YORK - February 17 - Amnesty
International today called for a new trial in the case of Mumia Abu
Jamal on the basis that his original trial was deeply flawed.
"This is not
about an issue affecting the life of just one man. This is about justice
-- which affects us all. And justice, in this case, can only be served
by a new trial," Amnesty International said.
After many years
of monitoring the case and an exhaustive review of the original documents,
Amnesty International has concluded that the proceedings under which
Mumia Abu-Jamal was tried, convicted and sentenced to death fail to
reach the minimum international standards for fair trials.
has chosen this moment to publish the results of their painstaking
review of the case because Abu-Jamal's life and the fairness of the
judicial system are now, more than ever, in the balance," the organization
Without a new
trial, the federal courts are Mumia Abu-Jamal's final opportunity
to have many of the troubling issues in his case addressed. However,
the 1996 Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act severely limit
the federal courts' ability to guarantee a defendants' rights.
fears the act has increased the number of executions that were in
violation of international laws and standards governing the use of
the death penalty.
is also alarmed that the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Officers
is actively campaigning for the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
and their representatives should be impartial enforcers of the law.
Amnesty International understands the anguish officers must feel when
a fellow officer dies in the line of duty but their attempt to pressure
the judicial system to execute Mumia Abu-Jamal is inappropriate,"
the organization stressed.
illustrates broader problems in the judicial system, particularly
those that involve the administration of the death penalty.
"Given the contradictory
and incomplete evidence in the trial transcript, Amnesty International
cannot take a position on Abu-Jamal's guilt or innocence," Amnesty
International said. "In calling for a new trial we are not ignoring
the pain of the relatives and colleagues of Officer Daniel Faulkner,
for whom we have the greatest sympathy."
Mumia Abu-Jamal's inadequate legal representation at his 1982 trial,
the fact that the judge appeared more concerned with expediting the
trial than with ensuring justice, the politisation of the judicial
process, and the possible bias of the appeal courts has lead Amnesty
International to conclude that only a new and fair trial could prevent
the execution of a man who has not been proved guilty in a fair trial,"
Amnesty International stressed.
of Mumia Abu-Jamal was built upon three pillars:
and an alleged
confession by the accused. After a thorough study of original trial
documents, Amnesty International has determined that the veracity
of each of these three pillars is in sufficient doubt to make a new
ĚThe three prosecution eyewitnesses substantively altered their description
of what they saw between their original statements to police and their
were confused and unclear about the height of the shooter, what clothes
he was wearing, in which hand he held the gun, and whether he ran
away from the scene.
confession, reportedly crucial to the jury's decision and sentencing,
was first reported more than two months after the shooting.
confession directly contradicted the contemporaneous notes of one
of the alleged witnesses to the confession (a police officer) that
"the negro male made no comments." This evidence was not put before
ĚThere is also
evidence that witnesses were offered inducements to alter their testimony
in favour of the prosecution's
version of events.
This evidence was not put before the jury.
ĚLack of adequate
ballistic tests to determine whether Abu-Jamal's gun had recently
been fired. It was not determined, for instance, whether there was
residue on his hands from firing a gun.
information and background
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a
violation of human rights. The organization is therefore calling for
a new trial in which should preclude the re-imposition of a death
black, was convicted and sentenced to death in July 1982 for the murder
of white police officer Daniel Faulkner on 9 December 1981. He has
consistently maintained his innocence.
can take no position on the guilt or innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The organization has expressed concern however, over the activities
of a government counter-intelligence programme which appeared to list
Abu Jamal among its targets. Amnesty International is also concerned
that political statements attributed to him as a teenager were improperly
used by the prosecution in its efforts to obtain a death sentence
A Life in the Balance - The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a new Amnesty
International report, highlights inadequate legal representation, legal
proceedings that fail to reach minimum international standards for fair
trials, and possible bias of the appeal courts