Voice of the Voiceless:The Case ofMumia Abu-Jamal

Published by A Job is a Right Campaign, Milwaukee, Wiscosnin.First Printing: July, 1995Fourth Update: February, 1999

This 20-page pamphlet is available in printed form from AJRC. Please senda check or money order for $.80 ($.25 for the pamphlet plus $.55 postage)payable to "AJRC" to: AJRC, PO Box 06053, Milwaukee, WI 53206. For bulkorders, call or fax: 414-374-1034.

In the early morning hours of December 8, 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal was driving a cab in downtown Philadelphia, supplementing his income as a journalist. The bars were just letting out and the streets were full of people. Suddenly Mumia spotted a police officer beating a young Black man spread-eagled against his car. When he went to investigate, he discovered that it was his own younger brother, Bill Cook, who was being beaten.

Within minutes, Mumia was sitting slumped on the curbstone, critically injured with a gunshot wound in the abdomen. The police officer, Daniel Faulkner, lay dead. Other police arrived and took Faulkner to the morgue, waiting 45 minutes to carry Mumia to the hospital. Mumia arrived with his head bleeding after being thrown into a light pole by the arresting officers.Mumia Abu-Jamal was charged with murder.

By the time Mumia went to trial, he had already been tried and convicted by the news media. A former member of the Black Panther Party and now a radio journalist well-known for his exposes of police brutality, his political beliefs became central to the news coverage.During the sentencing phase of the trial, the judge allowed the state to use Mumia's membership in the Panthers to argue for the death penalty. In fact, the prosecution told the jury that Mumia's membership was evidence of his premeditation to kill. The following is just part of the exchange:

By any standards, this was not a fair trial. Consider the following:

Mumia was convicted and sentenced to death.In 1989, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court denied his first appeal.

Today Mumia Abu-Jamal has new lawyers, a team headed by noted civil rights attorney Leonard Weinglass. On June 5, 1995, Weinglass and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a 300-page Post Conviction Review Appeal (PCRA) at Philadelphia's City Hall, while outside hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Mumia's defense."What we seek today," Weinglass told the demonstrators, "is Mumia's first day in court, because he hasn't received one yet."

The appeal brief contained 47 exhibits and thirteen affidavits. Among other things, the new appeal detailed the following objections to the original trial:

The appeal also stated that Mumia was a target of the FBI's Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) and that local law enforcement agencies had a deep-seated bias against him.

"Voice of the Voiceless"

Mumia Abu-Jamal joined the Black Panther Party in 1968 in his hometown of Philadelphia. He was fourteen years old. Earlier that same year, he had been beaten and arrested by the police for protesting an appearance in Philadelphia by Alabama governor George Wallace, who was then running for president on an openly white supremacist platform.

In 1970, Mumia was appointed Communications Director of the Philadelphia branch of the BPP.Mumia later became a free-lance journalist and radio talk show host on WUHY, specializing in coverage of events in the Black community. For his devotion to the issues most affecting the poor and oppressed, he became known as the "Voice of the Voiceless". His work won him attention and recognition. He was elected chair of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. He won a Peabody Award for outstanding journalism. In December of 1981, the Philadelphia Inquirer profiled him as "Jamal: An eloquent activist not afraid to raise his voice."

He also earned the wrath of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Mumia relentlessly exposed cases of police brutality, rampant in the "City of Brotherly Love". He particularly focused on police attacks against the radical, largely Black organization MOVE, including the siege of the MOVE commune on Aug. 8, 1978. MOVE would later become the object of one of the only aerial bombings of a U.S. city, when Philly cops dropped a bomb from a helicopter onto a MOVE house in 1985, incinerating eleven children, women, men and their animals and setting fire to 62 nearby houses.Mumia has continued his journalistic work in prison, writing for numerous newspapers and magazines. A book of essays entitled "Live from Death Row" was featured on Entertainment Tonight, CBS Evening News, Hard Copy, The Washington Post and The New York Post. The essays were based on a series of tapes he had recorded for National Public Radio until that project was killed by a right-wing uproar led by the Fraternal Order of Police.

