Usa/ Confermata incostituzionalità pena morte Mumia Abu-Jamal. Colpevole di omicidio poliziotto, ma prove contraddittorie
Confermata sentenza Mumia Abu-Jamal: condanna incostituzionale L'attivista delle Pantere Nere è diventato un simbolo della lotta contro la pena capitale. E' stato condannato per l'omicidio di un poliziotto, ma le prove sono poco chiare 26 Aprile 2011, 22:18 La Corte d’appello federale dello Stato della Pennsylvania ha confermato la decisione del 2008 che aveva dichiarato incostituzionale la condanna a morte di Mumia Abu-Jamal, riconosciuto colpevole dell’omicidio di un poliziotto nel 1981.
Dunque la colpevolezza dell’uomo non viene messa in discussione, mentre si conferma che la pena più adeguata è il carcere a vita perché, come era già stato stabilito tre anni fa, non sono sufficientemente chiare le prove che avevano portato al verdetto.
Nel corso degli anni intorno al processo e alla condanna di Mumia Abu-Jamal si è creata una grande mobilitazione internazionale e l’uomo è diventato un simbolo della lotta contro la pena di morte.
Il nuovo pronunciamento della Corte d'appello federale si è resa necessaria in seguito al ricorso del procuratore distrettuale di Filadelfia, Seth Williams, che ha commentato: "Questa decisione è contraria a quanto stabilito in precedenti occasioni dalla Corte Suprema e stiamo valutando l'opportunità di chiedere un ulteriore riesame della sentenza odierna".
Attivista delle Pantere Nere, scrittore e giornalista, Mumia Abu-Jamal ha già speso 30 dei suoi 54 anni nel braccio della morte del carcere di Filadelfia. Soprannominato "la voce dei senza voce" per la sua critica alla corruzione della polizia e dei politici di Filadelfia, era stato arrestato nel dicembre del 1981 con l’accusa di avere ucciso un poliziotto durante una sparatoria nel corso della quale lui stesso rimase gravemente ferito.
Nel 1982 fu condannato alla pena di morte nonostante, secondo la difesa, ci fossero varie contraddizioni nelle prove a suo carico e ripetute violazioni dei suoi diritti. Nel giugno 1999 un vecchio killer, Arnold Beverly, aveva confessato a uno degli avvocati della difesa di aver ucciso il poliziotto per conto della mafia, ma la sua rivelazione non fu presa in considerazione. Tutti i ricorsi della difesa sono stati respinti e infine rimandati a livello federale.
U.S. Court of Appeals Again Reverses Mumia Abu-Jamal's Death Sentence
On April 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Pennsylvania inmate who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer 30 years ago in 1981. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a previous grant of sentencing relief handed down by the same court in order to allow consideration of a recently decided Supreme Court case with related facts (Smith v. Spisak). Both cases involved the question of whether the jury was incorrectly instructed on evaluating mitigating factors in determining the proper sentence. The Court of Appeals considered the Spisak ruling, but found the jury instructions to be sufficiently different from those in Abu-Jamal's case. Judge Anthony Scirica, writing for the Third Circuit panel, held that the jury instructions at Abu-Jamal's trial in 1982 violated Mills v. Maryland, which said that findings on mitigating factors do not have to be unanimous. Judge Scirica wrote, "We conclude the verdict form and jury instructions in this case likewise created a substantial probability the jury believed it was precluded from finding a mitigating circumstance that had not been unanimously agreed upon."
Capital punishment: America's worst crime
Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on death row for 29 years. Now, a court rules his sentencing unconstitutional. When will we learn? The death penalty case of Mumia Abu-Jamal took a surprising turn this week, as a federal appeals court declared, for the 2nd time, that Abu-Jamal's death sentence was unconstitutional. The Third US circuit court of appeals, in Philadelphia, found that the sentencing instructions the jury received, and the verdict form they had to use in the sentencing, were unclear. While the disputes surrounding Abu-Jamal's guilt or innocence were not addressed, the case highlights inherent problems with the death penalty and the criminal justice system, especially the role played by race.
Early on 9 December 1981, Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over a car driven by William Cook, Abu-Jamal's brother. What happened next is in dispute. Shots were fired, and both Officer Faulkner and Abu-Jamal were shot. Faulkner died, and Abu-Jamal was found guilty of his murder in a court case presided over by Judge Albert Sabo, who was widely considered to be a racist. In just one of too many painful examples, a court stenographer said in an affidavit that she heard Sabo say, in the courtroom antechamber, "I'm going to help them fry the n****r." This latest decision by the court of appeals relates directly to Sabo's conduct of the sentencing phase of Abu-Jamal's court case. The Pennsylvania supreme court is considering separate arguments surrounding whether or not Abu-Jamal received a fair trial at all.
What the court of appeals unanimously found this week is that he did not receive a fair sentencing. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has decided to appeal the decision to the US supreme court, saying: "The right thing for us to do is to ask the US supreme court to hear this and to make a ruling on it." As a result of this ruling, Abu-Jamal could get a new, full sentencing hearing, in court, before a jury. In such a hearing, the jury would be given clear instructions on how to decide between applying a sentence of life in prison as opposed to the death penalty – something the court found he did not receive back in 1982. At best, Abu-Jamal would be removed from the cruel confines of solitary confinement on Pennsylvania's death row at SCI Greene. John Payton, director counsel of the NAACP legal defence fund, which is representing Abu-Jamal in court, said: "This decision marks an important step forward in the struggle to correct the mistakes of an unfortunate chapter in Pennsylvania history ... and helps to relegate the kind of unfairness on which this death sentence rested to the distant past." His other attorney, Judith Ritter, a law professor at Widener University school of law, told me: "This is extremely significant.
It's a life or death decision." I asked her if she had spoken to Abu-Jamal yet, and she told me that the prison failed to approve her request for an emergency legal phone call. I was not surprised, given my many years of covering his case.
He has faced multiple obstacles as he has tried to have his voice heard. On 12 August 1999, as I was hosting Democracy Now!, Abu-Jamal called into our news hour, mid-broadcast, to be interviewed. As he began to speak, a prison guard yanked the phone out of the wall.
Abu-Jamal called back a month later and recounted that: "Another guard appeared at the cell hollering at the top of his lungs, 'This call is terminated!' I immediately called to the sergeant standing by and looking on and said, 'Sergeant, where did this order come from?' He shrugged his shoulders and said: 'I don't know. We just got a call to cut you off.'" Abu-Jamal sued over the violation of his rights, and won.
Despite his solitary confinement, Abu-Jamal has continued his work as a journalist. His weekly radio commentaries are broadcast from coast to coast. He is the author of six books. He was recently invited to present to a conference on racial imprisonment at Princeton University. He said (through a cellphone held up to a microphone): "Vast numbers of men, women and juveniles … populate the prison industrial complex here in America. As many of you know, the US, with barely 5% of the world's population, imprisons 25% of the world's prisoners … the numbers of imprisoned blacks here rivals and exceeds South Africa's hated apartheid system during its height." The United States clings to the death penalty, alone in the industrialised world. In fact, it stands with China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen as the world's most frequent executioners. This week's decision in Mumia Abu-Jamal's case stands as one more clear reason why the death penalty should be abolished.