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  Mumia Abu-Jamal dismisses legal team
Life and death battles ahead; By Jeff Mackler
deutsche ‹bersetzung

Mumia Abu-Jamal, award-winning journalist, innocent death row inmate and international known political prisoner for the past 19 years, has filed an unexpected "Motion for Withdrawal of Counsel for Conflict of Interest."

On Monday, March 5 Jamal formally moved to dismiss his chief legal counsel Leonard Weinglass and his co-counsel Daniel Williams. Jamal's petition, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District states: "On Saturday, February 24, 2001 via Fed Ex, Petitioner [Jamal] learned definitively that Mr. Williams was in the late processes of publishing a book on the instant case, purported to be an 'inside account.'"

Jamal cited Rule 1.8(d) of the "Rules of Professional Conduct, Prohibited Transactions," which prohibits "making or negotiating a literary agreement based substantially on information acquired by way of a lawyer's representation."

The petition states further:

"Upon information and belief, Petitioner avers that counsel has created a clear undeniable conflict of interest based upon the said publication of an 'inside account' which constitutes a breach of client loyalty.

"Accordingly, Petitioner seeks the withdrawal of present counsel immediately, entry of pro se status and grant of reasonable time within which to hire counsel for the petitioner." The term "pro-se" or "for himself," means that for the time being Mumia is without counsel.

Mumia's petition provides the following argumentation:

"It is a long-standing principle of the law that where a conflict of interest exists between client and counsel, the right to effective assistance of counsel is seriously impaired. This is so because in such an instance 'Counsel breaches the duty of loyalty, a characteristic deemed to be 'perhaps the most basic' of counsel duties. Strickland v Washington, 466 vs 665 (1984)."

The petition concludes with a citation from Rule 1.8 (d) above. "Prior to the conclusion of representation of client a lawyer shall not make or negotiate an agreement giving the lawyer literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation."

The book in question, authored by Dan Williams, is titled, "Executing Justice: An Inside Account Of The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal." Scheduled for publication by St. Martin's Press, New York, on April 9, it has not been seen by Mumia or by the central leadership of his defense, the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Mumia, therefore, has yet to make any judgment of the book's content. But the fact that it is to be published without Mumia's knowledge and consent has shocked a number of attorneys who have closely followed the case. This writer, a National Coordinator of Mumia's defense, has just received an "advance uncorrected proof" of the book. I immediately forwarded it to Mumia. A cursory review indicates that while it carefully outlines Mumia's central legal positions, there may well be a number of questionable formulations as well as inclusion of subject matter that might be considered ambiguous, obscure or unwarranted. At this point, facing an imminent press deadline, further comment is not possible.

Leonard Weinglass, one of the nation's leading death penalty and human rights attorneys, has refused comment on Mumia's action dismissing him other than to state that he remains fully committed to help in any way possible.

There is no doubt that under the present circumstances the Dan Williams book will receive the closest scrutiny from those who seek Mumia's executions. For this reason alone, it appears that a grave error has been made.


Dangerous period ahead

Mumia's supporters have only recently become fully aware of the extreme danger Mumia faces as his federal district court hearing approaches. Under the provisions of the 1996 Effective Death Penalty Act, should Judge William H. Yohn Jr., the federal district court judge assigned to his case, rule against him, Mumia does not have an automatic right to appeal. In the event of a negative ruling, to proceed to the next level, Mumia must first receive from Judge Yohn a "certificate of appealability," that is, permission from the very judge who ruled against him. Lacking this, his right to appeal to the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, does not exist. Thus, a negative ruling from Yohn can immediately trigger the cancellation of Mumia's current stay of execution. The clock will again begin to countdown the days that remain for his life.

In the absence of this "certificate," while Mumia may appeal to the Third Circuit, the court has no obligation to hear his case or respond. It can stand mute and allow the expiration of a new order for Mumia's murder by lethal injection and Mumia will be executed.

The National Coordinators of Mumia's defense have planned an ambitious series of events to meet this challenge beginning with a National Conference in Washington, D.C., March 30-31. The conference will organize a major series of outreach projects designed to win new support for Mumia >from the National AFL-CIO and from major religious, feminist, and human rights groups. An April 1-2 labor conference for Mumia is scheduled in Washington, D.C. to follow the national conference.

Saturday, May 12, 2001 has been set for a bi-coastal, San Francisco/Philadelphia mass mobilizations with support actions called for across the world.

Last week the Northern California-based Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal organized a regional meeting attended by 80 activists who began the process of organizing for the west coast mass march and rally. The San Francisco Labor Council immediately endorsed and Mumia's labor supporters are expected to win endorsement from all seven Bay Area labor councils as well as the state AFL-CIO.

The National Coordinators, now a group of some 15 leaders representative of a broad range of organizations, has sounded the alarm to all Mumia supporters. They have repeated loud and clear what we have long known, that is, to save Mumia's life and win his freedom we must build a massive worldwide movement that makes the price of Mumia's "legal" murder too high to pay in regard to a fundamental loss of credibility in the so-called criminal justice system.

Plans have been launched for the most massive mobilization ever on the first day of Mumia's appearance in federal court. While it is impossible to determine when this date will be set, it is clear that human and democratic rights activists will mobilize worldwide to converge on Philadelphia to "Stand With Mumia."

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!

In Philadelphia call: International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, 215-476-8812

In San Francisco call: The Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, 415-695-7745

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