A second book, "Death Blossoms", was published in 1997.

On Jan. 13, 1995, Mumia was moved to Pennsylvania's new "Super Max" prison in Greene County, a rural area in the southwestern part of the state, far from his supporters in Philadelphia. The state now had a new governor, Thomas Ridge, elected on a promise to begin signing death warrants and revive executions in Pennsylvania after a more than 30-year hiatus.

On June 1, just days before Mumia's lawyers were to file his appeal, Gov. Ridge signed Mumia's death warrant. Mumia was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on August 17th -- which happens to be the birthdate of the great Black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Ridge's signing of the death warrant followed several weeks of increased coverage of Mumia's case, focused largely on the cops' attempt to silence him.

One aspect of the appeal petition was a motion to disallow Common Pleas Court Judge Albert Sabo from rehearing the appeals. Sabo is the judge who presided over Mumia's original trial. By mid-1995, there were over 180 people on Death Row in Pennsylvania, more per capita than any other state. Philadelphia itself is the number three city in the country in number of death penalties. As of July, 1995, 103 people were on Death Row after receiving the death penalty from Philadelphia courts. 91 of these were people of color. Judge Sabo served for fourteen years on a select panel of judges hearing only homicide cases. Although Sabo had fewer homicidal cases than his colleagues, he still sentenced more defendants to death. He is seen as the hanging judge of a hanging town in a hanging state.Judge Sabo came out of retirement to hear Mumia's appeal.

The Struggle to Free Mumia

Mumia always had a core of dedicated supporters fighting to help him win his freedom. For many years, members of the MOVE organization and the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal fought to keep his case alive. Other organizations, such as the New York Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Committee and the Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal in State College, Penn. carried on the struggle as well.

But when Gov. Ridge announced the signing of Mumia's death warrant, it stirred up activity worldwide. In the week following the announcement, there were actions demanding a new trial for Mumia in over 30 U.S. cities, as well as in Kingston, London, Berlin, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver and other cities.

In Philadelphia itself, where most of the media have continually repeated the police version of the events, close to 700 people rallied in front of City Hall in a demonstration organized by the International Concerned Family and Friends. The New York Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Committee drew another 500 out to a picket in front of New York's Penn Station during rush hour. In Washington, a group of demonstrators marched from Union Station to the Hall of States, where Gov. Ridge's Washington office is located. In Minneapolis, 200 people tied up traffic in a university neighborhood. At the end of the demonstration, the police attacked with mace and horses, arresting nine people. In San Francisco, a June 26 demonstration of some 700 people was attacked by the police. There were 250 arrests. (Charges were later dropped.)Despite the fierce opposition of the police and right-wing, Mumia's case had begun to win broad support. By June 10, 1995, 40,000 petition signatures had been sent to Gov. Ridge demanding that Mumia not be executed.

In Los Angeles, the coalition in support of Mumia included the actor Mike Farrell, a former co-star of the series "MASH", who is president of the group Death Penalty Focus. Actors Ed Asner and Whoopi Goldberg attended fundraisers for Mumia.The Rev. Jesse Jackson sent a telegram to U.S. attorney general Janet Reno calling for a retrial. The City Councils of Detroit, Los Angeles and Madison, Wis. passed resolutions of support. Sympathetic articles and Op-Ed pieces appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post. U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois and U.S. Representatives Ronald Dellums and Maxine Waters of California spoke out against his execution, as have internationally known singer Harry Belafonte, authors Alice Walker and Cornell West, civil rights attorney William Kunstler, former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, poet Sonia Sanchez, Boston University professor Howard Zinn, Southern Christian Leadership Conference president Dr. Joseph Lowery and actor Ossie Davis, who thirty years ago delivered the eulogy at Malcolm X's funeral.

