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April 16 2008 | UNITED STATES

USA

New trial to Mumia Abu Jamal denied

 
printable version

Comitato Paul Rougeau

DECISIONE IN CONTROTENDENZA: NEGATO UN NUOVO PROCESSO A MUMIA

Il giornalista nero Mumia Abu-Jamal ‘ ex appartenente alle Patere Nere - è probabilmente  il detenuto più famoso e sostenuto negli Stati Uniti d’America ma nonostante ciò e  nonostante il fatto che ricorrano seri sospetti di irregolarità e di discriminazione  razziale nel processo capitale a cui fu sottoposto in Pennsylvania nel 1982, la Corte  federale d’Appello del Terzo Circuito il 27 marzo ha respinto il suo ricorso teso ad  ottenere un nuovo processo. E’ stato tuttavia confermata la sentenza di un giudice  federale che nel 2001 annullò la fase di punishment del processo del 1982, per cui egli  dovrebbe essere di nuovo giudicato per l’inflizione della pena, da scegliere tra pena di  morte ed ergastolo. I suoi legali hanno preannunciato ricorso contro la sentenza della  Corte federale d’Appello. L’accusa sembra disposta ad un patteggiamento per ottenere una  condanna all’ergastolo
    Una commissione di tre giudici della Corte federale d’Appello del Terzo Circuito (*) il  27 marzo ha rifiutato di annullare il processo capitale del giornalista afro-americano  Mumia Abu-Jamal ‘ ex attivista del movimento delle Pantere Nere. La sentenza ha deluso  schiere di sostenitori, appartenenti soprattutto a movimenti di estrema sinistra, che si  sono mobilitate negli ultimi decenni in favore del carismatico giornalista, sia negli  Stati Uniti che in Europa e specialmente in Francia
     Tuttavia la medesima corte ha ribadito il giudizio favorevole del giudice federale  distrettuale William Yohn emesso nel 2001. Yohn, confermando il verdetto di una corte  statale, sentenziò che Mumia ha diritto alla ripetizione della fase processuale di  punishment (quella in cui viene inflitta la pena) in quanto fu data un’errata  informazione alla giuria che pronunciò contro di lui nel 1982 una sentenza di morte: fu  detto alla giuria che per la considerazione delle circostanze attenuanti che evitassero  la pena di morte era necessaria l’unanimità dei giurati (mentre sarebbe in realtà  bastata anche la volontà di un solo giurato.)     Se sottoposto a questa fase processuale, Mumia potrebbe essere di nuovo condannato a  morte oppure ricevere la pena dell’ergastolo senza possibilità di uscita sulla parola.  Se lo stato non richiedesse la ripetizione della fase di punishment entro 180 giorni,  egli riceverebbe automaticamente una condanna all’ergastolo
     In ogni caso gli avvocati di Mumia hanno già dichiarato che si appelleranno conto la  sentenza del 27 marzo, chiedendo una nuova udienza da parte della Corte d’Appello del  Terzo Circuito al completo, e che sono intenzionati a ricorrere, in caso di insuccesso,   anche alla Corte Suprema federale
     Il fatto che, su un punto essenziale, il giudizio emesso dalla commissione di tre  giudici della Corte del Terzo Circuito non sia stato unanime, accresce di molto la  probabilità che venga concessa un’udienza dalla corte al completo dei suoi 14 giudici.  Infatti i tre giudici sono stati unanimi nel respingere i primi due argomenti avanzati  dalla difesa ma riguardo alla composizione razzista della giuria, se due giudici hanno  votato contro Mumia, il terzo giudice, Thomas Ambro, si è espresso a favore del  ricorrente. Ambro ha spiegato in una quarantina di pagine il suo forte dissenso dalla  maggioranza riguardo alla discriminazione razziale in fase di formazione della giuria.  Furono infatti esclusi 10 giurati di colore tramite richieste perentorie dell’accusa (v.  articoli precedenti). Ambro ha insistito sul fatto che, come dimostra la sentenza Snyder  v. Louisiana, l’intento razzista nella composizione di una giuria può essere desunto  anche dall’esclusione di un unico potenziale giurato di colore
     L’accusatrice Lynne Abraham ha dichiarato di non aver ancora deciso se appellarsi a  sua volta, patteggiare la pena dell’ergastolo per Mumia, ovvero chiedere la ripetizione  della fase di punishment del processo. A suo avviso Mumia
?non è una vittima, ma un  freddo assassino, senza rimorso, senza pentimento?. Ricordiamo che Mumia Abu-Jamal fu  condannato a morte nel 1982 con l’accusa di aver ucciso il 9 dicembre dell’anno  precedente, in uno scontro a fuoco in cui lui stesso fu ferito gravemente, Daniel  Faulkner, un poliziotto bianco che stava per arrestare suo fratello fermato ad un posto  di blocco. Faulkner fu finito quando, ferito da un primo colpo di pistola, era già  caduto a terra
  __________________________

