Government Targets Mumia for Death: Outrageous New Court Ruling



yet another step in the government’s plan to railroad Mumia Abu-Jamal into the

death chamber, a federal court has refused to take testimony from a man named

Arnold Beverly, who has come forward to state that he is the person who actually

shot Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. A man has come forward to say that

he committed the crime, and Federal District Judge William H. Yohn will not even

listen to what he has to say.


anything were to happen to Beverly before he can come to court, his testimony

would now be lost. The purpose in requesting his deposition was to protect that

testimony for the record. A deposition is much like the appearance of a witness

in court. The witness is sworn in, is questioned by both sides, and his

testimony is recorded. Such a deposition can later be used in court if the

witness is unavailable.


denying Mumia’s request to depose Beverly, the July 19 federal court decision

went far beyond a simple “No.” Judge Yohn took the occasion to write a 12-page

lecture on how the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act will be

used to block virtually every avenue of appeal by Mumia.


a man’s life is on the line—especially a revolutionary who represents the

aspirations of the people—the courts have a moral obligation to hear any and all

evidence that might support his case. The people must now demand that they do

just that.



the Effective Death Penalty Act Against Mumia


denying Mumia’s request, the federal court repeatedly cited the 1996 Effective

Death Penalty Act, a law whose very purpose was to cut off the ability of

persons wrongfully convicted in the state courts to seek justice through the

federal courts.


the court were truly interested in justice, wouldn’t it want to hear a witness

like Beverly? Wouldn’t the law make it easy for that to happen? On the TV show

Law & Order we are told every week that the District Attorney doesn’t just try

to convict, he seeks the truth. But is that what happened here? No. The

Philadelphia DA strongly opposed deposing Beverly. This is the DA who had told

the press that Beverly’s statement was ridiculous. Now when given an opportunity

to cross examine him under oath and “expose” him, this same DA said “no way.” In

agreeing to this, the federal court gave the Pennsylvania prosecutors exactly

what they wanted, and much more.


court went out of its way to list every conceivable reason why the testimony of

Beverly should not be recorded. The decision listed all the various ways that

the Effective Death Penalty Act applied, even speaking to issues that had not

been raised. Why? Because the court is sending a message to Mumia, to his

lawyers, and to the people, that it is deadly serious in seeking to execute

Mumia and it intends to apply the Effective Death Penalty Act in the strictest

manner to this case—knowing full well that the purpose of that law is to prevent

appeals and speed up executions.


court’s decision threw everything except the kitchen sink at Mumia’s request.

The court said that Mumia had not shown “good cause” to take a deposition of

Beverly. It said that Mumia was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on

Beverly, therefore he could not be deposed. It said that Beverly’s testimony

(which contradicts claims of prosecution witnesses) was not relevant to any

constitutional claims made by Mumia. It said that the time deadline for raising

the Beverly testimony was past. It said that the state courts had to rule first

on the Beverly testimony. And it said that Beverly’s testimony would not have

influenced a jury to acquit Mumia anyhow.


the court got the heart of the issue by saying that the Beverly testimony points

to “a potential claim of actual innocence.” Citing the infamous Herrera decision

of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, Judge Yohn stated that “such a claim, absent

an independent constitutional violation, may not be the subject of a federal

habeas petition.” What he is saying is this: Don’t even think about claiming

that Mumia is innocent in this court, because the Supreme Court has ruled that

actual innocence is not an issue for the federal courts to review.

Almost 100 people have now been freed from death row in the United States after

it was shown that they were innocent. This has required enormous effort by

attorneys, journalists, students, and activists, because the federal courts

increasingly refuse to protect the innocent. As Chief Justice Renquist wrote in

the Herrera decision: “In criminal cases, the [state] trial is the paramount

event for determining the defendant’s guilty or innocence. . . . Federal courts

do not sit to correct errors of fact, but to ensure that individuals are not

imprisoned in violation of the Constitution.”

Finally, in a most revealing move, Judge Yohn added that the Pennsylvania state

courts also ought to reject the Beverly testimony, even going so far as to

suggest to the Pennsylvania courts what sections of Pennsylvania law they should

cite in rejecting Mumia’s petition. Here the federal court is simply giving the

green light in advance to the state courts to block any testimony by Beverly.



Mumia’s Fight to a Whole New Level


this shows once again the seriousness of this struggle, and the fact that we can

never depend on the courts for justice. It brings home in sharp terms just how

determined this government is to take Mumia’s life, and the sort of struggle

that it’s actually going to take to stop them and to free Mumia. It will require

a movement that presents this government with a political situation where they

stand to lose far more in trying to carry out their vicious execution plans than

they could ever hope to gain.


ruling class of this country has made it clear that the expanded use of the

death penalty is a big part of their whole political agenda. It is an instrument

of their dictatorship.  It was hailed by both Bush and Gore in the last

election. But that does not mean that they cannot be defeated. The system is

vicious, but it is also vulnerable. Everywhere people are rising up against them

from youth battling the police in Genoa, to the Philly Freedom Summer in the

streets of Philadelphia, to the high schools and colleges fighting to hear Mumia

at their graduations, to the prominent people and foreign governments demanding

justice in this case.

Speaking to the Mumia mobilizations on May 12, I said it will require us “to

raise the specter of determined resistance, that combines our rich social

diversity with the audacity of the youth in a movement that will never step back

from the challenge that is before us.” Now we must make good on that challenge.

Stop the Execution! Overturn the Conviction! Free Mumia!




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