By Noelle Hanrahan and Jennifer Beach, Prison Radio Co-Directors
The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge Five & Maureen Faulkner have lost this fight. But the rematch is going to be brutal.
On December 16th the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed the FOP’s King’s Bench petition to remove Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as the prosecutor in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s criminal case and replace him with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Mumia is contesting his first-degree murder conviction for the shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981. His default opponent in court is the lead prosecutor for the city of Philadelphia: DA Larry Krasner. The recently-dismissed King’s Bench petition argued unsuccessfully that Krasner is biased in favor of Mumia and should be removed.
In reality, Krasner has made clear, both through statements made in deposition and through legal action, that he will vigorously work to uphold Mumia’s conviction. The FOP’s problem with Krasner isn’t that he won’t fight to keep Mumia in prison; it’s that he’s not willing to blatantly shred the constitution to do it.
Krasner was elected DA on an anti-corruption campaign platform, and he made history when he brought to light 6 boxes of exculpatory evidence from Mumia’s original trial that had been suppressed by the DA’s office for decades. Krasner’s drawn a line in the sand. He’ll use every legal avenue available to prevent Mumia’s freedom, but he won’t violate the letter of the Constitution: that sets him apart from every previous prosecutor to face Mumia in court.
To the FOP, that’s unacceptable, and they’re betting that Attorney General Shapiro will fight this battle the way they want it fought: dirty. Maureen Faulkner, who worked with the FOP to bring this petition to the court, has stated on the record that she believes Mumia Abu-Jamal will be freed if he ever gets a new trial. The FOP’s strategy is to get AG Shapiro to file every imaginable petition against Mumia and his defense team—including against the use of the recently-uncovered exculpatory evidence—to forestall his inevitable release. The original trial was so outrageously corrupt at every stage that there is little hope for a win in retrial. They simply want to delay a new trial until Mumia dies in prison.
Mumia Gets the Decision: Justice Reveals Rematch Strategy
The special master, Judge Cleland, appointed by the PA Supreme Court to gather evidence for the justices on the question of Krasner’s bias, reported to the Court that Krasner’s office showed “no bias and no appearance of bias” in favor of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The Court accepted the special master’s recommendation, ruling in a 3-1 (Donohue, Dougherty, Wecht for and Mundy against)- with 3 abstentions (Baer, Saylor, Todd) to retain Krasner’s role as prosecutor. Justice Wecht wrote in his concurring opinion that the petitioners “had failed to present any evidence of bias”.
But Justice Dougherty—who voted to keep Krasner on the case—published a concurring opinion that provides a treacherous potential roadmap for the FOP to undermine this victory. Dougherty states specifically 4 ways that the FOP can prevail in getting Krasner off the case and Shapiro on:
- Josh Shapiro can file an intervention in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court (although Shapiro has stated that he cannot do this without invitation from DA Krasner).
- Idee C Fox, the President Judge of the Common Pleas Court, can unilaterally decide to remove Krasner.
- Krasner can voluntarily withdraw.
- The PA Supreme Court can choose to alter their decision and intervene to remove Krasner.
Curtailing Appellate Relief per Williams v Pennsylvania
Also ominously, Justice Dougherty notes that the Court’s ruling in Commonwealth vs Reid this year precludes Mumia from any relief granted by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Williams v. Pennsylvania. The Williams decision had reinstated Mumia’s appellate rights based on the well-documented bias of former PA Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille. When the US Supreme Court chastised Castille for his literal and potential bias, his previous decisions were thrown into question. New evidence of bias uncovered by Mumia’s legal team was uncovered during their Williams litigation. This should provide the necessary grounds for relief in the superior court. Justice Dougherty also had to acknowledge that the “exculpatory evidence questions” will provide additional grounds for Mumia to successfully get back in court. Abu-Jamal’s current appeal is in front of the Superior Court right now, who have designated it to a “merits panel.” It ultimately should be remanded to the Common Pleas Court.
This Train Is Still Headed Towards Freedom
Mumia’s criminal case is headed to an evidentiary hearing based on the 6 boxes of long-buried evidence uncovered in 2018. Currently, Mumia has a pending appeal in Superior Court (290 EDA 2019 filed on September 3, 2019) which raises claims based on the reinstatement of his Appellate Rights, these claims include Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, prosecutorial use of false testimony, Jury discrimination claims, among others. In addition, the suppressed exculpatory evidence represents additional material that can be litigated during an evidentiary hearing in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.
This evidentiary hearing and the legal claims presented in the Superior Court brief could be the basis for the court to order a new trial.
Mumia has always said that he will be in prison until the people won’t accept his imprisonment anymore. We are the people, and we have to make clear our refusal. We know that it is police, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct that has unjustly imprisoned Mumia and so many others. We must demand that corruption be revealed, and that the voices of its victims must be heard. We know that Mumia was imprisoned because he was a Black Panther, and we know that is unjust, and we cannot allow the truth to be buried, or for voices like Mumia’s to be silenced.
“Apology without action is meaningless.” —Mike Africa
When We Fight, We Win!