U.S. HIgh Court Ruling Opens Door to New Appeal by Mumia Abu-Jamal of His 1982 Conviction
One unintended consequence of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a death penalty case that rebuked actions of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice and prosecutors in Philadelphia for conflict of interest was to possibly open a new avenue for activist-journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal to appeal his own 1982 murder conviction because his appellate proceedings were tainted by alarmingly similar conflict of interest, involving the same appellate jurist who was a former DA.
That ruling by America’s highest court sharply criticized former Chief Justice of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court Ronald Castille for his participation in a 2014 death penalty deliberation because that justice had approved seeking that ultimate penalty when he served as the District Attorney of Philadelphia before becoming a state supreme court member.
That U.S. Supreme Court rebuke cited judicial conduct rules in Pennsylvania applicable to judges who had previously worked for a governmental agency like a District Attorney. Those conduct rules urged judges to remove themselves from “a proceeding if [their] impartiality might reasonably be questioned” because of their former position with such a governmental agency.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the recent 5-3 ruling that rebuked Castille, stated that an “unconstitutional potential for bias exists when the same person serves as both accuser and adjudicator in a case.”
Paris protestors for 21 years have held demonstrations monthly to criticize the lack of impartiality by judges in Pennsylvania, particularly judges once employed as prosecutors and/or in law enforcement. Those protestors have also condemned misconduct by prosecutors in Philadelphia like prosecutors unlawfully withholding evidence favorable to defendants.
Paris resident Jacques Lederer, 82, has participated in each of those protests held since June 1995. Those protests, staged near the U.S. Embassy in Paris, took place weekly until two years ago when the protests shifted to once a month.
“I think the U.S. justice system is slowly changing…I hope in a good direction,” Lederer said earlier this year. The latest ruling by the US Supreme Court vindicates that hope.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the participation of former Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ron Castille in that 2014 decision which reinstated a death sentence violated both the constitutional protections of the death row inmate and ethical conduct rules for judges.
Castille had rejected the inmate’s request to recuse (remove) himself from participation in the inmate’s appeal that challenged gross misconduct by prosecutors who had worked for Castille himself when he was serving as Philadelphia's District Attorney.