Below is a new update from Mu+mia's lawyer. There is nothing new from
the Third Circuit regarding their decision following the May 17 oral
arguments. However, Robert R. Bryan has filed another brief on 2
different issues with the State Supreme Court. This is an appeal of a
2005 decision by Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe in the Philadelphia Court of
Common Pleas, described here by Michael Schiffmann:
Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal
This link is for the PDF of the brief:
(From Robert R.Bryan)
On May 17, 2007, we presented oral argument in the U.S. Court of Appeal
of the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Abu-Jamal v. Horn, U.S. Court of Appeals Nos. 01-9014, 02-9001 (death
penalty). It was an extraordinary day in my experience of three decades
of death penalty litigation. This was certainly the most promising legal
proceeding since the arrest of my client over 25 years ago. At last
there is light at the end of the tunnel. Even though there is no way to
know when or how the federal court will rule, the three-judge panel’s
numerous questions certainly reflected their concern about what the
prosecution had done wrong. A decision could be forthcoming anytime
from mid-July to the fall.
It was encouraging to see the courtroom packed with supporters for my
client. A large crowd also waited outside during the hearing. There were
international observers from various countries including France, and a
prominent human rights lawyer from Berlin who is also a member of the
The focus of the federal court was on issues concerning the death
penalty, misrepresentations by the prosecutor in his argument to the
jury, and his racism in jury selection. The atmosphere was far different
than previously experienced in this case, as reflected by the judges'
overriding concern regarding misconduct by the prosecution. Early on one
judge asked opposing counsel in reference to the prosecutor’s
misrepresentations to the jury during the 1982 trial: “Isn't that a
denial of one of the rights secured by the Bill of Rights?” I therefore
concluded the hearing by pointing out that even though it is judicially
recognized that the Philadelphia District Attorney employed racism in
cases both before and after that of Mr. Abu-Jamal, can anyone seriously
believe that racism was not at work in this case involving an outspoken
journalist who was a former member of the Black Panther Party and a
supporter of MOVE's right to exist.
Even though Mr. Abu-Jamal began writing me in 1986, it was not until
2003 that I was finally able to agree to take over as lead counsel.
Since then my focus has been on raising his level of credibility,
convincing courts to give serious consideration to the many
constitutional violations what have occurred in this complex case, and
overcoming the errors of the past case lawyers. To date we have been
largely successful. Interestingly, every motion I have filed since
briefing was ordered federally has been granted.
Oral argument aimed to calmly and candidly dealing with the questions
and concerns of the judges. It was not a time for political speeches or
emotional-type arguments which I have successfully made before juries in
countless murder cases. All possible arguments with supporting legal
authority were previously made in our extensive written briefs.
Supporting us with excellent briefs and argument was the NAACP's Legal
Defense Fund, and the National Lawyers Guild, both of whom I brought
into the case some years ago.
People frequently ask what can happen now. The federal court's choices
involve various scenarios. These include remanding the case back to the
U.S. District Court for further hearings, or granting an entirely new
trial, or ordering a new jury trial limited to the penalty issue of life
or death, or denying all relief with the case headed towards an
execution. Our objective is a reversal of the conviction and death
sentence, and the granting of a new trial.
The primary problem we have experienced in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case, in
additional to prosecution misconduct and racism, has been mistakes made
by prior counsel ranging from not pursing an adequate investigation to
failing to raise certain fundamental issues, e.g., judicial bias at
trial. This has been evident in the federal appeal, accentuated by some
of the judges’ questions on May 17. We have taken all possible steps to
overcome these shortcomings.
The issues in the case of Mr. Abu-Jamal concern the right to a fair
trial, the struggle against the death penalty, and the political
repression of an outspoken journalist. Racism and politics are threads
that have run through this case since his 1981 arrest. The issues under
consideration, all of great constitutional significance, are:
-Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied the right to due process of law and a
fair trial under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution because of the prosecutor’s “appeal-after-appeal” argument
which encouraged the jury to disregard the presumption of innocence and
reasonable doubt, and err on the side of guilt.
-Whether the prosecution’s use of peremptory challenges to exclude
African Americans from sitting on the jury violated Mr. Abu-Jamal’s
rights to due process and equal protection of the law under the Sixth
and Fourteenth Amendments, and contravened Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S.
-Whether the jury instructions and verdict form that resulted in the
death penalty deprived Mr. Abu-Jamal of rights guaranteed by the Eight
and Fourteenth Amendments to due process of law, equal protection of the
law, and not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and
violated Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367 (1988), since the judge
precluded the jurors from considering any mitigating evidence unless
they all agreed on the existence of a particular circumstance.
-Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied due process and equal protection of
the law under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments during post-conviction
hearings as the result of the bias and racism of Judge Albert F. Sabo
which included the comment that he was “going to help'em fry the
It is a pleasure to announce that we are once more engaged in briefing
before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. On June 1, 2007, we filed on
behalf of Mr. Abu-Jamal the opening Brief for Appellant. Commonwealth v.
Abu-Jamal, Pa. Sup. Ct. No. 485, Capital Appeals Div. (death penalty).
The issues presented include the prosecution falsely manipulating
eyewitness testimony, and its use of fabricated evidence. There are
procedural problems which occurred before I entered the case, these are
issues of such constitutional importance that they must be aggressively
pursued. A copy of our brief is attached.
I am in this case to win a new and fair trial for Mr. Abu-Jamal. That is
his and my wish. The goal is for his freedom following a retrial.
Nevertheless, Mr. Abu-Jamal remains in great danger. If all is lost, he
will be executed.
Your interest in this struggle for human rights and against the death
penalty is appreciated.
Yours very truly,
Robert R. Bryan
[Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117]
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal