For Immediate Release: October 24, 2018
Contact: Pam Africa, 267-760-7344, Dr. Suzanne Ross, 917-584-2135, Joe Piette, 610-931-2615
WHAT: Press conference
DATE AND TIME: Thursday, October 25, 11 AM
WHERE: DA Krasner’s office, THREE PENN PLAZA
SPEAKERS: Journalist, Linn Washington; Rev. Renee McKenzie, Church of the Advocate; Attorney Leon Williams; Basym Hasan, Prison activist, PA Prison Society; Pam Africa, MOVE Organization and the Uncompromising International Concerned Family and Friends of MAJ, Dr. Anthony Monteiro, Dr. Suzanne Ross
WHY: A letter about the legal proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal will be delivered to Krasner during the Press Conference. Listed among the signers are NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD, ALICE WALKER, NOAM CHOMSKY, CORNEL WEST, NOTED HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEYS KATHLEEN CLEAVER and SOFFIYAH ELIJAH, THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF BLACK LAWYERS (Michigan Chapter), the INTERNATIONAL DOCKWORKERS COUNCIL, and many others. (Complete List of Signers in separate document.)
The letter asserts that Abu-Jamal should be granted a new appeals process. Abu-Jamal, an internationally renowned Black political prisoner, former writer and activist in the Black Panther Party, award winning journalist and writer who has published 10 books while in prison, and a MOVE supporter who has spent almost 37 years in prison, the majority of them in isolation on death row is being denied that opportunity by DA Larry Krasner. The signers are demanding that Krasner stop insisting, preposterously, that Ronald Castille was not significantly involved in Abu-Jamal’s case. Furthermore, the signers demand that Krasner drop his battle to close off the possibility for Abu-Jamal to win a new appeals process in the Court of Common Pleas (CCP).
LEGAL ARGUMENTS: The current court battle is based on a new legal action Abu-Jamal filed in the CCP on August 7, 2016 to reopen the appeal of his conviction. A new appeal could lead to Abu-Jamal’s freedom. Abu-Jamal’s argument is that Castille should have recused himself when Abu-Jamal’s case came before him in the PA Supreme Court since he had also been involved in the same case as a DA. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys twice asked for Castille to recuse himself, in 1996 and in 2002, but Castille refused both times claiming he could be fair, had no conflict of interest and, again, absurdly that he had no direct knowledge of Abu-Jama’s case. Now, however, the recent US Supreme Court ruling in Williams v. Pennsylvania, where like in Mumia’s case, Justice Castille had been both a DA in the case and later a Supreme Court Justice, and did not recuse himself, there has been a US Supreme precedent-setting US Supreme Court ruling that Castille should have recused himself in the Williams’ case. This obviously provides a strong basis for reopening Abu-Jamal’s case as well since there are many similarities between the cases on this issue.
For almost a year, since Larry Krasner became the District Attorney of Philadelphia in January 2018, we have witnessed an unending charade of actions and statements on the part of the DA’s office aimed at creating an image of his office as making an earnest attempt to conduct an assessment of Ronald Castille’s involvement in Abu-Jamal’s case. With a pretense of regret, the DA’s office keeps claiming they have found nothing that would indicate Castille’s involvement
It is hard to assess the presence or absence of such documentation as these documents are not open for examination by Abu-Jamal supporters. It is possible that the potentially incriminating documents are not there, that they may have ‘disappeared’ or been destroyed through the work of Abu-Jamal enemies in the court system. But regardless of those documents, some documents that are open to everyone have emerged which are clear evidence of Castille’s involvement. Still, Krasner’s office is doing everything possible to minimize their importance and, therefore, invalidate the argument that they, in addition to all the other logical indications of Castille’s engagement in the conviction and sentence of Abu-Jamal, should call for a new appeals process.
In October 2017, months before Krasner became the DA, a letter from DA Castille written on June 15, 1990 to Governor Casey urged the governor to issue death warrants in Philadelphia capital cases where the appeals process was complete. “I urge you to send a clear and dramatic message to all police killers that the death penalty actually means something.” There were three “police killers” on PA’s death row at the time, with Abu-Jamal being one of them. This letter clearly points to targeting of Abu-Jamal along with two other “police killers”.
Recently, there has been more evidence pointing to Castille’s active involvement in Abu-Jamal’s case. It has been established that Castille personally added the “police killers” phrase to a draft of the letter written by his assistant. Also, there is evidence of Castille communicating with a virulently pro-death penalty state legislator pushing for the death warrant. All this in addition to Castille’s public and virulent advocacy for execution of those convicted of homicide, especially “police killers”, of his support from and to the FOP, and of his frequent bragging of these ‘accomplishments’.
Yet, shamelessly, on August 30th Krasner’s office argued as vehemently as his predecessors had, all FOP allies, in the 90’s, against any iota of justice for Abu-Jamal. The DA office’s position is that Abu-Jamal’s petition to reopen the appeal process “should be denied without further discovery and without evidentiary hearing”
The letter signers’ position is that the documentary proof, described above, meets the Williams (v. PA) standard that Abu-Jamal’s state court appeal denials should be vacated because of Judge Castille’s extreme bias, conflict of interest, and lack of any semblance of judicial neutrality.