From NYC Jericho
The Philadelphia Tribune
Lawyers arguing for another appeal in the case of former death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal were granted a 60-day continuance due to a late piece of evidence presented earlier this week by the prosecution.
Abu-Jamal attorney Judith Ritter argued successfully that a May 5, 1988, letter from the office of then District Attorney Ron Castille to a state representative discussing death penalty cases warranted the continuance to allow an extended period of discovery to allow the search for more evidence that may link Castille to the new document.
Ritter argued the letter demonstrated Castille’s bias in seeking the death penalty against defendants convicted of killing police officers.
“This demonstrates a possible link that Ron Castille was involved in seeking capital executions and that he was specifically tracking capital cases involving police officers,” Ritter argued before Judge Leon Tucker in Common Pleas Court. “It (the letter) indicates his bias, and it’s on those grounds that we’re seeking a continuance.”
Abu-Jamal’s lawyers are seeking to re-appeal his conviction in the 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.
Castille was the district attorney when Abu-Jamal was convicted. As a member of the state Supreme Court, he twice refused to recuse himself for two separate Abu-Jamal appeals.
As a prosecutor, Castille prevailed in getting the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to uphold Abu-Jamal’s conviction and death sentence in 1989.
Then as a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, Castille agreed with the arguments he had made as district attorney.
In two separate failed attempts to appeal — in 1998 and again in 2012 — Castille supported his position as district attorney to deny Abu-Jamal’s lawyers’ efforts.
Earlier this year, Tucker ordered Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office to search for any record of Castille’s “personal involvement” in the Abu-Jamal case.
Krasner’s office announced that additional evidence was not found, prompting Tucker to extend the discovery period again.
Before announcing his decision of the latest extension, Tucker appeared annoyed that the latest piece of evidence had not been turned over to Abu-Jamal’s defense.
“There needs to be a thorough search of all the records in all units,” Tucker said. “It is troubling that the letter was not produced until Monday. If this letter was addressed from Mr. Castille, that would make a big difference.”
Daniel Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, flew in from California for the hearing. She thanked Krasner’s officer for its support.
Standing next to Faulkner in the blazing heat alongside the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice was Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby. He and other FOP members accompanied Maureen Faulkner into the courtroom.
“When does it end for Maureen? Danny was assassinated — it’s been proving over and over again. This is a fishing expedition,” McNesby said. “Maureen is flying back and forth across the country and we are here to support her. We’ll continue to fight. We’ll be here for every hearing that takes place.
“But where is the closure for the family? When does it end? And after Oct. 29, we might as well get another date because they’ll find something else.”
Abu-Jamal’s petition is based on a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Williams vs. Pennsylvania.
The Supreme Court held that a prosecutor involved in seeking the death penalty for a defendant should recuse himself if asked to judge an appeal in the capital case.