And the support is not limited to the United States.

The African National Congress and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) have both sent messages urging that Mumia be granted a new trial. The Zapatista National Liberation Front of Chiapas, Mexico has issued a statement of support. Amnesty International has taken up the case. On June 20, the Party of Democratic Socialism in Leipzig, Germany, held a demonstration demanding Mumia's freedom. Members of Workers Russia, a socialist group in the former Soviet Union, called on Gov. Ridge to commute the death sentence.

The labor movement has spoken out, including ILGWU Locals 6 and 10 in San Francisco, Chicago transit workers, eighteen local AFSCME presidents in Detroit, as well as unions in Britain and Australia. Members of the French General Confederation of Labor (CGT), the Metro Toronto Labor Council and Vancouver Public Employees in Canada and Section 10 of the Mexican Teachers Union have all come out against the threatened execution.

Mumia's cause has also been taken up by the National People's Campaign, a coalition formed in January of 1995 to fight the right-wing "Contract on America". Mumia was one of the original "Conveners" of the NPC and sent a series of solidarity messages to its rallies and demonstrations.

Along with the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the group Equal Justice U.S.A., the NPC initiated the call for the massive National Emergency Rally that took place in Philadelphia on August 12, 1995. Despite intense police pressure directed against the organizers (at one point over 300 off-duty cops picketed the organizing offices), the protest drew over 10,000 people, half of them African American, with many Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and progressive whites.By the first week in August it had became clear that the demonstration was going to be huge. On Aug. 5, Judge Sabo issued a stay of execution. A major victory had been won!

But Mumia remains on Death Row.

In May of 1996, there was a startling new development. A key witness in the original trial stepped forward to say that her court testimony had been coerced by the police.

Veronica Jones was the witness who had originally told police she had seen two men jogging from the scene while Mumia lay wounded on the ground. Now, in a sworn deposition, she said that police officers had threatened her with felony charges if she didn't change her story.

"The detectives threatened me by reminding me that I faced a long prison sentence -- 15 years on drug charges -- all the while persisting that I testify to their version of events," she said. She said she had feared for the well-being of her children, who are now grown.

After the trial, she was convicted of the felony charges -- and got probation.

On May 22, 1996, Mumia's lawyers filed a motion to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to have the case sent back to the Common Plea level so the new evidence could be reviewed. A hearing was set for Oct. 1 in Philadelphia -- before Judge Sabo. Supporters began to mobilize to pack the courtroom. So did the cops.Before the hearing, Sabo turned to Jones and asked in a hostile and threatening manner, "Have you been informed of the consequences of perjury? Do you know you could be jailed?"

Despite these threats, Veronica Jones recanted her original testimony, saying she had "fingered" Mumia fourteen years earlier because of police pressure and threats.

As soon as she left the witness stand, police handcuffed her and arrested her on a 1994 New Jersey bench warrant! Supporters immediately began a fundraising campaign to raise bail. At a break in the hearing, they marched to City Hall chanting, "Free Veronica, free Mumia!" She was freed on $10,000 bail the next morning.

Mumia's attorneys then filed a new appeal with the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. The appeal charged that the Philadelphia Police Department, the District Attorney's Office and Judge Albert Sabo suppressed exculpatory evidence, coerced witnesses and prejudicially compromised Mumia's constitutional right to a fair trial. The appeal also asked that Sabo himself be removed from the case. The appeal was heard before the same court that previously sent the case back to Judge Sabo to be heard on Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, a separate federal civil lawsuit was filed in Pittsburgh in which Mumia charged that prison authorities had been routinely opening mail from his attorneys, photocopying the contents and sending the copies to Gov. Ridge and other officials. On December 4, Federal District Judge Donetta Ambrose ruled in Mumia's favor on this lawsuit.

On October 30, 1998, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court denied Mumia's appeal. Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas Ridge has vowed to execute Mumia at the earliest opportunity.

