Friday, June 10, 2005

Mumia and Assata Shakur Update

You never know who you may run into in that hip hangout, the New York Public Library. Today, I ran into Graham Russell Hodges and Kathleen Cleaver (not at the same time.) Hodges is working on a new book. Cleaver was in town for a meeting.
We talked and she gave me a new perspective on two ongoing cases. I want to write first about the Mumia Abu Jamal case, because I posted about it a few days ago, and was quite critical of the current defense team. I must admit that the two issues that have troubled me most since 2001 were the sectarian attacks on people involved in the defense movement and the arrival on the scene of Arnold Beverly, whose story of being hired by the mob to kill Daniel Faulkner has always seemd a bit far-fetched to me- it sounded like something from the movies. However, note this...The story makes more sense if you think about how incredibly corrupt the Philly police force was and is.
If I'd been keeping up with the news, I would have known sooner what Ms. Cleaver told me, that the ultra-sectarian lawyers are off the case. Indeed, as Lindorff wrote in Counterpunch a little under a year ago,
In the past year, Abu-Jamal has finally seen the light. Dropping his flakey and woefully inexperienced legal duo (neither attorney had any federal death penalty appellate experience at all), he has hired the San Francisco-based Bryan, an acknowledged death penalty litigator and appellate pro, for his lead attorney.
He has also dropped the Arnold Beverly appeal, though many of his more ardent backers seem still to have missed-or ignored--this important development.
For his part, attorney Bryan has been reaching out to people and groups that had backed away from the movement in recent years. "I'm convinced that Mumia is innocent. Not everyone agrees with that, but this movement is open to anyone who feels that there has been a miscarriage of justice and that Mumia deserves a new, fair trial," he says.

So, despite the completely bad decision by Judge Dembe, it looks as if there's some hope for the movement to grow.
What's going on with Assata Shakur?
Every now and then, one hears of an effort to get Assata Shakur out of Cuba and bring her to the US. Shakur escaped from prison in 1979 and is now living in exile in Cuba, where she has received asylum. It seems that every few years, New Jersey makes an effort to get her back. However, this time, the United States has listed Assata, now a 57 year old grandmother, as a terrorist, and has added a 1 million dollar bounty to her head. The US has apparently circulated
information about the bounty internationally, so that bounty hunters from all over the world can go hunt for her. A creepy thought, and so weird. Cleaver wondered, "Why is this so important to New Jersey," and compared it to the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. As Cleaver pointed out to me, the current bounty offer & the terrorist label are terrible for a number of reasons, so if you haven't yet, check out and see what you can to support the "hands off Assata" campaign.

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