Mumia supporters’ demand to DA: Release the files!
AUTODIDACT 17 | 6/22/2017, 11:45 a.m.
Supporters from “The Mobilization for Mumia” converged at the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, (3 South Penn Square) on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 30, to pressure them to comply with a recent court order instructing them to release all files pertaining to former DA Ron Castille’s handling of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeals by May 30. Simultaneously, they also were demanding the release of all the files of 16 other Philadelphia defendants whose cases were also heard April 24, 2017, by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker, to determine if the ruling applied to their cases.
Their demands are based on the recent landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Williams v. Pennsylvania, in which the court ruled that “it is a violation of due process for a judge to rule on a case in which he/she had prior personal involvement as prosecutor.”
Castille was an assistant Philadelphia DA during Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial, and was the DA when his office opposed Abu-Jamal’s 1988 appeal. Therefore, Mumia’s attorneys argue, he should have recused himself.
“The current battle for accountability in the Philly DA’s office is bound up in what happened in the Court of Common Pleas when 17 defendants, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, presented the same claim to Judge Leon Tucker,” explained Dr. Johanna Fernández, Baruch College historian. “Each defendant argued separately that Castille played the role of prosecutor and judge in each of their cases—a conflict of interest and violation of the Constitution.”
Mumia attorney, Rachel Wolkenstein, optimistically laid out how, if her client wins, “the entire PA Supreme Court Appeals process would be voided and a new trial, or Mumia’s release, could be granted.”
Because of the Philadelphia district attorneys’ well-documented history of corruption, Mumia’s supporters say that the suppression of evidence is a common practice by them.
On April 28, Tucker ordered the Philadelphia DA’s office to release all records regarding Castille’s involvement in Mumia’s case within 30 days. By the May 30 deadline, they failed to comply with the judge’s order, only releasing documents that were already public records.
Of concern to the system is that if Abu-Jamal is victorious. it would open the door to hundreds of similar cases to follow suit, and pursue charges against former prosecutors who later also reviewed the same cases when they became judges.
“These cases were eclipsed in recent mainstream debates because they threaten to deepen the crisis of legitimacy in the Philly DA’s office,” Fernandez contended. “It’s far more expedient to focus on Seth Williams’ petty corruption, than to open a Pandora’s box: In addition to the specific legal violation that brought these defendants to court, their cases are rife with suppression of evidence by Philly prosecutors.”
Ardent Abu-Jamal supporter, Sister Pam Africa, added, “If we are not vigilant, the long history of corruption and suppression of evidence in the Philadelphia DA’s office could stand in the way of Mumia’s files from seeing the light of day. We need to keep the pressure on the DA’s office and demand that they release all of Mumia’s files immediately!”
Supporters are asked to call First Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Martin at 215-686-8000.
For more information, email Mobilization4Mumia@gmail.com or call 215-724-1618.