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Report of The International Delegation's Meeting at the Justice Department on the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
|Representing the International
Representing the U.S. Department of Justice:
Report of the Meeting
The meeting opened with a brief statement by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart Ishimaru. He said that the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice welcomed the delegation and was prepared to hear and consider all evidence of civil rights violations and breaches of federal law.
Ishimaru stressed that the Civil Rights Division operated under legislative and statutory requirements empowering it to act where such violations were established. He stressed that any evidence of such violations that we submitted had to be specific to the circumstances of the case in question, namely that of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Baldemar Velasquez set forth the concerns of broad sectors of the population, notably those of the labor movement. He spoke as the Coordinator of the International Delegation and also as the President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (AFL-CIO) and Vice President of the Ohio AFL-CIO.
He stated that we wished to open the meeting with presentations by two attorneys who have expertise in the case and who would proffer precise legal assessments regarding the many violations of the due process and civil rights of Mumia Abu-Jamal. They would show how such breaches of his rights obligated the Justice Department to investigate and, upon finding the evidence probative, to intervene.
He mentioned that the International Delegation brought thousands of petitions which request a new and fair trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal. These are but a small sample of the hundreds of thousands of signatures gathered on the "Open Letter to President Bill Clinton" - and the volume grows daily. The signatures come from many countries - from cities and towns, work places and centers of education - and from people from all walks of life. They reflect the worldwide call for justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
[The members of the International Delegation introduced themselves, identifying the group or individual they were representing, and their concerns about this case.]
DELEGATION MEMBER: ALISA WILKINS
If Mumia Abu-Jamal's constitutional and civil rights were violated, he could not have had a fair trial and, therefore, the due process to which he is entitled, as is the right of every citizen. We ask the U.S. Department of Justice to examine the summary of the 29 constitutional violations of the rights of Mumia Abu-Jamal, which are set forth in Clark Kissinger's memorandum.
You have in your hands the "Open Letter to President Bill Clinton." We are very concerned about respect for the constitutional rights of Mumia Abu-Jamal. You know that Mumia Abu-Jamal is on Death Row. Our first objective is to save him from execution and to open an investigation into the violation of his civil rights.
What is documented here is the sustained suppression of evidence, the fabrication of evidence, and the manipulation of evidence for the purpose of misleading and inducing conclusions known to be untrue by the police and prosecution.
The violations of rights include the manner and conduct of the trial by the prosecutors who concealed material evidence from the defense; and the manner in which the trial was conducted by Judge Albert Sabo, who denied Mumia Abu-Jamal the right to choose his own counsel, examine the jury, investigate the evidence against him, and effectively challenge the prosecution's case.
The selection of the jury revealed the denial to the defendant of the right to object and the arbitrary acceptance by the court of jurors who declared their hostility to the defendant and who were unable to be impartial. This constitutes judicial impropriety.
We shall give you a document which was prepared by Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild. This document shows why President Clinton must order a new investigation.
[At this point, Baldemar Velasquez presented copies of the documents prepared by Jim Lafferty and Clark Kissinger and placed them in the hands of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart Ishimaru.]
We submit for the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Justice materials which document the mockery of the elementary rights manifest in this case. In so doing, we express the concerns of hundreds of thousands of people - indeed millions - across the U.S. and throughout the world.
DELEGATION MEMBER: ROXANNE GREGORY
I wrote to the Attorney General in my capacity as General Counsel of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and asked for immediate intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice.
In my letter, I cited numerous constitutional violations of a most serious nature. I set forth specific irregularities in the treatment of the defendant by the police, illegal acts by the prosecutor and his office, and gross irregularities in the conduct of the trial by the presiding judge, Albert Sabo.
These are clear and concrete violations of constitutional protections. This matter is so stark and compelling that it has commanded world attention. Attorneys knowledgeable about these systematic violations will submit further evidence to you. We ask and expect that all of our submissions will receive a fair and thorough examination, and that you will act appropriately.
These documents prove that there have been violations of Mumia Abu-Jamal's constitutional rights. If you examine this record seriously, you cannot fail to recognize these violations, and nothing will stand in the way of your decision to reopen the entire judicial process.
DELEGATION MEMBER: OSSIE DAVIS
I join in urging you to investigate the abundant record of the violations of the rights of Mumia Abu-Jamal. In doing so, I represent a tradition of artists and cultural figures who seek to give voice to a larger social conscience. We reflect a deep and broad concern about the injustice so clear and egregious in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. This case rises to a level symbolizing a history of such abuse. The fact that so many artists of prominence have raised their voices is a measure of the importance of this case.
