FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 1, 2019
UNDER PRESSURE, YALE REBLAW CONFERENCE RESCINDS KEYNOTE OFFER TO PHILLY D.A. LARRY KRASNNER
Instead Invites Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal
In their letter to RebLaw, they said, “The so-called progressive Larry Krasner is hell-bent on keeping [Mumia’s case] out of the appellate process. Larry Krasner was voted into office by the Black, working-class people of Philadelphia, but in the hour of truth, he has upheld the rulings of racist judges [in this case] and is doing the bidding of one of the country’s most corrupt and homicidal police forces.”
The signers added: “Prosecutors, those managers of the oppressive state, regardless of the rhetoric they may espouse during a campaign, should not be invited to speak at a conference for Rebellious Lawyering.”
Signator attorney Anneke Dunbar-Gronke noted, “Krasner will go down in history as the well-meaning, “progressive” DA who opposed justice in the case of the Nelson Mandela of our time.”
Harvard Law Student Felipe Hernández concluded, “The lesson here is that in the mind of a progressive DA, justice is doled out selectively and only when there is no real political risk involved. Thankfully the conference participants will hear from Mumia, an actual jailhouse lawyer—and pinnacle of rebellious lawyering.”
Feb. 1, 2019
Dear RebLaw attendees and comrades,
REBLAW 25 centers on a question: how can rebellious lawyers engage with our existing institutions and government? In other words, are there just and effective ways that grassroots movements can wield power through electoral politics?
In this spirit, we invited Larry Krasner, the District Attorney for Philadelphia, to serve as one of our keynote speakers. We invited a prosecutor to a Rebellious Lawyering conference hoping to foster a critical conversation about what place, if any, prosecutors should have in rebellious lawyering. Larry Krasner has spent the majority of his career as a defense attorney and civil rights lawyer, building solidarity with communities he has served. He has consistently challenged the power and credibility of law enforcement. Inevitably, prosecutors are implicated in the deep injustices of the system they serve. But as a DA, Larry Krasner has largely shown an admirable, if imperfect, new approach by using his office to challenge the morality and logic of incarceration and to divert police resources away from the project of controlling communities of color.
Given this record, we were disturbed to hear that DA Krasner will challenge the court decision giving Mumia Abu-Jamal the right to re-appeal his conviction of the 1981 death of a white Philadelphia police officer. Mumia, a longtime political activist and writer who has always maintained his innocence, spent decades on death row and is now serving a life sentence without parole. Mumia’s case is marred by injustices, including clear evidence of systematic racial bias, political targeting, conflicts of interest and police corruption. In short, Mumia’s case illustrates many of the pervasive injustices that Krasner campaigned against.
Like many of you, we were immediately troubled by DA Krasner’s decision when it was announced. Because this issue is so important—and because as RebLaw directors we strive to make decisions together, incorporating the voices of our communities—we waited to release this letter until we had a chance to reflect, discuss and determine how to best advance the goals and values that RebLaw embodies.
We cannot understand how DA Krasner’s decision in this case serves justice or the transformative vision that he ran on. We also hear and deeply appreciate the voices of the law students and activists calling on us to take action in response.
We have rescinded Larry Krasner’s invitation to serve as a keynote speaker at RebLaw, and we strongly urged him to drop his appeal. We asked the DA, instead, to join activists in a conversation about the promise and perils of “progressive prosecution,” including directly discussing his decision to appeal Mumia’s court decision. The DA declined to take part in such a conversation.
It was communities of color who lifted up Larry Krasner to a position of power. He is obligated to respond to those same movements as he wields the power the community has vested in him. We are working with activists to craft programming that examines both Mumia’s case and the successes and limitations of DA Krasner’s regime.
We look forward to coming together with all of you at REBLAW.
REBLAW 25 Directors
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