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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The High Court Has Spoken

Twenty-eight years ago, a young Philadelphia police officer out on patrol alone was murdered in the middle of a cold, December night. He was in the process of arresting a man who had just assaulted him, when another man walked up and shot him in the back. The police officer spun around and fired once at his attacker, hitting him in the chest. The officer then fell to the ground and stared, face-up as his assailant stood over him, put the muzzle of his revolver not inches away from the officer's face, and fired-- ending a new marriage, a budding police career, and a promising life.

Thanks, Mumia.

Twenty-eight years later, after a myriad of appeals, a dizzying array of conspiracy theories, smokescreens and fantasies, and a revolving door of defense attorneys, the United States Supreme Court has denied Mumia Abu-Jamal's request for a new trial, period. Now, barring any extraordinary new evidence, the best Jamal can hope for is to avoid the death chamber, as the Supreme Court is still reviewing whether or not to reinstate his original sentence of death.

Abu-Jamal has long asserted that he was denied a fair trial. Yet, if one reviews the original court transcripts, it's easy to realize that Jamal did everything in his power to ensure that his original trial was not fair: he interfered with court procedure, he shouted profanities at the judge, he refused to cooperate with his attorney, he was disruptive, abusive and apathetic. He had to be removed approximately eleven times, just so the trial could proceed. Blame it on youth, rage, and hormones, I guess.

Now, a wizened, graying, 54-year-old prisoner called "Pops" by his fellow inmates, the more mature and mellow Mumia is all-of-a-sudden invested in a fair trial. I wonder, if he got one, if he would wear a coat and tie and follow court procedure this time. Would he keep the "Fuck you, Judge!" outbursts to a minimum? Probably. It's too little too late, though.

The fact of the matter is that this crime was committed by a hateful, thoughtless, fearless young man-- and the behavior exhibited in the courtroom during the 1982 trial matched his street actions quite accurately. But somehow Jamal has been able to make much of the world forget his violent and callous disposition of yesteryear and lull us into complacency with his eloquent poignancy of today. It's no different than imprisoned killers who suddenly find religion-- their's or somebody else's, in jail. Mumia found an attractive persona that endears him to white and black alike, and he wears it like a comfortable sport coat.

But, sport coat or not, he won't be getting a table at the Supreme Court's restaurant.

Nevertheless, the throng of Mumia supporters will not be quelled so easily. They do not want this book closed for, once it is, what is their purpose in the world? Who will they chant for in the street? Whose name will they shout relentlessly in the ear of a tired, ostracized widow?

I'd like to say something directly to all of you supporters of this man: you have devoted significant portions of your lives to the aim of supporting Mumia Abu-Jamal, a convicted cop-killer-- a man whose appeals have been slammed and rejected time and time again. Yet, each time, you take to the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris and beyond, and cheer him on. You write leaflets and create websites and you march and you speak and you write and you give time and compassion and energy and money. You have done much for him, and have asked for nothing in return.

Well, I think it's time you start asking him for something in return.

Ask him for his version of what happened on December 9th, 1981, between 3:50am and 3:52am.

Go ahead. Ask.

He's never volunteered the information, you know. Not once has he ever explained in detail his own actions and whereabouts during those critical two minutes-- two minutes that I am certain he remembers very, very well-- even after twenty-eight years. Maybe he hasn't described the events of that night because none of his supporters have asked him to. Well, no time like the present. The "Free Mumia Abu-Jamal" website even encourages you to contact him.

I think it's a great idea, too.

Mumia Abu-Jamal
AM 8335SCI-Greene
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370

Go ahead and drop him a line. He certainly has plenty of time to answer your letters now.

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