By James Morgan

December 9, 1981 is a day that is fresh in the memory of former Black Panther and famed journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. It was on that day that Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death by the state of Pennsylvania. Ever since his incarceration there has been a tremendous international outcry for his case to be retried and even for the ruling to be overturned. In 2008, a federal appeals court ruled that his death penalty ruling should be set aside, paving the way for a potential retrial. However, on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 the Supreme Court overturned that ruling, once again setting in motion the original ruling made against Jamal.

“The trial of Mumia Abu Jamal in reality should be a trial of America’s criminal justice system,” said Dr. Greg Carr, Professor and Chair of Howard University’s African-American Studies Department. “The evidence of injustice has been made apparent and it is clear that Mumia Abu Jamal does not deserve the death penalty.”

It’s been argued by many activists and commentators that Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case is one example of the direct or indirect aftermath of the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (famously known as COINTELPRO). This program was a covert initiative by then FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to disrupt and dismantle left-wing activism in America. One of the main groups targeted by the COINTELPRO program was the Black Panther Party For Self Defense and in 1968 he joined this Black revolutionary organization, working as a propagandist.

In 1981, Abu-Jamal was apprehended and eventually convicted of the shooting death of Officer Daniel Faulkner. During his trial, which eventually led to a unanimous verdict of guilty, Abu-Jamal stated that his rights had been “deceitfully stolen” from him by acting Judge Albert F. Sabo. Ever since that ruling Abu-Jamal has become a symbol of the fight to not only end the death penalty in America but also to declassify more documents regarding the case of political prisoners and exiles all across the country.

The fight to “free Mumia” is not without it’s opposition however, commenting in the Philidelphia Inquirer, radio host Michael J. Smerconish stated that “It’s 2010 and we haven’t gotten closure of a 1981 murder, or a cop no less.” Mr. Smerconish has worked with Officer Faulkner’s widow Maureen on a book detailing her side of the trial and litigation regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal. Nevertheless this recent ruling is years away from actually showing a tangible effect, be it good or bad. What is apparent is that if there is not increased pressure put on President Obama, than an innocent man may have his days on Death Row numbered, for all of the wrong reasons.

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