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  Recent Louima Ruling Now Center Stage In Abu-Jamal Case
Anonymous writes "By Linn Washington Jr."; The Black World Today Contributor; Article Dated 3/19/2002

The recent controversial federal appeals court ruling freeing three of the four New York City policemen charged in the sadistic sodomizing torture of Abner Louima is now at center stage of a highly publicized Philadelphia case also involving evidence of police abuse.

That controversial ruling granted a new trial to one cop accused of participating in the 1997 torture of Louima claiming this cop received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.

That ruling also dropped a conspiracy conviction against the convicted torture aide and two of his police confederates.

That ruling claimed prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence of this trio's guilt to deceive a federal grand jury despite detailing how this trio did conspire to cover-up the torture.

Interestingly, the ever mounting new evidence of major flaws in the conviction of Philadelphia death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal now includes that recent Louima case ruling.

Abu-Jamal's lawyers recently filed a new legal petition with the federal appeals court in Philadelphia asking that court to apply findings of the New York federal appeals court ruling in the Louima case.

Many observers contend that the Louima ruling further shows that the award-winning journalist should receive a new trial. Amnesty International repeatedly proclaims that Abu-Jamal received neither a fair trial nor a fair appellate review of his death sentence.

This new petition once again raises an old question fuelling the international outrage against the continued incarceration of Abu-Jamal, who has spent nearly 20-years on death row.

This old question goes to the very foundation of the American justice system: equal justice under the law.

This question is: when will federal courts equally apply established legal principles to Black militant Abu-Jamal that federal courts' routinely apply to racist whites appealing their convictions.

The Louima ruling magnifies this still unanswered question in the Abu-Jamal case.

The 2nd Circuit federal appeals court in New York City granted a new trial to alleged torture aide Charles Schwartz after ruling that this now ex-cop received ineffective assistance of counsel during his brutality trial due to a conflict of interest by his lawyer.

The 2nd Circuit granted Schwartz a new trial despite the fact that this ruling detailed how Schwartz repeatedly stated that he wanted to keep his lawyer when the trial judge and prosecutors repeatedly presented Schwartz with strong evidence that his lawyer had a serious, inherent conflict of interest related to the police union that paid for this lawyer.

The 2nd Circuit castigated Schwartz's attorney, faulting attorney Stephen Worth for failing to present available evidence that another cop - not Schwartz - helped confessed torturer-cop Justin Volpe brutalize Louima in a police station bathroom.

The 2nd Circuit ruling stated that Worth failed to present evidence of another culprit because of the conflict related to Worth receiving $10-million to represent the NYC police union in other matters.

Worth's loyalty to the police union and its $10-million fee led him to dismiss evidence of another culprit during Schwartz's criminal trial to help minimize evidence that Louima could use in his civil lawsuit charging that the police union engaged in a conspiracy to cover-up the crime, the 2nd Circuit charged.

Abu-Jamal's new lawyers are asking the 3rd Circuit federal appeals court in Philadelphia to employ the 2nd Circuit's legal reasoning in their case that includes disturbing allegations of conflicts of interest by previous lawyers and evidence that another culprit committed the crime.

Abu-Jamal's lawyers have alleged that their client's prior lawyers, Leonard Weinglass and Daniel Williams, failed to present an array of evidence - including another culprit - during appeals proceedings because of various conflicts of interest arising from their receiving deaths threats and Williams writing a book about the case.

Abu-Jamal fired Weinglass/Williams last Spring, charging conflicts of interest.

A man named Arnold Beverly has claimed for years that he - not Abu-Jamal - shot Philadelphia Policeman Daniel Faulkner.

Abu-Jamal's new lawyers allege that Weinglass/Williams failed to present evidence of Beverly's confession due their conflicts of interest and this failure rendered their assistance to Abu-Jamal legally ineffective.

Weinglass/Williams defend their decision to reject Beverly's confession because they felt he was 'unbelievable' - the same reason used by attorney Worth to reject presenting evidence of another culprit during Schwartz's brutality trial.

But the 2nd Circuit ruling declared that Worth had a legal obligation to present evidence of another culprit, irrespective of whether he believed it or not.

Abu-Jamal's lawyers want the 3rd Circuit to apply that principle to their client and grant him a new trial.

Abu-Jamal "just like the white police officer (in the Louima ruling) had a right to legal representation by an attorney "who can make strategic or tactical choices free from any conflict of interest,"" states a petition filed recently by Abu-Jamal's lawyers quoting portions of the 2nd Circuit's ruling.

This legal wrangling over narrow legal issues in the Abu-Jamal case may seem like much-2-do-'bout-nothing.

But, wrangling over legal technicalities recently produced a new trial for Louima brutality scandal participant Charles Schwartz.

And, wrangling over legal technicalities years ago led the US Supreme Court to grant a new death penalty hearing to an admitted white racist prison gang member in Delaware because prosecutors violated this inmate's First Amendment rights. the exact same violation of constitutional rights that the Supreme Court twice REFUSED to consider in Abu-Jamal's case.

Linn Washington Jr. is an award-winning writer who teaches journalism at  Temple University.
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