Category Archives: political prisoners

Mumia appeal update

Judge in Mumia appeal requests evidence of Castille bias

By Betsey Piette posted on December 17, 2018

mumia g

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker filed an order Dec. 7 giving 10 days for attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Philadelphia district attorney’s office to provide input on former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille’s possible violation of a PA Judicial Canon on Conduct requiring recusal if there was an appearance of bias or lack of impartiality.

Tucker is requesting opinions on how this code of conduct applies to Abu-Jamal’s appeal and how it fits into the U.S. Supreme Court case Williams v. Pennsylvania, upon which the appeal is based.  Lawyers must respond by Dec. 17 unless an extension is requested and granted.

Tucker took final arguments on Dec. 3 from attorneys for Abu-Jamal and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Both agreed they had no additional evidence to submit. The judge’s new request is very important in that it asks for opinions on how the application of the Judicial Canon on Conduct applies to Abu-Jamal’s case and how it fits into the Williams case.

The question of possible judicial bias extends to Castille’s activities on capital cases — not just as the former district attorney — but while he was running for election as a judge or was a judge.

 

Castille’s focus on ‘police killers’

Tucker is considering the broader argument that due process requires an unbiased decision maker. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys added this second legal basis to grant the political prisoner new appeal rights in amended petitions and oral arguments during an Oct. 29 court proceeding.  They argued that Williams provides a specific application of that principle as applied by SCOTUS in a case where the prosecutor later became the judge on the same case.

Due process claims based on judicial bias do not require proof of actual bias, only the appearance of bias — that “a reasonable observer could conclude that a judge harbored disqualifying bias against the petitioner.” The question is whether the judge would be neutral or whether there is unconstitutional potential for bias. The PA Supreme Court has maintained that recusal is required wherever there is substantial doubt about a jurist’s ability to preside impartially.

Commonwealth attorneys claim that during months of searching hundreds of boxes of DA records documents showing Castille was personally involved in Mumia’s case were not found. But the prosecution released documents that expose Castille’s personal bias on capital cases.  One was a letter DA Castille wrote in June 1990 to then Gov. Robert P. Casey, a death penalty opponent, who would not sign death warrants.

Urging Casey to “send a clear … message to all police killers that the death penalty in Pennsylvania actually means something,” Castille asked Casey to sign death warrants and provided him with a list of capital cases where they could be applied.

Abu-Jamal’s case was not on the list because his case was still being appealed to SCOTUS. However, Abu-Jamal’s attorneys assert that Castille’s letter to Casey targeted Abu-Jamal. His was one of three capital cases at that time involving a convicted so-called “police killer.” They charge that this reflects Castille’s personal involvement in a critical decision in Abu-Jamal’s case.

 

Castille: FOP’s ‘Man-of-the-Year’

Evidence also surfaced of DA Castille’s support for a campaign by former PA State Sen. Mike Fisher regarding passage of legislation that would further restrict state appeals of death penalty convictions.  The legislation included removal of final approval for death warrants from the governor’s office. A status report on certain death row inmates that was sent to Fisher included Abu-Jamal’s name.

Abu-Jamal’s attorneys stated on Oct. 29: “On Sept. 23, 1988, DA Castille wrote directly to Fisher urging passage of an amendment to the death penalty law and conveying his fears about the impact of Mills v. Maryland.” (That U.S. Supreme Court case, a 5-4 decision in 1988, reversed a Maryland Court of Appeals death sentence affirmation on the ground that the jury verdict form used was unconstitutional.) Castille feared that “Mills may lead to the vacating of scores of death penalties.”  Abu-Jamal’s appeal contained a Mills claim regarding Judge Albert Sabo’s improper instructions to the jury, which became the basis for overturning his death sentence.

There is ample evidence of other instances of Castille’s bias and that he took responsibility for death sentences. The Williams decision included citations from news articles quoting Castille bragging about putting “45 murderers on death row.”  Some 36,000 Pennsylvania police officers endorsed him. The Fraternal Order of Police gave Castille “Man-of-the-Year” awards, political support and donations during his campaign for the PA Supreme Court.

The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief in the Williams case, which noted that Castille was on “a crusade against” the Federal Community Defender Organization that represented Williams. The ABA notes, “He was incensed by its involvement in state post-conviction proceedings, and even more so by its zealotry on behalf of its clients.”

 

Refusal to recuse in Abu-Jamal’s case

In 1996 Abu-Jamal appealed his post-conviction challenge to his death sentence and death penalty denied by Judge Sabo to the PA Supreme Court over his 1982 conviction by a mostly white jury for the 1981 shooting of police officer Daniel Faulkner. He also filed a motion requesting that Justice Castille not hear the case. The grounds for requesting the recusal were based on Castille’s FOP relationship and defense of prosecutorial conduct in the face of evidence of significant prosecutorial misconduct.

