Spartacist Canada No. 170

Fall 2011


New Move to Reinstate Death Sentence for Mumia

The following article is reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 984 (5 August), newspaper of the Spartacist League/U.S.

The Philadelphia district attorney’s office recently petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the death sentence for black political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. The D.A. is seeking to reverse an April 26 ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which for the second time upheld a 2001 decision by District Court judge William Yohn overturning the sentence on the grounds of faulty jury instructions (see “Federal Appeals Court Orders New Sentencing Hearing,” WV No. 980, 13 May). Yohn simultaneously upheld every aspect of the frame-up conviction that sent Mumia—a former Black Panther Party spokesman and later a MOVE supporter and award-winning journalist—to death row on false charges of killing Philly police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. From top to bottom, the courts have repeatedly refused to hear the overwhelming evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including Arnold Beverly’s confession that he was Faulkner’s killer.

The D.A.’s petition reviles the Third Circuit for obstructing the legal lynching not just of Mumia but also of many others, largely black and poor, railroaded to death row “up South” in Philadelphia. The brief rants that the 1996 Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, signed by Bill Clinton to speed up the pace of executions, “will remain ineffective in the Third Circuit until the circuit court enforces it.” The prosecution calls on the Supreme Court to order the Third Circuit to apply the 1996 law to foreclose virtually any federal habeas corpus challenge to Pennsylvania death sentences. Where the Supreme Court stands on ruthless application of the death penalty was seen on March 28, when it turned down the appeal of Troy Davis, a black inmate in Georgia, despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence.

In its own way, the D.A.’s brief highlights that Mumia’s case is crucial in the struggle to abolish the death penalty. The ultimate sanction wielded by the capitalist rulers in their repression of workers and minorities, the death penalty is a barbaric legacy of medieval torture. In the U.S., capital punishment can be traced directly back to chattel slavery, when black people could be put to death for any act deemed “insolent” or a challenge to slaveholders. Since then, the death penalty has gone hand in hand with KKK lynchings and summary executions carried out by cops on the street. Over 3,200 sit on death rows across the U.S., 54 percent of them black or Latino.

The cops, prosecutors, lawmakers and their mouthpieces in the bourgeois press will not rest until Mumia is strapped onto an execution gurney. Mumia’s fight for life and freedom is not for him alone. By executing this eloquent spokesman for the oppressed, the forces of the state want to send a message to all who would fight against the exploitation, oppression and imperialist war inherent in the decaying capitalist system that they, too, are in the state’s gun sights. The only “alternative” to execution held out by the courts is that Mumia rot in prison for the rest of his life, without the possibility of parole. As the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee have always insisted, fighters for Mumia’s freedom must place no reliance on the racist capitalist courts but must look instead to link Mumia’s cause to the class struggles of the multiracial proletariat. To put a final halt to the grisly workings of the capitalist rulers’ machinery of death will take nothing less than proletarian socialist revolution.