state court appeals of his conviction and death sentence from 1998-2012 were denied.
The clear evidence of Castille’s bias and conflict of interest in Mumia’s case was known at the time Mumia petitioned for Castille’s recusal. DA Krasner refuses to acknowledge the obvious: that there is significant material pointing to Castille’s involvement in Mumia’s case, that everyone in Philadelphia knew Castille to be an extreme supporter of the death penalty, and a strong ally of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), qualities guaranteed to make him an enemy of Mumia. Most significant for the issue before the court right now, there is evidence in the legal documents already reviewed that point to Castille’s significant role in Mumia’s case. Castille bragged that he was responsible for 45 people being placed on death row, and that he was a recipient of awards given by the FOP. In the Williams decision, the U.S. Supreme Court cited those facts.
There is also clear documentary evidence from the prosecution’s own files that prove the Williams case standard of involvement is applicable to Mumia’s case. This evidence was released to Mumia’s lawyers in October 2017, months before Krasner became the DA.
At the time Castille was District Attorney, the governor was Robert Casey, who was opposed to capital punishment. In the records released by the DA’s office during the current legal action is the June 15, 1990 letter from DA Castille to governor Casey. Castille’s letter urged the governor to issue death warrants in Philadelphia capital cases where the appeals process was completed. DA Castille’s letter states: “I urge you to send a clear and dramatic message to all police killers that the death penalty actually means something. There were three “police killers” on PA’s death row at the time of this letter, Leslie Beasley, William Tilly and Mumia Abu-Jamal. This letter is unequivocal documentary proof under the Williams standard that Mumia’s Pennsylvania state court appeal denials should be vacated because of Judge Castille’s extreme bias and conflict of interest.
In the past months there has been more evidence. It has been established that Castille personally added that sentence on “police killers” to a draft of that letter. There is evidence of Castille tracking the status of Mumia’s case and communication between his office and a virulently pro-execution state legislator pushing for the death warrant.
DA Krasner argues, just like his predecessors, that despite the Supreme Court precedent and the facts and evidence in the record, Mumia’s petition should not be granted. Krasner denies the clear meaning of Castille’s public and virulent advocacy for executions of those convicted of homicide, especially “police killers”, of his support from and to the FOP, confirmed by the letter he sent to Gov. Casey. Despite this proof, Krasner states there is no evidence of DA Castille’s personal involvement as a prosecutor in Mumia’s case.
In his campaign to be elected, DA Larry Krasner promised that he was going to be different, and that he would “end mass incarceration.” He has made some important reforms: ending cash bail in lesser criminal offenses, granting life-time parole rather than imprisonment for juvenile “lifers,” and considering serious criminal charges for police shootings of civilians. His office has likewise not opposed parole for Debbie, Janine and Janet Africa.
The reality, however, is that in Mumia’s case Krasner is following the script of the Fraternal Order of Police. A tell-tale warning of what was to come was Krasner’s appointment of Ronald Castille to his transition team. This was despite Krasner knowing full well that Castille was not only known as pro-prosecution, pro death penalty, pro-cop and hostile to defense attorneys, but that Castille’s bias was the center of over 15 cases, including Mumia’s, that were then pending in court. In the Williams case, Castille was lambasted by the U.S. Supreme Court for his overwhelming bias. In appointing Castille, Krasner sent a signal to the FOP that not only was he willing to “rehabilitate” Castille but that he would not give an inch for Mumia.
October 29 may be the last court date to impact DA Krasner’s position on Mumia’s pending legal case. We call on you to sign the attached letter. International awareness and pressure is urgently needed to move DA Krasner to end his opposition to Mumia’s pending legal action. Regardless, our fight for Mumia’s freedom will continue until he is free.