Petition is successful with 248 signatures
To: PBS Independent Lens
Please give more airtime to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal
PBS Independent Lens responded to our petition and negotiated what we consider to be a partial victory. We have links to all the Mumia films posted in the comments section of the "Philly DA" website.
Dear PBS / Independent Lens,
We are writing you as fans and supporters of the Independent Lens series. We respectfully ask that you please give more airtime to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist, activist, and former Black Panther who is widely considered to be a political prisoner.
Abu-Jamal’s case is a story that we want to hear about because it is important to us. We believe that Abu-Jamal’s case deserves the type of high quality and in-depth coverage that the Independent Lens series can provide to the public.
We are disappointed that so far in the promotion and release of the new series “Philly DA” (in the trailers and the first two episodes that have been screened at several locations) there has been no mention of what is arguably the most famous court case in the history of Philadelphia: the 1982 murder trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal for the December 9, 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
We hope that there will be more about Abu-Jamal’s case in the future episodes of Philly DA. After all, it was DA Krasner himself that discovered six DA file boxes from Mumia’s case that had never been turned over to Abu-Jamal’s defense team. This was one of the biggest news stories from Krasner’s first term as District Attorney. in the meantime, we would like to make a specific request to PBS.
We are writing this petition in support of an April 20 rally being organized in San Francisco at the KQED building to protest DA Krasner’s continued support of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 1982 conviction. There is also an open letter to KQED from such SF Bay Area figures as Angela Y. Davis and Boots Riley, asking KQED to air the new video statement from blacklisted football player Colin Kaepernick and the short documentary film about Abu-Jamal’s case entitled “Manufacturing Guilt” by Stephen Vittoria.
We support this request made by Bay Area activists to KQED. Now, with this petition to PBS and Independent Lens, we would like to make a separate request for PBS’s entire national audience. Can you please also air the 2009 documentary film about Abu-Jamal’s case, “Justice on Trial?” The film’s co-director Johanna Fernandez has authorized a free screening of her film by PBS. Justice on Trial features interviews with J. Patrick O’Connor (author of “The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal), freelance photographer Pedro Polakoff (who took crime scene photos that were suppressed by the Philly DA), and Lydia Barashango, the sister of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who says shortly before her death from cancer that she and her family suspected that Kenneth Freeman was the actual shooter of Officer Faulkner. Watch Justice on Trial here: https://vimeo.com/326180100
Another important video that we also hope you will consider airing is the 2010 ballistics test conducted by investigative journalists Dave Lindorff and Linn Washington Jr. Our separate Color of Change petition to DA Krasner cites the 2010 ballistics test as one of many reasons that well-documented police, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct has forever destroyed the legitimacy of Abu-Jamal’s 1982 conviction. There is a short, high quality video that accompanies Lindorff and Washington’s written report, providing important visual documentation for their conclusion that that “the whole prosecution story of an execution-style slaying of the officer by Abu-Jamal would appear to be a prosecution fabrication, complete with coached, perjured witnesses, undermining the integrity and fairness of the entire trial.”
Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hedfNPt6UQQ
Read the report here: https://jamaljournal.blogspot.com/2021/02/from-archives-2010-test-shows-robert.html
Lastly, we also encourage you to also feature a free screening of the 2012 film Long Distance Revolutionary, which does not focus on the "facts of the case" the way that Justice on Trial and the 2010 ballistics test do. Rather, it examines Mumia's writings, his political significance, as well as his cultural impact. The filmmakers Stephen Vittoria and Noelle Hanrahan have authorized a free screening for your national audience:
Read more about Long Distance Revolutionary here:
Thank you Independent Lens for considering our petition.
Why is this important?