DELEGATION MEMBER: SAM JORDAN
I am the Director of the Program to Abolish the Death Penalty for Amnesty International USA. I wish to point out that the Justice Department has already investigated the conduct of the police in many cities. Statistics concerning the death penalty establish that it is a weapon against the poor and overwhelmingly against African Americans and people of color.
The record shows that while only 4% of the population of Pennsylvania, excluding Philadelphia, are Black or Brown, 70% of death row inmates are Black or Brown. If Philadelphia is included, the percentage increases to 90%.
We also wish to point out that the U.S. Justice Department has obtained a Consent Decree in the wake of its investigation of the Pittsburgh Police Department. Other such Consent Decrees have been obtained by the Department of Justice where police brutality, corruption, and the violation of citizens' rights have been endemic, institutionalized, and sustained over years.
The evidence before the U.S. Department of Justice establishes a pattern revealing the targeting and persecution of Black and Brown citizens, the overwhelmingly poor, and the disadvantaged.
This clear pattern is itself a violation of the civil rights statutes. It requires a systematic investigation and it bears directly upon the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
These are the models for the investigation required here. We seek to make the case for U.S. compliance with its own strictures about the violation of basic rights which are present here.
DELEGATION MEMBER: RALPH SCHOENMAN
Our purpose is to present evidence specific to the breach of the due process and civil rights of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Attorney General have not merely the right but the obligation to enforce the law and to intervene where civil rights and due process rights of citizens are violated.
I am gratified to note that you have confirmed that the Civil Rights Division has a statutory mandate to do this.
We have submitted to you compelling evidence of specific violations in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. I wish to present to you now a videocassette of the Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia conducting a training instruction for prosecutors in his office. He directs them to keep African Americans from being on the jury and he instructs them on ways to remove African Americans from the jury. His language is not circumlocutory or circumspect. It is direct and explicit, with "in your face" racist characterizations concerning African Americans' crime rate, job stability, educational levels, dress, manner, attitude, and children born out of wedlock in Philadelphia.
Prosecutors are instructed that people with certain names and living in certain streets and locations, populated by African Americans, should be excluded. He then states that prosecutors should keep notes on the pattern of unemployment, children born out of wedlock, early school dropout histories, prior encounters with police and authorities, and family members in trouble.
The Assistant District Attorney states that Blacks are not supportive of law enforcement and must be kept off the jury if a case is to be won. He gives tips on how to remove Blacks from juries if peremptory challenges have been exhausted and they have survived the gauntlet.
Most important, the Assistant District Attorney states that targeting Blacks in this way violates federal law. He instructs them how to offset this by keeping a written record of other kinds of objections -- lack of education, steady employment, family stability, etc. -- using these notes to defend themselves in case they are challenged.
The official training session is basic to the conduct of jury selection in the trial record of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The Assistant District Attorney's instructions were implemented to keep qualified Blacks off the jury. The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal is a manifestation of institutionalized racism which strips African Americans of their civil rights and their survival rights at the hands of the police, prosecutors, and courts, which target them as this training instruction so clearly confirms.
This goes to the heart of your mandate in the Civil Rights Division. That is what is at issue here. It bears directly and with ineluctable logic and inevitability on the prosecution of Mumia Abu-Jamal. It legitimizes such prosecution and it has a direct bearing on the unrelenting brutalization of Mumia Abu-Jamal at the hands of the police.
DELEGATION MEMBER: MARTHA OSAMOR
The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal has international implications. Throughout the world, people are anxious to hear that you have decided to reopen the judicial process which can pave the way for a new trial.
DELEGATION MEMBER: JACQUELINE PETITOT
I come from Martinique and I am the spokeswoman here for over 1,000 people who signed the Open Letter to President Bill Clinton, among them Aime Cesaire, the great poet of Negritude, mayor of Fort de France and honorary MP of Martinique; for several Martinique MPs at the French Parliament; for local officials; and for a great number of students, pupils, artists, trade union and political leaders of our island. I also bring the endorsement of Georges Odlum, minister of the independent island of Saint Lucia, and of the general secretary of the National Workers' Union of Saint Lucia. Guadeloupe trade union leaders also endorsed the letter. The people of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Caribbean islands are more and more concerned by the situation of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
We wish you to know that African-Caribbeans and people of conscience in our region are anguished by this terrible injustice. We struggle for the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal and we appeal to you to defend democratic rights and the principle of equal justice before the law.