As a former Philadelphia district attorney, Castille’s name appeared on appeal briefs, which argued that Abu-Jamal’s trial was fair and that evidence against him was compelling. Castille oversaw the legal efforts to keep Abu-Jamal on Pennsylvania’s death row.

Abu-Jamal’s lawyers at that time requested that Castille not deliberate over their client’s appeal because of his prior role as DA and his long-time association with the FOP, which actively campaigned for Abu-Jamal’s execution.

Arguing that his decision not to step down from the hearing was a “personal one for him alone to make,” Castille noted that while the FOP endorsed him, it also endorsed four other PA court justices hearing the case.  Castille claimed he had never “personally” participated in any aspect of Abu-Jamal’s case. Yet four years earlier when he ran for the state court, four aides reported that as district attorney, Castille was actively involved in death penalty cases, particularly “high-profile cases,” of which Abu-Jamal’s topped the list.

Whether Judge Tucker is genuinely interested in evidence of Castille’s inherent bias regarding the class of capital cases involving murders of police officers or if he is simply seeking to cover all bases and make his decision appeal-proof remains to be seen.  Due to the long history of this case, Abu-Jamal supporters know that reliance on the courts to rule fairly for Mumia is never a given.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent.  A judicial win and granting new appeal rights for him would be a significant decision against the widespread policy whereby former prosecutors are elected and appointed as judges with the financial and political support of police organizations.

Abu-Jamal’s supporters have already launched an Emergency Response Network to fill the streets whichever way Judge Tucker rules. Demonstrations will take place outside the DA’s office at 4 p.m. on the day after Tucker’s decision. For more information and to sign the pledge to show up, go to Mobiliztion4Mumia.com.

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urgent letters to mumia

October 15, 2018

Dear Friends and Comrades,

At this late date, given that Mumia’s next court hearing is on October 29, mumia abu many of us have felt that not enough attention has been paid to challenging Philadelphia’s widely hailed new, “liberal” District Attorney Larry Krasner. His deadly role in Mumia’s current legal proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas has not been understood by many Mumia supporters. People both in Philadelphia and around the country are still describing Krasner as a “breath of fresh air,” a major change agent in the criminal justice system, and a potentially fair DA in Mumia’s case.

While we agree that Krasner has made some important positive moves on several issues, he has, like all the previous DAs, been adamant in his denial of justice to Mumia. It is, therefore, urgent that we publicize the situation with Krasner and confront him with the fact that people are recognizing his deplorable role in the court process for Mumia. We must pressure him to drop his opposition to Mumia’s current legal action aimed at giving Mumia new rights of appeal of his conviction. Needless to say, regardless of the outcome of this legal struggle, we will continue to assert Mumia’s innocence and fight for his freedom. For further clarification and details on this potentially confusing legal situation, read the attached background piece, which will not be sent to Krasner, that will be mailed out to you next on this listserv.

Below is a letter we hope to send Krasner with as many organizational signatures as possible. We are focusing on organizations and some well-known individuals, but we urge others to send their own letter or the letter below to Krasner. (As a collective, we will only process organizational letters and a limited number of individual names to simplify the logistics involved. We plan to deliver the list of organizational signers along with the letter addressed to him to Krasner on October 25 at a press conference in Philadelphia.) We URGE YOU TO SEND THIS SAME LETTER OR YOUR OWN TO KRASNER DIRECTLY. HIS E-MAIL IS: justice@philadelphia.gov. Let’s flood Krasner’s lines! 

International solidarity week For Anarchist Prisoners

 

 

 on International solidarity week for anarchist prisoners 23rd to 30th August

  Anarchist Black Cross Melbourne  conducted a practical letter writing workshop with some good insites from one of our members at IRL INFO SHOP  https://www.facebook.com/IRLinfoshop/  in naarm Melbourne on the land of the Wurundjeri & Bunurong peoples of the Kulin Nation. we show solidarity with youth in prisons  Western Australian government must stop breaching international laws and standards by locking children in solitary confinement and Solidarity with those detained (children, women, and men) by immigration and Customs Enforcement and the families you are forcibly kept from. You are held in those for profit gulags, whose aims are to maintain a rotten nationalist- racist- capitalistic social order. The August 21st National Prison Strike called for strikes and boycotts in and against those so called immigration detentions for a reason, to acknowledge for the world that our struggles are not separate.

Anarchist prisoners are not often well-known people, even though they might be long term activists. Their ways to fight back oppressors and wrongdoings are not necessarily following the current laws of their location, which is judged by some authoritarian organizations. The vast amount and diversity of cases of anarchist prisoners is surprising to many.

related links

https://incarceratedworkers.org

https://www.facebook.com/shutyouthprisonsmparntwe/

http://irlinfoshop.com/

https://network23.org/londonabc/prisoners/