We believe that the Mumia Abu-Jamal case is an extreme injustice. The Jamal Journal, has another active petition, this one to DA Krasner, asking him to stop defending Mumia Abu-Jamal's 1982 conviction. To support the DA Krasner petition, the Jamal Journal cites Mumia's health problems and the overwhelming evidence of police, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct. Reprinted below is a summary of evidence that we present in the DA Krasner petition and also more extensively in the first issue of the Jamal Journal newspaper:
--The Evidence of Police, Prosecutorial, and Judicial Misconduct:
The racism throughout Abu-Jamal’s case is stark and unmistakable. Please remember that Albert Sabo, the 1982 trial judge, declared his intent to help prosecutors “fry the ni**er,” according to a 2001 affidavit by a court stenographer Terri Maurer Carter. This testimony was rejected by the Court, which ruled that it did not prove that the trial was biased. This and other egregious examples of overt racism thus form a key reason why he has attracted such wide-ranging support. This support includes the most prominent Black intellectuals of our generation, including Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Michael Eric Dyson, and Marc Lamont Hill. In November 2020, the blacklisted football player and anti-racist activist Colin Kaepernick declared his support for Abu-Jamal. Outside the US, support for Mumia has come from such luminaries as Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, as well as the European Parliament, Japanese Diet and the thousands in the countries of France and Germany. The widely-respected human rights organization Amnesty International determined in its 2000 investigation that “numerous aspects of this case clearly failed to meet minimum international standards safeguarding the fairness of legal proceedings.”
One example of the injustice is the lack of the application of the US Supreme Court’s precedent, “Batson issue” regarding racial discrimination in the jury selection process. Even before your office’s discovery of suppressed evidence found in six previously undisclosed file boxes, we already knew that the trial prosecutor, Assistant DA Joseph McGill used 10-11 of his 15 peremptory challenges to strike otherwise qualified black potential jurors. In his 2008 dissenting opinion, federal Third Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro argued that this one statistic alone was sufficient evidence for granting Abu-Jamal a Batson hearing. Therefore, he argued that the Third Circuit Court’s 2-1 ruling against Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim was unfair, and he wrote that the ruling went “against the grain of our prior actions…I see no reason why we should not afford Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents.”
When, in 2009, the US Supreme Court then ruled against considering Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal of the 2008 Third Circuit Court ruling, it effectively ended Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim. However, upon inspecting the contents of the six file boxes that you handed over to the defense as the law required, Abu-Jamal’s defense team found major pieces of evidence. The first, a handwritten letter to assistant district attorney Joe McGill penned by Robert Chobert, a key prosecution's witness. In the letter, Mr. Chobert asks for his money—which suggests Mr. Chobert's testimony against Mumia may have been bribed. The boxes also reveal other handwritten notes on original files, closely tracking the race of jurors. These notes are new evidence of potential racial discrimination in Joseph McGill’s selection of the 1982 trial jury. This makes the case even stronger, and as a result, the Batson issue may well provide a basis for a new trial. Furthermore, the simple fact that the prior District Attorneys all suppressed these documents calls into question the DA’s practices and the fairness of the prior prosecution.
When the Third Circuit majority ruled against Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim in 2008, it ignored irrefutable evidence that Abu-Jamal’s defense had been blocked from introducing the very evidence that the Third Circuit majority faulted the defense for not introducing. During the 1995 PCRA proceedings, Judge Albert F. Sabo (the original 1982 trial judge) literally had Abu-Jamal’s lawyer arrested for trying to subpoena clerks from the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia court systems as part of the defense’s PCRA petition argument that jury pools were not drawn “from a fair cross section of the community.” Outrageously, in 2008, when the Third Circuit Court ruled against Abu-Jamal’s Batson claim, the Court actually justified the denial by citing the absence of this very data that his lawyer had been arrested in court for trying to obtain.
Entire books have meticulously detailed the injustice throughout Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case, such as those by authors Dave Lindorff (Killing Time, 2003), Michael Schiffmann (Race Against Death, 2006), and J. Patrick O’Connor (The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2008). Veteran journalist Linn Washington, Jr. has been writing newspaper columns and articles about the Abu-Jamal case since it began on December 9, 1981 with the shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner and the near-fatal shooting of Abu-Jamal. Hence, the evidence of Abu-Jamal’s unfair trial is abundant and quite accessible to anyone who reads the work by any of these four writers.
In 2010, investigative journalists Dave Lindorff and Linn Washington performed a test to see whether bullets fired into the sidewalk at close range would leave visible markings. The test was designed to replicate the shooting scenario presented at Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial by ADA Joseph McGill, alleging that Abu-Jamal stood directly over Officer Faulkner and fired downwards at him, execution style.
--Read the full petition here: https://jamaljournal.blogspot.com/2021/02/petition-to-philadelphia-district.html