(*) Ciascuna Corte federale d’Appello ha giurisdizione su un insieme di stati detto  ?circuito’. Negli Stati Uniti sono in tutto 13 Corti federali d’Appello. La corte  federale di appello che ha competenza sulla Pennsylvania, è la corte del Terzo Circuito

 

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Workers World
PENNSYLVANIA:  Another 'Mumia exception'  A ruling by the 3-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting Mumia  Abu-Jamal's appeals has left supporters outraged and convinced that, for this  internationally known political prisoner, there is no chance for a "fair trial" within  the U.S. injustice system On March 27, the long-awaited decision by the Third Circuit Court judges followed a  pattern that's become all too obvious in Abu-Jamal's hearings before Pennsylvania  courts: ignore their own legal precedents and make exceptions to the rules when it comes  to decisions regarding Mumia.
This practice of creating new court standards applied only to Abu-Jamal has been dubbed  "the Mumia exception" and was criticized in an Amnesty International report of the  Abu-Jamal case controversy released in 2001.
  The 3-judge panel consisting of Reagan appointees Chief Judge Anthony Scirica and Judge  Robert Cowan, and Judge Thomas Ambro, a Clinton appointee, refused to grant Abu-Jamal a  new hearing or new trial on 3 compelling issues: prosecutors use of racism to exclude  African Americans from the jury during Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial; the prosecutor making  improper comments to that 1982 jury at the trial's end; and pro-prosecution bias by  Judge Albert Sabo, who ruled over both the 1982 trial and a 1995 appeals hearing.
  However, the appeals court said that Abu-Jamal, who has been on death row in  Pennsylvania for almost 26 years, deserves a new sentencing hearing because of flawed  jury instructions, thereby upholding a December 2001 ruling to this effect by Federal  District Judge William Yohn.
  "The court did order a new jury trial on the issue of whether he should be on death  row," attorney Robert Bryan told Democracy Now. "In effect, what they did ... was throw  out the death penalty. So that's the good part of the decision. On the negative side ...  the court ruled against granting a new trial on the issue of guilt or innocence." Bryan  stated that he will now ask the entire Third Circuit Court to review the issues.  Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham has indicated that she will continue to  seek the death penalty for Abu-Jamal.
  At a March 31 press conference outside the Federal Court building in Philadelphia,  Abu-Jamal’s supporters denounced the court’s decision and vowed to up the ante in their  fight to free Mumia. Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia  Abu-Jamal noted: "The power of the people has to be unleashed because what the court did  is wrong!"  "This is not the 1st precedent the courts have broken that's gone against Mumia, but  this is one that's going to resonate around the world," said Africa, who announced plans  for a national protest in Philadelphia on Saturday, April 19.
  Africa said: "Last week's court decision was not a victory. While we obviously prefer to  have Mumia alive, instead of executed, life in prison without parole is an unacceptable  sentence for an innocent man."  Journalist Linn Washington Jr., who has followed Abu-Jamal's case since 1981, noted that  there has been instance after instance where the courts ignored compelling evidence that  justifies a new trial for Mumia. "Precedent in American law means courts following  previous court rulings when determining specific legal issues. Precedent is the bedrock  of American law which requires courts to follow precedent unless significant evidence  and/or compelling rationales necessitate changing precedent," Washington stated. "This  Third Circuit ruling changes precedent by applying legal procedures in a highly  questionable manner to dismiss compelling evidence of injustice against Abu-Jamal."  "What is different about this appellate court ruling," Washington concluded, "is that  for the 1st time there has been dissent from a judge involved," referring to Judge  Thomas Ambro's strong exception to his colleagues regarding their decision on  Abu-Jamal’s appeal concerning racism in the jury selection process.
  Judges Cowan and Scirica rejected Abu-Jamal’s claim of racial bias claiming his protest  of jury rejection wasn't timely and he did not provide the court with evidence on the  racial make-up of the jury pool from which jurors in his 1982 trial were selected. They  also ignored evidence that a systematic practice of excluding African Americans from  Philadelphia juries existed throughout the 1970s and 1980s and was acknowledged by a  former Philadelphia prosecutor.

