Just days before the thirtieth anniversary of his conviction, Mumia Abu-Jamal is being spared the death penalty after the district attorney in Philadelphia announced Wednesday that prosecutors will no longer be pursuing that sentence.
Abu-Jamal, rallied world-wide as a victim of an unjust American legal system, has been on death row since being sentenced to execution in the summer of 1982. The previous December he was convicted of murdering a police officer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, though the case and the subsequent sentencing has been of great debate across the globe in the decades that followed.
On Wednesday morning, District Attorney Seth Williams announced that prosecutors will no longer be going after the death penalty, instead accepting a term of life in prison without parole. Having recently turned 58, Abu-Jamal has spent most of his life behind bars awaiting death. In a metropolitan city divided by inequality and racial bias, many say that a witch hunt against African American militants led to Mumia, a former Black Panther, journalist and known political revolutionary, landing on death row for killing a white cop through a flawed trial.
“It’s not a question of whether or not he is on death penalty, it’s not a question even of guilt or innocence, it’s a question of the United States through its apparatus, the FBI, and other state, federal, local agencies, targeting, surveying , attacking political activists, movement people, targeting them for their political work,” political activist Naji Mujahid tells RT.
Filmmaker Johanna Fernandez adds to RT that “Fifteen of the police officers involved in collecting evidence in Mumia’s trial were later charged with corruption and tampering with evidence to obtain a conviction.”
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals said earlier this year that the death sentence should be abandoned, citing that the instructions to the jury during the trial were unclear. In October, the US Supreme Court rejected the prosecution’s plea to go after the death penalty nearly 30 years after it was first dished out, forcing prosecutors to decide if they wanted to fight once more for his execution through a new hearing almost three decades after it was first handed out on Abu-Jamal or settle with a life sentence. On Wednesday, DA Williams said that they would be opting for the latter.
Now spared the electric chair, Abu-Jamal is expected to spend the rest of his life in the SGI Green facility in Pennsylvania. To his supporters, however, this change, while positive, exposes the illegalities of the system that has taken decades of freedom from Mumia and that a release from prison altogether should follow.
“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 — yet another form of death sentence,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes in a press release Wednesday morning. “Based on even a minimal following of international human rights standards, Mumia must now be released. I therefore join the call, and ask others to follow, asking District Attorney Seth Williams to rise to the challenge of reconciliation, human rights, and justice: drop this case now, and allow Mumia Abu-Jamal to be immediately released, with full time served.”
A rally in support of Mumia already scheduled for Friday, December 9, will continue as planned in his hometown of Philadelphia, PA. The event, marking 30 years to the day since his conviction, will include appearances by supporters including Dr. Cornel West and rapper Immortal Technique, among others.