Mumia Abu-Jamal’s lead attorney, Robert R. Bryan, San Francisco, was interviewed via the internet on Aug. 19, 2010, at a rally in Neukölln, Berlin, Germany, where Michael Schiffmann translated.
Robert R. Bryan gives an overview where the case stands right now.
Robert R. Bryan: We initially won on the issue of the death penalty in the U.S. Appeals Court for the 3rd Circuit; they ordered a new sentencing trial in March, 2008; then the prosecution, the government, took the case to the US Supreme Court, and in January, 2010, the Supreme Court has now sent it back to the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit with directions to reevaluate its decision. The original ruling was vacated.
On July 28, I filed on behalf of Mumia in the 3rd Circuit a new brief, strictly on the issue of the death penalty and whether he will be granted a new jury trial on the question of life or death.
However, if granted, the government will take the case again back to the Supreme Court.
If the court rules against us, then Mumia is facing execution. In that event, I will go back to the United States Supreme Court and petition for a review. However, the Supreme Court grants review in only one to two percent of all cases. So, this is a life and death situation that could not be more serious. Mumia could not be in greater danger.
The full truth has never come out in this case, and if we have an opportunity before a new jury to bring it out , I would expect the outcome would be remarkably different from what Mumia experienced in 1982 at the trial level in this case.
AR: What role does international support for Mumia play?
RRB: International support is of crucial importance, particularly in Berlin andParis. We need the voice of international concern for human rights to be heard by the courts here in the U.S. So your activism is not lost. Europe isground zero for human rights, and what you are doing there is important, not just for Mumia, but for the whole cause of human rights and abolishing the death penalty globally.
We need supporters to sign a petition that was created by Mumia and me together, and is about Mumia and the death penalty, the fight against the death penalty worldwide. Please go to www.mumialegal.org , and sign it.
Also, when people march, demonstrate, and make their voices heard, we feel it eventually here in the U.S., and that is very important.
AR: What else is the legal team working on?
RRB: We are conducting a new investigation in this case. I had not said anything before about it because we did not want to be giving information to the prosecution. An enormous amount of money is needed, not only for a new investigation, but also for experts in fields such as DNA, ballistics, pathology. We’re talking about $100,000 at least, in addition to legal fees. This would open up the case entirely, not only regarding the death penalty, but also getting a totally new trial.
I have already secured the services of the best investigation firm in the United States, Public Interest Investigations in Los Angeles. The chief investigator there, Keith Rohman, who has successfully worked with me on other murder cases, met with Mumia and me a year ago, so we’ve been trying to do something about this for a year without a lot of success. We also have the best experts in various areas who are willing to help. But, even though they are willing to work for lower fees, I still have to pay them. To donate, just go to the website, www.mumialegal.org .
The previous case lawyers through the years did not investigate certain crucial areas of the case, and that is tragic. What I am working on could be the key to the prison door for Mumia’s freedom. And I was not going to say anything about this because I felt that our efforts should be more private, but we need to win this case, and get Mumia out. Time is running out.
AR: In terms of Mumia’s case, what will be the next steps?
RRB: I filed on July 28 our main brief on behalf of Mumia in the U.S. Court of Appeals. The issue is the death penalty. On August 11, the government filed its response. So the government has filed an opening brief, I filed an opening brief; now, they’ve filed a response. The next step will be for the court to set oral argument, in which we would actually go into court, before a three-judge panel as we did a couple of years ago, on May 17, 2007, and argue the case.
That is where we are, and I hope this happens in the next three or four months, but I cannot speak for the court, because they decide in their own good time. Then, either we or the prosecution will go to the Supreme Court.
If this case is lost in the Supreme Court, an execution could happen pretty quickly. The procedure in Pennsylvania, unlike most other states, is that once a case is decided, an execution can occur fast. I am not talking about months, but rather weeks, it could move very fast. And the pressure to execute Mumia in this country, particularly in Philadelphia, is unlike anything I have seen in any other of hundreds of death penalty cases I have handled in the past three decades. It is unbelievable, the pressure to kill him.
AR: How does your new investigation relate to this?
RRB: If we wait until the courts decide, we are not going to have time to investigate! Mumia and I have discussed this at length. This investigation is crucial! We need help! We just need to brainstorm on how we can do this. This case can be won!
AR: Is there anything you would like to add?
RRB: I have a few things. First, there have been some great events, meetings like this. A year or so ago there was a great event on a Sunday morning at the Akademie der Künste, that had some of the top writers in Germany; the German PEN had a program at the Brechthaus the year before that was great. A lot of you were there. There was the big event in January, the Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Berlin which was fabulous – you were there! And so when I say that you in Europe at ground zero for human rights work. This is especially true in Germany – I have seen you in action. We need to have more big events like the Akademie der Künste, like the Rosa Luxemburg Conferenc
e. We need to do more to ensure that people get the message!
Secondly,the online petition campaign to President Barack Obama (Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty), is vital to my legal effort to save Mumia. Many signatures have come out of Germany, but we need many more for this to be effective. People can sign by going to: www.MumiaLegal.org .
Thirdly, we need financial support.
Fourthly, as I said, the voices of you the people must be heard. Continue the activism that you have been doing so effectively.
Finally, a lot of people in Germany have sent cards and letters to Mumia. I asked him a few months ago: Does that make any difference? Because, he cannot possibly answer every post card, every letter he receives, on death row. He told me that it does make a tremendous difference because he said the guards copy all his mail, they have to copy everything, and he said for him to receivebags of mail makes a statement that gets heard not only on death row but also in Philadelphia and Washington! The word goes out from guad to higher officials. So, I would like the campaign for writing him, along with the petition and other things you may do to continue – it’s very important.
On behalf of Mumia, I thank you all for caring.