  Basis of dissent  In his 41-page dissent, Judge Ambro challenged the blatant double standard in the  court’s rejection of the "Batson" claim regarding racist jury selection. In Batson v.  Kentucky in 1986 the Supreme Court established that excluding even one single person  from a jury because of their race violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S.  Constitution. As recently as March 19, the Supreme Court affirmed that position in a 7  to 2 ruling in another death penalty case, Snyder v. Louisiana.
  Ambro made several references to precedents set by the Third Circuit Court that were  ignored in the panel's ruling. "We have repeatedly said that a defendant can make out a  prima facie case for jury selection discrimination by showing that the prosecution  struck a single juror because of race ... in fact in United States v. Clemons, we  explained, 'striking a single black juror could constitute a prima facie case even when  blacks ultimately sit in the panel and even when valid reasons exist for striking other  blacks.'  "Yet the majority focuses on the absence of information about the racial composition and  the total number of the venire (jury pool) ... claiming the exclusion rate is necessary  to access whether an inference of discrimination can be discerned in Abu-Jamal's case.  Such a focus is contrary to the non-discrimination principle underpinning Batson, and it  conflicts with our Court's precedents, in which we have held that there is no 'magic  number or percentage necessary' to trigger a Batson inquiry.
  "I see no reason why we should not afford Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents."  Ambro further stated, "Why we pick this case to depart from that reasoning I do not  know." This is the 1st time any judge has publicly acknowledged "the Mumia exception."  The panel's majority claims that Abu-Jamal forfeited his Batson claim by failing to make  a timely objection to improper procedures by prosecutors. It is blatantly absurd,  however, to hold Abu-Jamal's original lawyer responsible for not strictly following a  procedure in 1982 that wasn’t established until 1986.
  Equally absurd was the majority’s decision to deny an evidentiary hearing to Abu-Jamal  because he did not provide them with evidence regarding the jury pool’s ethnic  composition, evidence that would normally be brought forward in just such a hearing.
  The panel's findings on Abu-Jamal’s other appeals were equally outrageous. The judges  unanimously rejected Abu-Jamal’s claim that Judge Albert Sabo, who presided over both  his 1982 trial and 1995 Post Conviction Relief Act hearing, had been prejudicial against  him. Sabo's biased antics during that 1995 proceeding were so outrageous that hundreds  of newspapers around the country, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, criticized his  pro-prosecution stance.
  The panel also unanimously rejected the claim that Prosecutor Joseph McGill had  diminished the jury's sense of responsibility during the conviction phase of the trial  by telling them their decision would not be final as there would be "appeal after  appeal."  The judges, while not denying McGill's statement may have had an impact, stated that  court precedent only used such evidence to overturn death sentences, not convictions,  further denying Abu-Jamal relief he should have received if these federal appeals judges  fairly followed their own established law.
  More information on this case, including Pam Africa's April 19th statement, the full  text of the March 27 court ruling and protest actions for Mumia can be found at  www.millions4mumia.org.

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