April 24: A Call to Action!

In response to the Oct. 30 appeal denial, the International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal announced plans for "Millions for Mumia" marches to take place in Philadelphia and San Francisco on April 24, 1999.

April 24 is Mumia's birthday. It also marks the anniversary of the "Effective Death Penalty Act", signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. This law tightened the death penalty, making it harder for Death Row prisoners to appeal their cases. Lower court rulings must now be accepted as "truth", even in cases like Mumia's, where a judge is openly prejudiced and prosecutors are alleged to have tampered with the jury.

According to Pam Africa, spokesperson for the International Concerned Family and Friends, the act "goes right back to the Fraternal Order of Police, to Pennsylvania's congressmen, and to Sen. Bob Dole," who ran for president in 1996. "It was written directly to get Mumia... It also goes back to the president, who signed it. It's not like he doesn't know about Mumia's case. [Clinton] has gotten messages and appeals from all over the world."

Africa added, "This fight is not just for Mumia, but for our sons and daughters coming up under this law." Fighting the racist death penalty will be a major focus on April 24, she said. "We can win Mumia's case, but only if we unite to do it. You can never rely on the legal system. You can only rely on the power of the people."

On Dec. 12, over 200 people from as far away as Chicago and Minneapolis attended an International Organizers' Summit in Philadelphia initiated by Concerned Family and Friends to begin work on the April 24 marches. Mumia's lead counsel, Leonard Weinglass, gave the opening remarks.Every day counts, Africa stressed.

"In the worst-case scenario, Mumia could be executed in May," she said. "For anyone who has faith in the legal system to save him, I say you can only have faith in the people."

She said San Francisco students plan a citywide walkout April 23 to prepare for the next day's march. They hope walkouts will spread to high schools and colleges in other cities.

Momentum for the April 24 protests is building rapidly, but the task at hand is monumental. The government seems determined to murder Mumia, no matter what the facts are. While the corporate-owned media like ABC's "20/20" promote the idea that only Mumia's supporters see the case as political, the reality is that powerful forces obviously want this man executed.

The pressure has been most pronounced in Philadelphia itself. Pressure has been exerted on many institutions in the city, already renowned for its repression, to hinder any activities that would expose the frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the racist use of the death penalty and the exploitative role of the prison-industrial complex. For example:

On Dec. 9, 1998, ABC's "20/20" program did a special on Mumia, hosted by the network's star reporter Sam Donaldson. It was a set-up. The lies promoted by the FOP were presented as facts, while Mumia's supporters were depicted as naive, misinformed idealists, at best. Mumia himself was made to appear fanatical and dangerous.

ABC had earlier offered to interview Mumia, but he refused to do so in solidarity with ABC's union workers who were then locked out by the network in a labor dispute. Some 2,400 members of the National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians, an affiliate of the Communications Workers union, had been locked out by ABC since Nov. 3. The union was fighting for a new contract from the network and its union-busting parent, the Walt Disney Co. As a result of Mumia's act of solidarity with the union members, "20/20" was forced to postpone the broadcast about his case, originally scheduled for Nov. 20. "I'd rather die than cross a picket line," said Mumia. Following Mumia's lead, the People's Video Network (PVN) also refused to provide ABC with footage of recent demonstrations supporting Jamal.

Mumia is asking for one simple thing: a new trial in which he can prove his innocence. It's a simple request for justice. Instead, the government has made Mumia's case a test as to whether it has the power to execute a popular leader under the most suspicious of circumstances, in complete disregard to the opinions and legitimate concerns of the people, particularly of the Black community.Mumia's life hangs in the balance. So does the ability of the people of this country to exercise any semblance of democracy in the struggle for justice.As we fight for Mumia, we fight for ourselves.

