April 16, 2002

P. Africa Updates Mumia Case

Print More

Her shirt says she’s just one of millions for Mumia’s release, but Pam Africa is no ordinary advocate for Mumia Abu-Jamal — the acclaimed Philadelphia journalist who has spent nearly 20 years in prison and six on death row.

Africa has devoted her life to restoring Abu-Jamal’s freedom, visiting foreign dignitaries to pressure the U.S. government, touring college campuses to educate students about the case, even going door-to-door to enlist new support. Yesterday in Myron Taylor Hall, Africa addressed about 50 people with a talk regarding Abu-Jamal, called ‘a case of racist and unjust use of the death penalty in the United States.’

“Mumia was a victim of classism, racism and government terrorism,” Africa said, urging her audience to cast suspicion and doubt upon the unjust laws enforced in the U.S.

Africa made frequent reference to the case of Herrera v. Collins during her talk. Leonel Herrera was convicted of murder in 1982 and sentenced to death.

Ten years later Herrera petitioned the Supreme Court with new evidence of his innocence, but the justices ruled that a person can be executed despite evidence of their innocence, so long as the person has already been given a fair trial. Herrera was executed in 1993.

“They wanted to know, ‘Is it right to kill an innocent person!'” Africa shouted. “Did you hear what I just said!!”

“It’s not right to kill a guilty [person]. If you can’t give a life, you can’t take one away,” she said.

As with Herrera, Abu-Jamal’s trial for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981 has sustained heavy criticism from international human rights groups, including Amnesty International. The allegations of abuse include charges of evidence suppression, police intimidation of witnesses, denial of access to evidence and potential witnesses for the defense and arguments against Abu-Jamal that arose from his political beliefs.

Three years ago, Abu-Jamal’s defense team presented new evidence alleging his innocence — including the testimony of Arnold Beverly, who confessed to killing Faulkner. Judge William H. Yohn blocked the move, using Herrera as precedent for the ruling. Yohn went on to grant Abu-Jamal a stay of execution last December, but at the same time he upheld the original conviction.

Claiming only the smallest of victories in Abu-Jamal’s release from death row to the general prison population, supporters vigorously pushed on with their public campaign.

“We must do what Mumia has done for us for years. We must become the voices of the voiceless,” Africa said.

“If you could have saved Malcolm’s life, Martin’s life, Medger’s life, John F. Kennedy’s life