FedUp! is the Pittsburgh chapter of the Human Rights Coalition dedicated to upholding the rights of prisoners through providing resources and support, exposing injustices, and building relationships with people in prison and their advocates. We are a organization of concerned citizens, people in prison and their loved ones. Our focus is on high level security facilities in Pennsylvania.
Oral Arguments Challenging Resentencing in Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal
On Tuesday, June 25 at 1:15PM, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, 530 Walnut Street (17th Floor) will hear oral arguments on an appeal filed by Abu-Jamal challenging his resentencing from death to life in prison without parole. Mumia Abu-Jamal’s supporters will gather at the courthouse at 11:30AM and wear red in support of the imprisoned journalist and the broader issues his case represents.
At issue is a motion filed by the President of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Judge Pamela Dembe, that failed to notify the defendant or his attorneys of his resentencing. In so doing, Judge Dembe violated Abu-Jamal’s rights to notice of sentencing, to be present and make a statement, and to be apprised of his right to appeal the sentence. These rights are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and by the laws of the state of Pennsylvania. Had Abu-Jamal not discovered and filed a timely appeal to Judge Dembe’s motion, his right to file future appeals would have been irreparably compromised.
“The unconstitutionality of Judge Dembe’s undisclosed filing echoes the history of due process violations in the Abu-Jamal case, which spans more than three decades. In the original trial the judge, prosecutor, and police conspired to suppress evidence of innocence and to obtain a conviction,” said Professor Johanna Fernandez of Baruch College. Dr. Suzanne Ross explains that “the prosecution's case was built on the specious premise that only three people were present at the time of the shooting, but a fourth person – the probable perpetrator – was seen fleeing the scene after Officer Daniel Faulkner was fatally shot, a fact that the presiding Judge, Albert Sabo, helped suppress.”
Judicial bias and contempt for the defendant also figure prominently in this history. As former Under Sheriff of Philadelphia County, Judge Sabo, could not objectively preside over a case involving the killing of a police officer. Yet he refused to recuse himself when his impartiality was questioned. In 1995, during Mumia’s Post Conviction Relief Act Hearing, Judge Sabo should not have heard and reviewed arguments against the judicial and prosecutorial violations of the very case over which he presided 15 years earlier. Again he refused to recuse himself. Years later, a court stenographer, Terry Maurer Carter, testified under oath that she heard judge Sabo, say to another judge, "I'm going to help them fry the nigger," referring to how he was going to instruct the jury.
In 2011, Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was confirmed unconstitutional when a Supreme Court motion allowed to stand the past rulings of four federal judges who had as early as 2001 set aside the death penalty in this case. In late 2011, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for Abu-Jamal’s immediate release stating, "Now that it is clear that Mumia should never have been on death row in the first place, justice will not be served by relegating him to prison for the rest of his life….Based on even a minimal following of international human rights standards, Mumia must now be released…”