Update: Mumia Finally Receiving Proper Treatment for Hep-C

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Christina Swarns, Litigating Director of the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, co-representing Mumia in court. Photo credit: Joe Piette

[Commentary]

Concern was heightened last night when word came from the prison that Mumia had asked someone to call out and tell people he was being moved.  Given the animosity of the administration and guards, and the recent deaths in custody, Mumia was worried and his family was worried regarding this abrupt transfer.  It turns out that Mumia was moved to the infirmary and not told why.  Today, the prison said it was in preparation for an outside medical appointment this morning, and in fact Mumia went to the hospital at 6am and was returned to the prison at 11:45 am.

He was immediately brought to the visiting room to visit with his brother Keith Cook Mumia’s brother and Dr. Suzanne Ross.  They came out of the prison at 4pm.  For now, two weeks into his Hep C treatment, Mumia is on the road to recovering his health.  Keith told us that Mumia  wants to make sure you know that he  “Thanks you and he loves everyone, and he knows how powerful the movement is, that stands behind him. And that the prison knows that people have his back, and that is very important”.  

For Mumia Abu-Jamal  to get out of prison his criminal conviction needs to be challenged and overturned.  The newest chapter in this struggle took place in the Common Pleas Courts of Philadelphia before Judge Leon Tucker.

On April 24th, 2017 in room 805 Christina Swarns of the NAACP LDF, and Judith Ritter of Widner appeared before the court to argue that a new Supreme Court ruling required the reinstatement of Mumia’s appellate rights. On the other side Ronald Eisenberg, Deputy DA argued for the Commonwealth.

This potential reopening of Mumia’s appeals began when the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the former Philadelphia DA and PA Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille’s practice of sitting in judgement on his own cases; the cases where he was a prosecutor and DA. In Williams v. the Commonwealth the Supreme Court ordered a new trial because Castille was obligated in the interest of justice and fairness to recuse himself from these appeals.

Christina Swarns argued the case for 45mins, with the goal of getting Judge Tucker to order the District Attorney’s office to produce discovery i.e. the prosecutorial files in this case.  If turned over, these files will undoubtedly establish that Castille was intimately involved in Mumia’s case as supervisory ADA during his trial and DA during all of his appeals.

Swarns put on the record that the DA’s office had lied to the court regarding the “lack of involvement” of Castille in similar cases, and was rebuked by the U.S. Supreme court because of it.   Notably, the judge asked the DA Eisenberg, that if the time bar and the retroactivity claim were met, would Mumia Abu-Jamal be entitled to relief.  Eisenberg agree, saying yes, Mumia’s appellate rights would be reinstated.   There is no doubt that the district attorney’s office will appeal to PA Superior Court and the PA Supreme Court if discovery on this issue is granted. 

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