Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mumia Lives

It's a mixed blessing at best for those who are convinced that he's an innocent pawn, a political prisoner, a hero (choose one or all).
It isn't, after all, exoneration and a cash reward and an apology and a free trip to Bimini and maybe a change in the way cops and prosecutors and courts conduct themselves.  It isn't, in fact, any of those things.
But it's something.  And it carries a lesson.
Mumia Abu-Jamal has spent 30 years in prison for a crime he (and a host of supporters around the world) insists he did not commit.  The state of Pennsylvania, through the office of the prosecutor in Philadelphia, obtained a death sentence back at the start and has fought to keep it in place (and the conviction, too) ever since.
And now they're done.  Sort of.
They cried "Uncle" on the sentence.  No more.  After the latest court decision vacating Mumia's death sentence and the decision by SCOTUS not to reverse, the state's given up.  
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced this morning he will not seek the death penalty against Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Which is something.
On the other hand, it leaves Mumia (1) convicted of a murder he may not have committed and after a trial that was pretty clearly unfair, and (2) with a sentence of Death in Prison.
Big whoop.
And yet.  It's something.  Not enough maybe, certainly nowhere near enough for Mumia or his supporters.  But something.  And not something small.
The state gave up. It will let him live.
Which brings us to the lesson.
Don't quit. Don't stop.
There have been 1277 executions by the various governments of this country since the killing resumed in January 1977.  But there have been tens of thousands - I have no idea how many, but it's well up in 5 figures and might be in 6 - who were not killed.  Some had cases dismissed.  There have been a few not guilty verdicts.  Many were sentenced to something other than murder in the trial court.
Others had death sentences vacated in state and federal courts on direct appeal or some sort of motion or collateral action.  But it's taken, generally, years.  Sometimes decades.  Of incredibly hard work by dedicated, creative, passionate people with mostly far too limited resources.  But it happens.  And it will continue to happen.
Unless we call it a day.
30 years.
But they won't kill him.
It's not enough.  But it's no small thing.

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