“Individuals don’t create rebellions, conditions do.” – Imam
Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)
“Individuals don’t create rebellions, conditions do.” – Imam
Long time political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, just might be one step closer to finally winning his freedom after decades of imprisonment due to being wrongfully convicted for murdering a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. With the moral backing of millions of supporters around the world, he has been battling the powerful prison industry deceptively disguised as the United States judicial system.
The latest chapter in this drama of racism, collusion and corruption was a decision on whether or not to disallow a number of refusals for appeals by an appellate judge, Ronald Castille, who had been a District Attorney involved in Mumia’s case as well as personally lobbying the governor of Pennsylvania for the death penalty in the case.
”The claim of bias, prejudice and refusal of former Justice Castille to recuse himself is worthy of consideration as true justice must be completely just without even a hint of partiality, lack of integrity or impropriety,” wrote Judge Tucker on December 27.
“This is an unheard of legal victory,” said lawyer Rachel Wolkenstein, former lawyer and longtime activist for Abu-Jamal. “This is the best opportunity we have had for Mumia’s freedom in decades.”
The following is from the MumiaNYC Website:
Thursday, 27 Dec 2018
From Rachel Wolkenstein
Judge Tucker granted Mumia new appeal rights. This is a decision that Mumia can file a new appeal to the PA Superior Court on all the issues that were denied by the PA Supreme Court while Castille was a PA Supreme Court Justice. All Mumia appeal denials from 1998-2014.
It was denied on the Williams argument, but granted on the general issue that Castille should have recused himself on the grounds that it created an “appearance of bias” for him to be a Justice in Mumia’s case. I haven’t seen the decision yet to give you a run-down of Tucker’s exact reasoning.
But this is a win — opens the door to Mumia getting a new trial — or dismissal of charges — after an appeal to the PA courts. Based on Krasner’s court filings and recent statements on WHYY, Krasner/Philadelphia DA will appeal this decision by Judge Tucker. We need to be clear that Krasner stands with the FOP to keep Mumia locked in prison for the rest of his life.
We will be ALL OUT against Krasner appealing this decision and ALL OUT for Mumia’s freedom.
Concluding paragraph of Judge Leon Tucker’s decision:
”Accordingly, Petitioner’s Petition for post conviction relief is DENIED as to the Williams claim of personal significant involvement and GRANTED as to the claim of unconstitutional bias pursuant to the due process clause of the United States Constitution, and Aetna, Caperton, Lemanski, and Mcfall, inter alia. 106 S.Ct. 1580; 129 S.CT 2252; 529 A.2d 1085; 617 A.2d 712,”
In June of 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in the case Williams v. Pennsylvania, that an appellate judge can’t decide an appeal in a case in which he or she had a significant role during prosecution, specifically a case involving the death penalty. It was decided by a 5-3 ruling that Terence Williams’ Eighth & Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. That means, obviously, that when a judge has previously played an important role in sentencing someone to death in a case before him/her that a recusal is mandatory and, of course, the moral thing to do.
After all, it seems appropriate that a judicial system include morality.
Ronald Castille was the District Attorney in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 1989 appeal of a murder conviction. In 1994, he became a State Supreme Court justice, basing his campaign on the fact that his office had prosecuted and sentenced to death 45 people. Mumia Abu-Jamal was one of those 45. Castille denied Mumia appeals several times while sitting as a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice.
Now, to add extra intrigue to this situation: Ronald Castille was the judge involved in the aforementioned U.S. Supreme Court case so it could not possibly have slipped his mind.
Mumia’s defense team has been arguing that Castille was required to recuse himself from the appeals case by another defendant which he not only had been closely involved with, but that he had vigorously attempted to have put to death. In a letter to (then) Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey in 1990, Castille passionately pleaded for him to “send a clear and dramatic message to all cop killers.”
How much more passionately involved in a case could someone be? If this isn’t a classic case of a necessary recusal I don’t know what is.
”Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” – Benjamin Franklin
From the MumiaNYC Website:
Rachel Wolkenstein, December 21, 2018
On December 3, 2018, Judge Tucker closed the record in Mumia’s pending action and said he would issue a decision at a later date, stating that reaching a decision was complicated and difficult.
Only four days later Judge Tucker re-opened the legal argument and ordered both Mumia’s lawyers and the DA to submit memoranda of law regarding the relevance of Cannon 3C of Judicial Conduct to the issues in Mumia’s case and as set forth in Williams v Pennsylvania, 136 S. Ct. 1899 (2016).
This is about whether and to what extent the judicial ethical rules requiring recusal when there is an appearance of judicial bias or impartiality are relevant to Mumia’s case. And to what extent these rules fit with the “objective” fact standard set in Williams v. Pa. Remember, Williams states that judicial bias and conflict of interest violate a defendant’s due process rights on appeal when it is established a judge had a previous “personal, significant involvement in a critical prosecutorial decision” in the same case. The Williams decision was a more specific application of the more general legal principles requiring due process on appeal and that the appearance of judicial bias requires recusal. This judicial ethical standard is not generally applied. The history of Castille as DA and then as PA Supreme Court justice is evidence of this.