DELEGATION MEMBER: LINDSAY MCLAUGHLIN
I come here mandated by the rank and file membership of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). This is not the result of resolutions passed, although there are many of these. This reflects a considered belief that an injustice is taking place here of the gravest nature.
A man who fights for the disadvantaged and who exposed police brutality and police corruption in Philadelphia has been singled out for reprisal in a replay of exactly what he himself so long exposed.
Members of the ILWU know what such injustice means. We have a long experience of it and a history of resistance to it. We know that those in positions of power use the authority of the legal system to attack the rights of working people.
A manifestation of our concern and our determination to see justice done in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal was the ILWU shut-down of the ports on the West Coast of the United States on April 24 of last year. I am here to tell you that this case touches working people and affects their vital interests. Our union will continue to take measures and to urge others to join us in demanding justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
I understand and we take note of the depth of your concerns.
I am the deputy to Bill Lee, the Director of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. We are especially concerned with and interested in supervising and investigating patterns of police and official misconduct. We are mandated to do so by the Crime Control Act which was adopted by Congress.
I find it most interesting that you have been talking about Philadelphia. We have a special concern about police abuse in Philadelphia. We are authorized to act in such matters under the Civil Rights Act, 4214141. In fact, federal funds have recently been allocated specifically for our Division to investigate police and official misconduct.
I want you to know that I welcome any information and data which you can provide me regarding a pattern of misconduct under the color of authority. We have and we will pursue such evidence, subject to its review and evaluation.
We conducted such an investigation into the Pittsburgh police department and we obtained a Consent Decree concerning police abuse and misconduct entailing violations of citizens' rights.
We investigated racial profiling by the State of New Jersey and the State Police. We secured a Consent Decree regarding these practices.
We welcome particularly more information on police abuse in Philadelphia. Under Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act, we are able to investigate and to intervene. We have federal funding for the prosecution of such abuse and we can intervene.
Please give us any evidence, information and findings you develop from your own investigations.
The Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is mandated under Statute 18 USC 242 to bring criminal charges, as we did in the Rodney King case.
We can investigate as a criminal matter the use of excessive force by police officers or by police departments. We can bring criminal charges where the violation of bodily integrity of citizens has occurred at the hands of the police.
I have to tell you, however, that we are constrained by a five-year statute of limitations. There are specific circumstances which allow us to maintain jurisdiction, even if the limitation period has run. Our statute will enable us to act if there is evidence of a continuing conspiracy.
Where a capital case is involved, there are extensions in the statute which may allow us to proceed. We can and we will prosecute public officials for violation of the constitutional rights of defendants and citizens.
Our jurisdiction is defined by enabling statutes from the U.S. Congress. Within that framework we will act. We want to look at all your materials and we shall respond. If we have questions or if you have further information, we can maintain contact.
DELEGATION MEMBER: RALPH SCHOENMAN
In keeping with your comments, I wish to stress that Mumia Abu-Jamal was brutalized, tormented, and tortured by the police of Philadelphia. This defines the case and is a hallmark of all the other documented violations of his rights. It embodies a breach of the letter and spirit of rights which generations struggled to secure.
That is why this case compels you to act. This pattern of abuse continues to this day in the treatment of evidence and in the intimidation of witnesses. Perjury was suborned and, when exposed, the witnesses were subjected to police terror.
These are the ongoing facts and they are not nullified by a statute because they apply in each jurisdiction of judicial review.
We take note of what you have told us regarding your statutory mandate and we ask you to act in this case consistent with that mandate and to bring justice to bear for those to whom it has been systematically denied.
DELEGATION MEMBER: DANIEL GLUCKSTEIN
I should like to point out to you that over one million people in over 70 countries have signed petitions asking for a new and fair trial in this case.
I wish to ask you for a clear response because we must report back to the organizations which have been distributing the "Open Letter to President Bill Clinton."
I must ask you on their behalf: Is the Department of Justice of the United States prepared to examine the points raised here and the issues and evidence presented by Clark Kissinger and Jim Lafferty?
Will you give us a response to the points raised by them in the documents which we have made available to you?
We can not make a commitment here to act before we have reviewed your information.
DELEGATION MEMBER: DANIEL GLUCKSTEIN
Does the door remain open for that review and investigation, or not?
We can neither promise that the case will be reopened, nor the contrary. We cannot guarantee this in advance. We can only commit to examining carefully what you have provided us.
Will you then give us your response to this material upon examining it?
