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An Intro To Mumia

Mumia Abu-Jamal was named by Philadelphia magazine as one of its “81 people to watch in 1981.” At the time of his arrest, he was a prominent radio journalist and president of the local chapter of the Association of Black Journalists.

But Mumia was also a strident critic of Philadelphia’s racist police force. Already at age 16 he was minister of information for the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. Later his writings and broadcasts skewered the cops for their 1978 attacks on the local MOVE organization - attacks that culminated in the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE house with police killing six adults and five children and burning down 61 homes in the area.

One evening in 1981 when Mumia was moonlighting as a cab driver, he came upon a cop beating a Black motorist, a scene not uncommon in Philadelphia. Only this time the man being beaten was Mumia’s brother.

All accounts of what happened next agree on two points: The street was full of people as the bars had just closed when Mumia ran to his brother’s defense. And after the ensuring conflict, Mumia was sitting on the curb shot in the body, his brother was bleeding from the face, and the cop lay dead.

When more cops arrived at the scene, Mumia was beaten by police. He was beaten again at the hospital. And when he regained consciousness in excruciating pain, a grinning cop was standing on a plastic bag at the foot of his bed, forcing urine back into his body.

When prosecutors realized that they had the well-known radical and anti-cop journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, a “special brand of justice” kicked in. Mumia was not allowed to defend himself, and he was even barred from the courtroom for most of his own trial. His incompetent attorney has subsequently been disbarred.

Police reports said that Mumia made no statements the night they shot him. But when Mumia filed police abuse charges for being beaten at the hospital, the cops “suddenly remembered” that Mumia had “confessed” to killing the officer that night.

Mumia has always maintained that he did not kill the cop, and a number of witnesses blamed another man who fled the scene.

The police were unable to match bullets taken from the slain cop with Mumia’s gun, but he was quickly convicted nonetheless. The prosecution had used 11 preemptory challenges to remove almost all African-Americans from the jury.

At Mumia’s sentencing, the political character of his prosecution stood naked. Prosecutors argued for the death penalty by reciting his history in the Black Panthers and quoting his political writings. Mumia was to be put to death for consorting with radicals and upholding revolution.

In a different case involving a white supremacist, the U. S. Supreme Court held that political associations could not be used to argue for the death penalty, but in the case of Mumia the Supreme Court has refused to hear his appeal.

Like other political prisoners in other countries, Mumia sits on death row because of who he is and the political views he advocates. He exposes police brutality and racism and stands with revolutionary peoples throughout the world.

The following are two of many commentaries he has made. IMPACT will be printing more in future issues. Support Mumia!

DEATH: The Poor's 'Prerogative'? by Mumia Abu-Jamal

“That’s what ‘capital punishment’ really means - those that ain’t got the capital, get the punishment” is the old saying.

Once again we see the inherent truths that lie in the proverbs of the poor.

That old saying echoed when it was announced that the District Attorney of Delaware County, Patrick Meehan, would “not” seek the death penalty in the case of John E. DuPont, the wealthy corporate heir charged with the shooting death of Olympic champion David Schultz. The Delaware Co. D.A.’s office said no aggravated circumstance justifying the death sentence existed!

Could it be that DuPont’s personal wealth, estimated at over $400 million, was a factor? In one fell swoop, the state insured that while millionaires may be murderers, they are not eligible for that preserve of the poor, America’s death row.

As the case of O.J. Simpson showed us, the state is very selective in who it chooses to include in its macabre club of death. O.J., a “bona fide” celebrity, corporate pitchman, sports legend, and millionaire, was deemed, even though a suspect in a double-murder, not “fit” for a death sentence.

So, whether or not one is of the opinion that Mr. Simpson was either innocent or guilty, the point remains that before the trial actually began, the D.A. of Los Angeles decided - no death penalty for O.J.!

Millionaires need not apply. As it was for Mr. Simpson, so it was for Mr. DuPont.

Simpson’s wealth, compared to DuPont’s, makes him look like a pauper.

As for DuPont, consider, if you will, the incredible spectacle of the D.A., with all the identical facts, announcing he (or she) would “not” be seeking the death penalty, if DuPont was “the victim”.

I’m sure we can all agree that would be impossible.

Any poor man who slays a wealthy man will have the weight of the system fall on him like a ton of bricks; for a wealthy man, however, who finds himself charged with killing a poor man, the system becomes user-friendly .

Why should this be so? It’s because the system serves the interests of the wealthy - it is “their” system!

In essence, when a poor person comes before the court he or she faces two things: the ‘offense’; and being poor.

I am not suggesting that Mr. DuPont, or anyone else, for that matter, should be sentenced to death. I am just noting how and why the death sentence is reserved for some, and off limits to others.

The death sentence remains a ‘prerogative’ of the poor.

From Death Row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

A Bright, Shining Hell by Mumia Abu-Jamal


Imagine living, eating, sleeping, relieving oneself, daydreaming, weeping — but mostly waiting, in a room about the size of your bathroom.

Now imagine doing all those things — but mostly waiting, for the rest of your life.

Imagine waiting — waiting — waiting — to die.

I don’t have to imagine.

I “live” in one of those rooms, like about 3,000 other men and women in 38 states across the United States.

It’s called “Death Row”.

I call it “hell”

Welcome to “Hell”.

Each of the states which have death rows have a different system for their “execution cases”, varying from the relatively open to the severely restrictive.

Some states, like California and Texas allow their execution cases work, education and or religious service opportunities, for out of cell time up to 8 hours a day.

Pennsylvania locks its “execution cases” down 23 hours a day, 5 days a week; 24 hours the other two days.

At the risk of quoting Mephistopheles, I repeat:

Welcome to hell.

A hell erected and maintained by human governments, and blessed by black-robed judges.

A hell which allows you to see your loved ones, but not to touch them.

A hell situated in America’s boondocks, hundreds of miles away from most families.

A white, rural hell, where most of the caged captives are Black and urban.

It is the American way of death.

Contrary to what one might suppose, this hell is the easiest one to enter in a generally hellish criminal justice system. Why? Because, unlike any other case, those deemed potential capital cases are severely restricted during the jury selection phase, as any juror who admits opposition to the death penalty is immediately removed, leaving only those who are fervent death penalty supporters in the pool of eligible jurors.

When it was argued that to exclude those who opposed death, and to include only those who supported death, was fundamentally unfair, as the latter were more “conviction-prone”, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case titled Lockhart v.McCree, said such a claim was of no constitutional significance.

Once upon a time, politicians promised jobs and benefits to constituents, like “a chicken in every pot”, to get elected.

It was a sure-fire vote getter.

No longer.

Today the lowest level politico up to the president use another sure-fire gimmick to guarantee victory.


Promise death, and the election is yours.



A “Vote for Hell” in the “Land of Liberty”, with its over one million prisoners, is the ticket to victory.

From Death Row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Back to April/May 1997 issue