Those new legal briefs were filed on December 17.
Mumia’s lawyers already raised this issue in the two amended PCRA petitions, and it was argued by Sam Spital of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the court proceeding on October 29. The relevant facts are based on the documents released by the prosecution and are the same facts and documents that underlie the Williams argument: Castille’s bias in trying to get capital defendants who were convicted as “police killers” executed as quickly as possible.
Mumia’s lawyers are using the same “new evidence” to argue two closely related legal theories to make the case that Castille should have recused himself, and his failure to do so violated Mumia’s due process right to an unbiased appeal process. Since Mumia didn’t get this unbiased appeal process, he is entitled to new rights of appeal before another panel of PA justices.
The factual evidence is the letter from Castille to then Governor Robert Casey urging him to set an example and sign execution warrants for “police killers.” There is also supporting evidence including Castille’s communication with State Senator Fisher to change the law compelling the governor to sign death warrants, etc.
The new filing attaches the full transcript of the October 29 court hearing and cites Judge Tucker’s favorable comments that they consider to be supportive. (The last ten pages of the transcript have a blank stripe from top to bottom, which was in the printout from the Clerk of the Court. All attempts to get these legal filings from Mumia’s lawyers were fruitless.)
Mumia’s lawyers’ legal brief does not include any reference to or quotes of the public statements Castille made that show his bias, including those the U.S. Supreme Court included in the Williams decision or the supporting arguments in the briefs filed in Mumia’s 1996 and 2002 recusal motions.
Also notable is the argument made in opposition to the DA, that the bias Castille had in criminal cases applies only to a “narrow category of cases.” They conclude their brief stating, “Mr. Castille as DA, chose to single out a narrow category of cases—and only one narrow category of cases—to which he implored the Governor to send a ‘clear and dramatic message.’ A reasonable observer could question Justice Castille’s impartiality with respect to that narrow category of cases, not to any other category of cases in which Justice Castille had only “tangential contact when he was the DA.” (p. 9 of the memo of law)
In my opinion, the argument of Castille’s bias to those convicted as “police killers” should not have been made into an argument that implicitly (at a minimum) is that Castille was not biased against those other than “police killers.” This is a disservice to Mumia and other prisoners who are challenging judicial misconduct.
We will see what Judge Tucker does. In any event there will be an appeal, by DA Krasner if Judge Tucker rules in favor of Mumia and by Mumia if there is a denial of his PCRA (Post Conviction Relief Act) petition.
A show of strength and courage despite business as usual in the fear-ridden, hate-dominated United States Of Corporations…
The parasitic behavior of U.S. corporations never ceases to increase death, habitat destruction and illness wherever our corporate overlords extend their despicable tentacles. When did mass killing and slow suicide become acceptable? A civilized society would place vile, delusional predators like Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and members of the Fanjul Crime Family in prison. The United States Of Corporations puts them in charge and gives them tons of money.
Here’s a look at what some of their violent business tactics have wrought on the west coast of Florida this past year:
Those of you who don’t live around here think of Florida as a paradise of Disney for the kiddies, palm trees and pristine beaches. Indeed we have some of the finest beaches in America. I am lucky to live within a short drive of several of them.
Well southwest Florida beaches are in dire straits this year. From Naples to Sanibel Island here in the Tampa metro area we are seeing the scourge of Red Tide; “pristine” beaches covered with dead fish and pinkish waters which will make swimmers sick.
The first thing you notice is the smell. It’s not a scent, exactly, but a tingling in the nose that quickly spreads to the throat and burns the lungs. But then you see the carcasses.
Southwest Florida beaches
Thousands of sea creatures now litter many of southern Florida’s typically picturesque beaches. Most are fish—mullet fish, catfish, pufferfish, snook…
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So don’t think about, take it…
We are taught, in theory, in lessons of morality, that justice always prevails. We are taught that she/he who upholds concepts such as compassion, integrity and justice will always “win” in the end. (We’re morbidly obsessed with “winning” everything in our winner-take-all, lottery mentality version of a society.) We tell ourselves that we’re good people – despite promoting a system founded on genocide, slavery, war, profiting on pain and misery, etc. – and that the only reason we do bad things is because everyone else does. We convince ourselves that if we don’t do these horrible things someone else will – so “I” might as well get something out of it. Too few of us stop to realize that that is precisely why and how we do these terrible things which prevent us from becoming civilized.
We take pride in technological advances, even when we are confronted with evidence that many of them hurt as much as help us – or as is often the case, hurt “others” who also don’t receive the supposed benefits we enjoy. We build conveniences that direct our energies away from things that matter as we get lost in artificial worlds that entice us with beauty and “happiness” while leaving our actual world – a beautiful planet that provides us with everything we need to live – sick, ugly and rampant with unhappiness.