I can only state that you will receive a separate answer to every question you pose and regarding every document which you submit to us. Alternatively, the response upon examination of this data may be global. Whatever the form, I commit myself to providing you a full response.
DELEGATION MEMBER: MANUAL CAMARA
I am a member of the Senate in Spain. I can assure you that our legislators no less than our public opinion are deeply troubled and aroused by this injustice. We are here to place on record the desire for justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal, which has galvanized our broad public opinion.
DELEGATION MEMBER: JERRY GORDON
I want to address the matter of the statute of limitations. Please note that Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild addresses this specifically in the document we have submitted to you.
Less than five years ago, a judge ruled that Mumia Abu-Jamal's rights as a prisoner have been abridged. It is clear that the violations have continued and that the statute continues to run.
>>From time to time, the president of the United States condemns violations of human rights in other countries. Yet here is Mumia Abu-Jamal on death row for 18 years -- on the basis of such a sickening record of police abuse, falsified confessions, evidence suppressed, and a trial whose procedures and standards are a mockery of due process and equal justice before the law.
Were such things to occur in any other society, they would be decried by all in this country, officialdom included. Mumia Abu-Jamal was deprived of effective counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. His appointed lawyer failed to investigate, or to meet with witnesses in advance of the trial, or to challenge the prosecution's evidence. This lawyer was demonstrably incompetent and wholly ineffectual.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was prevented from mounting challenges to jurors. Jurors, who admitted openly that they were influenced and biased by police declarations and, hence, could not be impartial, were kept on the jury panel.
Twenty-nine constitutional violations have been summarized by Clark Kissinger, based on the petition filed for a writ of habeas corpus. This is one of the worst instances of injustice and abuse of rights in the history of U.S. jurisprudence.
For this kind of trial, characterized by the suppression and fabrication of evidence, to form the basis of executing -- for murdering Mumia Abu-Jamal -- would constitute such a travesty, such an outrage, that it will resound through subsequent years and decades and beyond as a symbol of the miscarriage of justice in the United States.
This is the reality which has seized the imagination and fired the conscience of people throughout the world.
You cannot ignore the opinion, concern, and sense of moral outrage which infuses people from every walk of life. We ask you to act on the basis of this record.
I am very appreciative of all that you have said. I want to urge you to send us any and all data and I can assure you that it will receive serious attention. Here is how you can contact me directly at any time [provides address]..
DELEGATION MEMBER: RALPH SCHOENMAN
The abuse of the judicial process to violate the rights of the defendant is evident not only in the flagrant conduct of the trial judge, Albert Sabo, but also in the materials which we have submitted to you.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has refused to acknowledge any of the gross violations documented beyond dispute, has upheld the death penalty conviction, opening the door for the imminent execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The Justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court who has taken the lead in this regard was former Philadelphia District Attorney Ronald Castille, who submitted the papers opposing Mumia Abu-Jamal's earlier appeals.
You will find Justice Castille's name on the video tape submitted to you, in which prosecutors are trained on how to remove Black jurors and how, precisely, to conceal the racial motivation.
When this conflict of interest was raised, Judge Castille refused to recuse himself. His reasons are instructive. He notes that all the other justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court were endorsed and funded by the Fraternal Order of Police, which has waged a wide public campaign for the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Judge Castille stated, "At the outset, I note that the very same Fraternal Order of Police which endorsed me during earlier electoral processes also endorsed Mr. Chief Justice John P. Flaherty, Mr. Justice Ralph Cappy [who wrote the Mumia Abu-Jamal decision for the Court], Mr. Justice Russell N. Nigro, and Madame Justice Sandra Schulz Newman. If the Fraternal Order of Police's endorsement constituted a basis for recusal, practically the entire court would be required to decline participation in this appeal."
It should be noted that this court refused to find a single error in the entire record before it, despite so many flagrant and patent violations of due process and constitutional rights.
At the end of the meeting, the delegation gave an initial oral report to the people gathered in front of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The initial conclusions of the delegation were:
Our task now is to broaden and deepen the international campaign to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal with a focus on President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno, for that is where the true responsibility lies, given the facts of this case.
We must say to them: the evidence is in your hands. The time has come to act. Decide now to open the investigation into the violations of due process and civil rights which pervade the record.
It was the mass movement of millions fighting for justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal that opened the doors of the Justice Department for our January 12 meeting. Now, more than ever, an international mobilization, larger than any before achieved, is needed to save his life and, at long last, to secure his freedom.
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