Mumia Abu-Jamal wins right to reargue appeal of his 1982 conviction
5 January 2019
In a significant legal victory for Mumia Abu-Jamal, a ruling by a Pennsylvania Superior Court judge on December 27 gives the long-imprisoned activist and journalist a new chance to appeal his 1982 conviction for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther who spent nearly 30 years on death row before prosecutors agreed in 2011 to a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, has steadfastly maintained his innocence.
Justice Leon Tucker issued a 37-page opinion last week that concluded, as reported by the Associated Press, that former Justice Ronald Castille of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should have recused himself from a 2012 appeal rejecting Abu-Jamal’s final appeal. Tucker, pointing to numerous statements made by Castille when he was Philadelphia District Attorney between 1986 and 1991, advocating the death penalty in cases of killing of police officers, cited the “appearance of bias.”
At the same time, however, Tucker rejected other arguments presented by Abu-Jamal’s attorneys—that Castille had played a “significant” role, when he was DA, in the appeal of the original conviction, before going on to rule on the appeal as a judge.
Castille had received campaign contributions from the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which had loudly dismissed all claims that the defendant had not received a fair trial and had pushed for Abu-Jamal’s execution. Tucker relied on a US Supreme Court ruling in 2016 that Castille should have recused himself in a similar case. It was this decision that spurred the latest effort by Abu-Jamal’s attorneys. Tucker, in his opinion, said Abu-Jamal should be given…