A Call for
Millions for Mumia!
Saturday, April 24, 1999
Philadelphia & San Francisco

A NEW TRIAL FOR MUMIA IS A SIMPLE APPEAL FOR JUSTICE. The police and courts of Philadelphia, the most notorious in the U.S. for brutality and corruption, have framed an innocent and courageous journalist. Mumia Abu-Jamal is on death row awaiting execution. His case has attracted wide support among human rights activists around the world. The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court denied African American political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal for a new trial. Governor Thomas Ridge said he will sign a death warrant for Mumia Abu-Jamal's execution.The struggle for Mumia Abu-Jamal's life has become an epicenter of the people's movements trying to shake free from the widespread human rights violations that Amnesty International now documents as plaguing the entire United States (police brutality, runaway prison-building and use of the death penalty, harassment of asylum seekers and the marketing of weaponry). We dare not lose this struggle for Mumia. The time to act is now!


On Saturday, April 24th in Philadelphia, on Mumia's birthday, a massive outpouring will demand the basic right that suppressed information be heard. Together we can be a powerful force for truth. Hip hop and rap artists, international delegates, prominent political figures and religious leaders will join with tens of thousands of students and youths as well as many thousands of community activists, trade unionists and people's organizations in building a powerful mobilization in Philadelphia.We need every prominent voice, every person who is on the move for comprehensive justice and peace, people stepping out from every public sector. The sooner you sign on, the more quickly we can build this movement. Thank you!

Millions for Mumia Initiating Organizations:

The following are just some of the hundreds of organizations and individuals already endorsing the April 24 mobilization (as of 1/20/99):

Volunteers, funds & endorsements are needed now! Help bring a million people to marches in Philadelphia & San Francisco on April 24. Call, write, fax or email to:

Millions for Mumia Mobilization
39 W. 14 St., #206, NY, NY 10011
Ph: (212) 633-6646 l Fax: (212) 633-2889
email: npcny@peoplescampaign.org

813 S. 48th St., Phila., PA 19143
(215) 724-1618

(415) 821-6545 or (415) 821-0459
International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 19709, Phila., PA 19143
Ph: (215) 476-8812 | Fax: (215) 476-7551 | email: mumia@aol.com | www.mumia.org

A Job is a Right Campaign
PO Box 06053, Milwaukee, WI 53206
Ph/Fax: (414) 374-1034
ajrc@execpc.com | www.execpc.com/~ajrc

What else you can do to help:

Demand a New Trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal!


Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas Ridge
Main Capitol Bldg., Room 225,
Harrisburg, PA 17120.
Ph: (717) 787-2500
Fax (717) 783-3369 or 772-3155

Tax deductible contributions to the defense efforts may be sent to:

The Black United Fund of PA/
Mumia Abu-Jamal Account
2227 No. Broad
Philadelphia, PA 19146

To order printed copies of this pamphlet, contact:

A Job is a Right Campaign
PO Box 06053, Milwaukee, WI 53206
Phone/fax: (414) 374-1034

We are providing this pamphlet at cost: $.25 per copy, plus postage. For bulk orders over 25, please call first.

To send messages of support directly to Mumia, write:

Mumia Abu-Jamal
1040 E. Roy Furman Hwy. Waynesburg, PA 15370-8090

For more information, contact:

International Concerned Family
& Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA, 19143
Phone: (215) 476-8812
Fax: (215) 476-7551
Email: mumia@aol.com

National People's Campaign
39 West 14th St., # 206 NY, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 633-6646
Fax: (212) 633-2889

For continuing coverage of the struggle to free Mumia, subscribe to:

First Day(quarterly newspaper of MOVE)
PO Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA 19143

Workers World(weekly paper ofWorkers World Party)
55 West 17th St.
NY, NY 10011
Ph: (212) 627-2994
Fax: (212) 675-7869
E-mail: editor@wwpublish.com
Web: http://www.workers.org
($20/year; $2 for 8 weeks)

For videos about Mumia Abu-Jamal, contact the People's Video Network. PVN has over 20 videos about Mumia, including exclusive interviews filmed in prison. The videos are useful tools for organizing support, at house meetings, public forums and over cable access TV.

