For 20 years, award winning journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal has spoken to the world from Pennsylvania’s death row. His writings and commentaries from death row have made him a world-renowned celebrity for racial equality and against the death penalty. His books
??Live From Death Row, ??Death Blossoms and ??All Things Censored have sold over 150,000 copies and been translated into seven languages.
On December 9th 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal was driving a cab in Philadelphia when he came to the intersection of Locust and 13 Street. He says he saw a police officer beating his brother William Cook. It is unclear what happened next, but both he and officer Daniel Faulkner were shot, and officer Faulkner died. Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death in 1982. He has been on death row ever since. Mumia Abu-Jamal has always maintained his innocence.
Here are some landmarks in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s twenty year ordeal on death row:
In 1995, Mumia Abu-Jamal was just ten days away from execution when a worldwide outcry forced a stay of execution on his case.
In 1999, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge signed a new death warrant against Abu-Jamal. President Bush later appointed Ridge to head the new department of homeland security.
Last December, federal Judge William Yohn commuted Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence. Judge Yohn ruled the judge had improperly instructed the jury that sentenced Abu-Jamal to death.
Judge Yohn commuted the death penalty on the condition that neither side appealed. Both sides appealed. Mumia Abu-Jamal refuses to accept life in prison without parole. His lawyers are calling for a new trial. The prosecution wants the death penalty re-instated. Abu-Jamal remains on death row and his case sits in three courts: the federal court, the state supreme court, and the court of common pleas in Philadelphia.
International solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case is growing. Mumia Abu-Jamal supporters take to the street in protests from Philadelphia to Quebec City, South Africa to Porto Allegre, Brazil.
Today, we’re joined by a French delegation, which came to the US and visited Mumia Abu Jamal yesterday in prison at SCI Green in Pennsylvania.
France has been a strong source of support for Mumia Abu-Jamal. The Paris city government made Mumia Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen last December. There have only been two others: Pablo Picasso in the 1970s, and author Richard Wright, in 1947. (Julia Wright, his daughter, joins us in the studio. She leads the French delegation.) This year, a new national textbook used by the majority of French high school students features a section on Mumia. His life is used to describe social commitment and students are actually tested on his life and the case. The French daily newspaper L’Humanite recently initiated a campaign urging readers to contribute financially to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case. The response was tremendous: they raised $50,000 dollars.
We’re joined right now by a number of people. Cecil Marie Pla, from the Movement against Racism and for Friendship with the Peoples, is with us in our studios today, and she has a check to present.
- Pam Africa, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Free Mumia-Abu Jamal Coalition hotline: 212 330 8029.
- Julia Wright, Coordinator of the International Committee in Solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal and Political Prisoners in Paris. Julia Wright is the daughter of renowned African-American writer and anti-death penalty activist Richard Wright.
- Jackie Hortaut, spokesperson for the French Confederacion Generale du Travaile, the General Labor Confederation, which is the largest trade union confederation in France.
- Marcel Trillat, French television journalist and documentary filmmaker who has been Rome and Moscow correspondent for France’s Channel 2. He was special correspondent on the Gulf War from Saudi Arabia.
- Mumia Abu-Jamal commentary recorded from death row, "In Memory of Our Mothers," about Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. It was written just two weeks ago, and this is its national premiere.
- Mumia Abu-Jamal commentary recorded from death row, "When News Isn’t News." Mumia wrote this commentary on June 19. This is its national premiere.