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  Amicus Briefs Barred In Mumia Appeal
By C. Clark Kissinger, 08/29/2000
deutsche Übersetzung

The Philadelphia Daily News reported today that federal judge William H. Yohn has officially refused to accept any of the four amicus briefs filed with the court in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Amicus briefs are legal arguments submitted to the court by persons or organizations who are not party to the case but who assert an interest in its outcome.

In Mumia's case, four different amicus briefs have been filed with the court since the beginning of the year. The first, from the Philadelphia NAACP and the Pennsylvania ACLU, argues that the use of Mumia's political statements as an argument for the death penalty was unconstitutional and chilled the free expression of ideas by others.

The second brief was submitted six legal organizations: the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the Prisoners Self Help Legal Clinic, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. This brief dealt with the history and significance of federal habeas corpus review of state court convictions.

The third brief was submitted by a group of 22 members of the British Parliament. This brief criticized the trial court's refusal to allow John Africa to sit at the defense table to advise Mumia, pointing that such lay advisors are a basic right in English law.

The fourth brief was submitted by the Chicana/Chicano Studies Foundation and dealt with a number of issues including: denial of Mumia's right to represent himself, an improper conference between Mumia's lawyer and the judge, the removal of a juror and her replacement by an alternate who had declared that he could not be unbiased, and several issues of law.

Amicus briefs are an important part of any legal struggle around important social issues. It is a way that the public and other parties who are affected by the outcome of a case can have a voice in that outcome. While amicus briefs are more common at the appellate level, they are used at the district court level when important question of law are being tested.

The Daily News quotes Yohn as saying he was aware of the worldwide interest in the case, but that additional briefs are "unnecessary and unhelpful." We have to ask, unhelpful to whom? Even the Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted an amicus brief from the NAACP and the ACLU on the same issue when they reviewed a lower court's denial of a new trial for Mumia.

People should protest this unjustified ruling by Judge Yohn and make these briefs widely available for others to read. All four amicus briefs are available at http://www.refuseandresist.org/mumia/court.html, where the issues and exposure that Judge Yohn does not want made part of the record can be viewed and downloaded.

A major issue in the current petition for a writ of habeas corpus has been the demand for the federal court to hear the evidence and issues that were suppressed by the Pennsylvania courts.

Solidaritätsbüro Mumia Abu-Jamal,
c/o Antirassistische Initiative e.V.,
Yorckstr. 59, 10965 Berlin
Fax: ++ 49 - 30 - 786 99 84

other resources+:
"amicus briefs" bei Refuse&Restist NYC (http://www.refuseandresist.org/mumia/court.html)
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