People's Video Network
39 West 14th St., #206
New York, N.Y. 10011
Phone: 212-633-6646
e-mail: pvnnyc@peoplesvideo.org
web site: http://www.peoplesvideo.org

Statements of Solidarity with Mumia:

A message from Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier to his supporters (Nov. 10, 1998):

"We must now live and breathe Mumia's case 24 hours a day. I want to encourage supporters to intensify the struggle for Mumia's life. I know you can stop this execution because no matter how evil a government may be, they still cannot defeat the power of the people. If we are able in unity to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, we are not only saving the life of the man who speaks for those who are not often heard and whose stories are rarely told, you are saving all of us who remain unjustly behind bars from the depths of hopelessness. Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!"

Excerpts from a statement by the Zapatista National Liberation Front on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (1998):

"What sense is there in killing to prove that killing is wrong? What sense is there to attempt to resolve one inhumane act with another? But in addition, when you blame and try to legally murder an innocent man simply because he was born Black and proud, because an election campaign in the state of Pennsylvania needed its quota of blood, is that what the U.S. hypocritically calls justice?

"We call on the people of the state of Pennsylvania, on the U.S. people and on the people of the world to reject this barbarism, and ask that men and women of good will of all lands prevent the execution of Mumia. Because if Mumia Abu-Jamal is killed, human dignity will suffer a new defeat.

"We will not allow that, comrades and sisters and brothers. Abolish the death penalty! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal now!"

Message from Secretary General Cyril Ramaphosa of the African National Congress to Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas Ridge:

"We write to urge you to use your power as governor to commute the death sentence imposed upon Mumia Abu-Jamal and in addition to allow a retrial of his case. We ask for your compassionate reconsideration of the sentence that has been imposed and that he be removed from death row and allowed to appeal his sentence."

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is the largest trade union federation inside South Africa.On May 31, 1995, the following statement to Gov. Ridge was issued by COSATU's International Relations Office:

"It is clear from the report that we received that the trial procedures were fraught with bias and prejudice...

"Our organization has struggled against all forms of racism, oppression and the use of the death sentence to silence political activists. We are therefore vehemently opposed to the death penalty on both ideological and humanitarian grounds. We urge you to grant clemency to Mumia Abu-Jamal."

[Note: On June 6, 1995, eleven judges of the newly formed supreme court in South Africa unanimously ruled to abolish the death penalty. For over seven decades, South Africa's death penalty was synonymous with political repression in its most brutal form. This is an important political concession won in the post-apartheid era by the South African masses, particularly the Black majority. Over 4,000 executions are estimated to have taken place during the apartheid period. The overwhelming majority of the victims were Black. There are now over 3,500 people on Death Row in the United States. The majority of these victims are people of color.]

This pamphlet was produced by A Job is a Right Campaign. The information was taken from a variety of sources, including the newsweekly Workers World, which has covered the case for many years. Any mistakes, however, are the sole responsibility of AJRC.

A Job is a Right Campaign is an all-volunteer organization of labor and community activists based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our members come from all communities and work together to fight racism, support unions and advance the cause of all poor and working people. AJRC was formed in January of 1994 and has grown into a regional network with members throughout Wisconsin and surrounding states.

AJRC is a member of the Wisconsin Fair Trade Campaign, the Milwaukee Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba and the National People's Campaign. AJRC is also affiliated with Workfairness, an organization of workfare workers and supporters in New York City. Along with the African American women's group Sisters By Choice and the Brew City Anti-Authoritarian Collective, AJRC was a founding member of the Milwaukee Coalition to Free Mumia.

For more information on our activities and how you can get involved, contact us at:

A Job is a Right Campaign
PO Box 06053
Milwaukee, WI 53206
Phone/Fax: 414-374-1034
email: ajrc@execpc.com
web site: http://www.execpc.com/ajrc