by Linn Washington Jr. | 10.24.2012
Much is rightly made of the `maverick' character of former Pennsylvania
U.S. Senator Arlen Specter in obituaries and other media coverage since
his recent death.
That maverick streak certainly animated Specter's December 2010 Farewell
Speech from the Senate where he criticized the lack of civility
currently rampant in that body plus assailed both political parties for
perpetuating legislative gridlock and abuses of Senate rules.
Missing from this coverage, however, is any mention of a proper but unpopular position former prosecutor Specter took on the most contentious murder case in the history of the city where he lived Philadelphia.
In July 1995 Specter bucked Philadelphia's legal and political establishment of by criticizing the judge then handling a pivotal appeal hearing for Mumia Abu-Jamal charging that jurist with crippling proper court procedure by unfairly rushing that hearing. Specter offered this unusual criticism in an equally unusual forum: a speech before the Republican National Committee.
Specter, a former Philadelphia District Attorney, said the undo haste of Judge Albert Sabo to push that appeal hearing, refusing to allow Abu-Jamal's defense team adequate time to prepare, was wrong. Specter, speaking to persons normally callous to murder defendants receiving constitutionally mandated rights, said "once the judge says he is entitled to a hearing, it has to be a realistic hearing and a meaningful hearing and a hearing that has adequate time for preparation."
Sabo's rights robbing rush in 1995 also received strong and unusual criticism from Philadelphia's normally anti-Abu-Jamal news media. Additionally, national and international news media assailed the biased courtroom behavior of the publicly pro-prosecution Sabo. Sabo rejected Abu-Jamal's request for a new trial, brushing aside the fairness urgings of Senator Specter and the news media.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, three years later, upheld Sabo's ruling. That Court's ruling curtly dismissed widespread media documentation of Sabo's misbehaviors supplied by Abu-Jamal's defense with the specious contention that the opinions of a "handful of journalists" did not convince the court that Sabo acted improperly.
The officials in the French city that recently named a street in honor of Abu-Jamal cited the mistreatment meted to the activist/journalist by American courts. "What is happening to Mumia Abu-Jamal is a blatant injustice," Bobigny Mayor Catherine Peyge said during her remarks at the naming ceremony for Rue Mumia Abu-Jamal held on Saturday October 13. "Bobigny is fighting for respect and justice for Abu-Jamal and others," Mayor Peyge said about her city located six miles from the center of Paris.
The violations of Abu-Jamal's courtroom rights criticized by Senator Specter convince millions around the world that Abu-Jamal is a political prisoner. Abu-Jamal is now serving a life-without-parole sentence in Pennsylvaniasince his removal from death row in December 2011 resulting from federal courts eliminating his death sentence due to jury instruction errors by Judge Sabo during Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial.
That Bobigny street-naming, the second in a Parissuburb for Abu-Jamal, resulted from ten years of efforts by officials in Bobigny including the construction of a new street. Rue Mumia intersects a major artery in Bobigny named after a famous French author/journalist from the early 20^th Century. Bobigny and Paris are among the number of city's worldwide that have extended honorary citizen stature to Abu-Jamal whose been incarcerated since his arrest on December 9, 1981. Weeks ago Republican Party national officials seized Abu-Jamal for the center piece of a Willie Horton-style dirty politics offensive in a suburban Philadelphia congressional race.
GOP officials unleashed a smear campaign against a Democratic challenging incumbent GOP Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick castigating that candidate as "radical" because her lawyer husband helped "cop killer" Abu-Jamal. That candidate's husband had represented a witness during a 1996 court proceeding where that witness recanted testimony given during Abu-Jamal's original trial. That witness said police pressure forced her to lie during the trial. Fitzpatrick is the congressman who initiated the resolution Congress passed in 2006 condemning the Parissuburb city of St Denisfor naming a street honoring Abu-Jamal that year. The process Congress used to approve Fitzpatrick's resolution violated congressional rules triggering a few congressmen, like John Conyers of Detroit, to denounce that approval process.
Fitzpatrick's resolution also contained glaring factual errors. That resolution, for example, declared Abu-Jamal struck the slain policeman "four times in the back with his gun" a declaration contained in no official police report or apart of evidence prosecutors presented during Abu-Jamal's trial. Other errors in that resolution included the proclamation that the gun Abu-Jamal used in the murder was found in his "hand" despite official records stating police recovered a gun registered to Abu-Jamal from a sidewalk.
That handgun, incidentally, did not contained Abu-Jamal's fingerprints and mysteriously police claimed they did not perform standard gunshot residue tests to determine if Abu-Jamal had fired a gun when Officer Daniel Faulkner was killed. Bobigny Mayor Peyge, during that street naming ceremony, dedicated herself and her city to the "long fight" to free Abu-Jamal. Peyge said she hoped naming that street for Abu-Jamal would help "open a way to fair justice."
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition,
NYC P.O. Box 16, College Station, NY, NY 10030
212-330-8029 , www.FreeMumia.com, info@FreeMumia.com