We allow ourselves to be divided into ridiculously arbitrary groups based on superficial reasons that, if explained to a child, would make absolutely no sense.
We suppress kindness and decency in the name of promoting our despicable system of treating living beings (ourselves included) as commodities.
We kill and displace faceless “enemies” who are guilty of nothing more than “owning” resources we desperately want. Many countries are guilty of this particular art of war, but the United States seems especially adept at it. We seem headed to a place in the world where we are simply a ruthless mercenary force killing and maiming for those who can afford our “services.”
We cause suffering for groups of people who look at life in a slightly different way than we do. Many of us view skin tone as more important than morality or intellect. I feel disgusted just writing that, knowing how painfully true it is. But we “learn” to accept these pathetic ideas and embrace them as truths.
Truth, a word with such power, that has been attacked viciously by those who wish to bury it in an unmarked grave, never to be remembered. It used to represent ideals such as freedom, integrity and justice. It was the basis for great concepts that inspired humanity to strive toward new heights. But it now only shows us just how far we’ve fallen as a race.
The following paragraph was written by the brilliant writer, James Baldwin, in his essay “To Be Baptized” from his book, “No Name In The Street” – published in 1972. These words have taken on a new importance due to the circumstances we face today and should serve as a warning to those not completely under the influence of cowardly obedience to the “dominant” culture:
“This is the formula for a nation’s or a kingdom’s decline, for no kingdom can maintain itself by force alone. Force does not work the way its advocates seem to think it does. It does not, for example, reveal to the victim the strength of his adversary. On the contrary, it reveals the weakness, even the panic of his adversary, and this revelation invests the victim with patience. Furthermore, it is ultimately fatal to create too many victims. The victor can do nothing with these victims. They belong to the people he is fighting. The people know this, and as inexorably as the roll call – the honor roll – of victims expands, so does their will become inexorable: they resolve that these dead, their brethren, shall not have died in vain. When this point is reached, however long the battle may go on, the victor can never be the victor: on the contrary all his energies, his entire life, are bound up in a terror he cannot articulate, a mystery he cannot read, a battle he cannot win – he has simply become the prisoner of the people he thought to cow, chain or murder into submission.”
From these words (and other perceptive writings) we have to draw the strength needed to see through the dysfunctional and disingenuous propaganda we continue to be manipulated by. Is it actually that difficult to see most of the truths cleverly buried in the modern myths created by those directing the hateful battle against language we’re living through?
Young black men are murdered regularly in our streets – by police officers! Who are the “violent offenders” roaming our streets?
People who advocate for taking control of our lives and who support equal education and access to resources are targeted in the streets and, if they are not murdered in cold blood like Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were, are imprisoned on death row, awaiting a violent death. Yet openly racist police officers are acquitted and set free after killing unarmed civilians. Who is terrorizing our cities?
Poor children go without adequate nutrition while billions of dollars in taxpayer money are given to obscenely wealthy executives of corporations that contribute to the destruction of the planet. What was that about “welfare queens” being a drag on the economy?
It doesn’t take a serious amount of intelligence so pretending truth is a lofty idea only for intellectuals is pathetic. It takes courage. Yes, some people have more courage than others, but we all need to reach inside ourselves to that place where everyone finds their strength and just admit that cowardly hiding from reality is shameful and unacceptable. And we all need to decide what we can do individually, or in groups, to end this suicidal joyride we’re fatally indulging in if we ever expect to take control of our lives (and survive). The power to live together in peace is there for the taking. We just need to find that courage – and take it.
We know power will never be given. It never has as far as we know. When will it be time to take back life? When we’re coughing up pieces of lung during a walk outdoors? When we no longer have a forest to enjoy, a river to take a refreshing dip in, an unobstructed view of the stars at night? When we need a passport to go to a neighboring state? When a quarter of the population is in prison for thinking instead of obeying?
The following is another paragraph from that eloquent James Baldwin essay:
“Power, then, which can have no morality in itself, is yet dependent on human energy, on the wills and desires of human beings. When power translates itself into tyranny, it means that the principles on which that power depended and which were its justification, are bankrupt. When this happens, and it is happening now, power can only be defended by thugs and mediocrities – and seas of blood. The representatives of the status quo are sickened and divided, and dread looking into the eyes of their young; while the excluded begin to realize, having endured everything, that they can endure everything. They do not know the precise shape of the future, but they know that the future belongs to them. They realize this – paradoxically – by the failure of the moral energy of their oppressors and begin, almost instinctively, to forge a new morality, to replace the principles on which a new world will be built.”
It’s time to rebuild. We need to learn that power over others is a form of violence, a variation on the concept of slavery. To take away someone’s volition is to prevent them from being a living being. We might as well be rocks if we get to choose what cereal to eat and what toothpaste to use but not be able to decide how to think, what direction we’d like to move in as a society and not be allowed to prioritize in a way that doesn’t do violence to others. Real power is not power over others, but power over ourselves as individuals and as a community.