Correction: Rare Admission of Mistake in Mumia Case
I made a mistake.
An article I wrote recently for TCBH about the Pennsylvania prison system’s latest punitive assault on now ex-death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal (unnecessarily continuing his solitary confinement) contained a factual misstatement.
Most journalists consider any inaccuracy an error, regardless of how small.
The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists calls for admitting “mistakes” and correcting them promptly.
This journalist’s inaccuracy-as-error standard contrasts with court systems, where appellate courts too often dismiss mistakes made during trials by prosecutors and judges without correction by using the court-invented legalistic term: harmless error.
The Abu-Jamal case is fraught with such misconduct and mistakes that appellate courts have not only not corrected, but have allowed to fester and get worse. But you won't see the courts or the prosecutors ever admitting those things.
In my article, I inaccurately listed Pennsylvania state prison officials as being the prime movers in keeping Abu-Jamal on death row instead of transferring him into general prison population after a federal judge had voided his death sentence in a December 2001 ruling converting that sentence to a life in prison.
In that article I stated prison authorities kept Abu-Jamal on death row in 2001 “as a courtesy to Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Office…”
Yes, keeping Abu-Jamal on death row arose from a courtesy…a courtesy that kept him on death row ten years after that 2001 ruling.
And yes, Philly’s DA (and others) did want Abu-Jamal to rot on death row.
But, no, Pennsylvania prison authorities did not extend that "courtesy."
That "courtesy" came from William Yohn, the federal District Court judge who voided Abu-Jamal’s death sentence after finding errors in the 1982 jury deliberations resulting in Abu-Jamal receiving the death penalty.
Yohn granted a request from Philadelphia’s then District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who wanted to keep the outspoken author/activist in solitary death row confinement during her appeal of Yohn’s ruling.
Author J. Patrick O’Connor, in his probative book “The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, wrote that Abraham, “in a particularly spiteful maneuver,” requested that Yohn stay his order lifting Abu-Jamal’s death sentence and, “incredibly,” Yohn agreed.
With that "courtesy" Yohn allowed Abu-Jamal to suffer death row deprivations despite his judicial determination that Abu-Jamal had unjustly spent nearly twenty-years in solitary confinement due to that legally flawed sentence.
Abraham, in the wake of Yohn’s ruling, had blasted him.
An angry Abraham, in December 2001, said she was “completely dismayed” that Yohn had granted “any relief whatsoever.”