NEW YORK - On Sunday, April 3, 2011, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., lawyers, Riverside Church leaders and members, and human rights activists will be hosting a reception and meeting at the historic Riverside Church in honor of the new legal team of internationally renowned death row inmate, Mumia Abu-Jamal. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to return its decision as to whether Abu-Jamal should have the death sentence reimposed on him or whether he should remain sentenced to life in prison without parole. Both it and the U.S. Supreme Court have affirmed Abu-Jamal’s guilt, and the courts are no longer considering that issue.
The new legal team is led by Christina Swarns, the Director of the Criminal Justice Project of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and Judith Ritter, Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Widener University School of Law’s Delaware campus. Both have argued for Abu-Jamal before. However, they will now be directing the defense strategy to fight the prosecution’s determination to reinstate the death penalty and, furthermore, to overturn Abu-Jamal’s conviction.
Abu-Jamal supporters are very encouraged by the fact that a case that officially began almost 30 years ago, on December 9, 1981, is being given the kind of attention and resources that the LDF, the premier legal organization fighting for racial justice in this country, is now devoting to this important case. Given the LDF’s historic mission of addressing racial injustice, beginning with its landmark 1954 school desegregation case (Brown v. Board of Education), it is continuing that legacy today by addressing the issues of criminal injustice and its relationship to racism.
“Mumia Abu-Jamal’s conviction and death sentence are relics of a time and place that was notorious for police abuse and racial discrimination. Unless and until courts acknowledge and correct these historic injustices, death sentences like Mr. Abu-Jamal’s will invite continued skepticism of the criminal justice system by the African-American community,” notes John Payton, Director-Counsel of LDF.