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Mumia Seeks to Show Top State Judge Doubled as Prosecutor and Jurist Reviewing his Appeals

Philly cops get priority courtroom seats

In general, police officers are not supposed to wear their uniforms when they are off duty, although in some cities they are allowed to do so if they are doing some security job where the department has specifically authorized them to wear the uniform. Otherwise no. But here they were — even a burly Highway Patrol motorcycle cop decked out ostentatiously in his knee-high leather boots, motorcycle jacket, and ‘30s-era aerodynamic motorcycle officer’s cap.

So that raises the question of who dispatched these officers to sit in the courtroom and to hang out in the hallway. Philly cops don’t provide court security, a task assigned to Sheriff’s Department. So either the Philly Police Department sent them over and they were there on official duty, collecting paychecks to hang around in the hall or sit in the courtroom looking grim and angry, or they were organized by the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union which, like Ahab pursuing his White Whale, has been dedicated to having Abu-Jamal executed or, since 2011 when his death sentence was finally tossed out on Constitutional grounds, to seeing that he never gets out of jail.

Of course, if individual cops, or even a group of cops, want to go sit in a courtroom as citizens to observe the proceedings or to provide moral support to the slain Officer Daniel Faulkner’s widow (who was also in attendance), they can, like any other citizen. But that’s not what was happening here. Rather, these cops were being allowed to come into the court in their uniforms, either illegally if they were off duty, or at taxpayer expense if they were officially on the job (though off their beats), and they were being given special consideration in getting seats.

That’s not equal justice at work. But it is evidence that this case, even today, long after Ron Castille moved on from District Attorney to State Supreme Court Judge and ultimately to Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, where he helped to reject Abu-Jamal’s appeal of his conviction, refusing to recuse himself despite his obvious role as DA from 1986-91 in overseeing the opposition to that appeal, (Castille was elected to the state’s Supreme Court in 1991, and retired as Chief Justice in 2014.)

This is important because back in 2016, in a case called Williams vs. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the US Supreme Court ruled that a Pennsylvania death-row defendant, Terry Williams, deserved a new sentencing hearing because Castille, who as DA had supervised the prosecution of his case when Williams was just a 17-year-old being tried as an adult for murder, later ruled on his appeal as a Supreme Court Judge — voting as part of the court majority to restore Williams’ death penalty after it had been revoked. Now Abu-Jamal’s legal team is arguing that the Williams case precedent should also apply to both Abu-Jamal and a number of other cases where Castille corruptly played the role of both prosecutor or supervisory prosecutor and of appellate judge. They argue that Abu-Jamal should get a whole new round of appeals at least back to his initial Post Conviction Relief Act hearing in 1995.

If he can prove that case to the judge’s satisfaction, Abu-Jamal could restart his appeals with a new PCRA, where new evidence of his innocence could be presented, possibly leading to an overturning of his conviction or to a new trial.



story | by Dr. Radut