Rachel Wolkenstein, www.rachelwolkenstein.net, 21 August 2012
On August 13, 2012, without any notice and in violation of his constitutional rights and state law, Mumia Abu-Jamal was formally sentenced by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe to life imprisonment without parole. The impact of this illegal sentencing is to prevent a possible challenge to the slow death of life imprisonment. All sentences, including “mandatory” sentences, require a formal proceeding allowing the person to be sentenced the right to be heard and to challenge his sentence.
Mumia confirmed to his son Jamal and to attorney Rachel Wolkenstein during a visit with him on Sunday, August 19, 2012, that he had no prior knowledge of the re-sentencing. The record of this re-sentencing is contained in the official Court of Common Pleas Docket Sheet. In attempting to find out more details, Wolkenstein searched for the court file on August 20. But there is no file containing a record of this sentencing with the Criminal Division Court of Common Pleas Clerk. The information released so far by Elaine Rattliff, Deputy Clerk of Courts is that the sentencing followed a call from the Department of Corrections and further explanation awaits a call back from Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe.
Notably Judge Dembe is same judge who refused in 2001 to consider a legal challenge to “hanging judge” Albert Sabo’s self-confessed racism and bias against Mumia during his trial and post-conviction appeals from 1995–1998. Court reporter Terri Mauer-Carter heard Sabo declare before the start of the trial, “I’m going to help them fry the n-----.”
For thirty years Mumia was kept in solitary confinement on death row under a death sentence that was illegally and unconstitutionally imposed. Federal district court Judge William Yohn ruled in December 2001 that Judge Albert Sabo incorrectly and unconstitutionally instructed the jury in deciding on life or death. Despite this decision, Mumia was kept on death row, in solitary confinement for the next ten years, while the prosecution pursued two appeals in the Federal Court of Appeals and two attempts at U.S. Supreme Court rulings to uphold the death sentence. All that time, Mumia sat in solitary confinement. According to Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rappatour on Torture, solitary confinement for longer than 15 days is a form of torture! Mumia should be freed from prison, now!
This latest legal outrage comes nine months after the state conceded defeat in obtaining its desired “legal lynching” of Mumia. On December 8, 2011, Philadelphia District Attorney, Seth Williams – with the support of Maureen Faulkner, the Fraternal Order of Police and former District Attorney, Philadelphia Mayor and PA governor, Edward Rendell – announced that they were no longer seeking a death sentence for Mumia. This was their recognition that it was neither legally possible nor politically advantageous to hold a new sentencing hearing.
Mumia’s 1982 trial contained violations of every single element of due process and a fair trial. But it began with framing an innocent man. Mumia was framed for a crime he did not commit. His crime in the eyes of the state is that he was and continues to be “the voice of the voiceless,” a former spokesman for the Black Panther Party and continuing supporter of the MOVE organization.
In his first phone call from general population on January 28, 2012, Mumia relayed the following message to his wife, Wadiya Jamal: “My dear friends, brothers and sisters – I want to thank you for your real hard work and support. I am no longer on death row, no longer in the hole, I’m in population. This is only Part One and I thank you for the work you’ve done. But the struggle is for freedom!”