Starting in the 60’s there were an extremely determine efforts to put as many Black Panthers and other radicals in jail for as long as possible, with heavy manipulation of the media being involved; and charges, and a few admissions of, suppression and manufacturing of evidence.
More recently despite the general perception that business is being rewarded for doing wrong, there have been some extremely determined efforts to heavy-handedly prosecute certain people for white collar crimes. People who cheer the heavy-handed tactics against people like Mumia abu-Jamal, sometimes think Ted Stevens was framed and vice versa. In Steven’s trial the prosecutor was reprimanded for withholding information from the defense, and other rregularities do to an extremely aggressive prosecution, and one juror wasn’t dismissed even though engaging in conduct that would usually lead the dismissal of a juror.
Martha Stewart, despite the heavy original media manipulation against her, won the public’s respect. Most cheer the fact that she is now richer and more famous then before the government prosecuted her for insider trading.
The exact opposite is true when it comes to the prosecution of radicals in the past. Some are extremely angry that William Ayers, a former convicted member of the Weathermen organization is now considered a respectable college professor, rather than a dangerous ex-con and that Mumia abu-Jamal, who was out of work except for driving a cab, right before he was accused of murder, but is now a world renowned commentator. Thousands around the world anxiously await hearing or reading each of his latest essays or commentaries phoned out from his prison cell.
This makes some people extremely angry. However, it really doesn’t make sense to assume that Mumia who was know as the “Voice of the Voiceless” career as a journalist and a writer would have been permanently over, had he not been arrested. He was heavily involved in defending the then locally unpopular Move back-to-nature sect. One way or another, he would have been back in his career as a journalist and writer.
People who feel solidarity for Ted Stevens (old time Alaskans voted for him overwhelmingly, only the new Alaskans didn’t) don’t have any sympathy for Mumia and vice versa. This I think is a mistake. Mumia’s and Ted Steven’s early life were very similar. They both were desperately poor. They both were from broken homes, Mumia due to the death of his father, Ted Stevens due to a divorce. They both during their early life had an ability to excel despite facing extreme hardship. They both at one point in their lives could have been a poster child for a Save the Children ad.
Ted Stevens had it worse. After the divorce from her husband, Steven’s mother had to give her kids to her paternal grandparents to take care of to prevent them from starving. Sending for them one at a time when she could afford to. However when Ted Stevens father developed eye problems Ted went to care for him and his mentally disabled cousin, somehow supported all of them on his newsboy earnings.
Ted attended Redondo Union high school, and despite continuing long hours as a newsboy, participated in a lot of extra-curricular activities. Somehow also attending the same High School, was Russell Green, son of the president of Signal Gas and Oil Company. Russell helped Ted out and Ted found ways to return the favor.
Ted Stevens was a pilot during World War II, and as usual scored near the top of his class. Then he went on to law school. Later as Senator he had a habit of lavishing favors on his friends as they lavished favors back. Never selling a vote or in advance making any tit for tat wheeler dealings. The Feds were frustrated in trying to charge him with anything until they came up with failure to properly report gifts.
Mumia abu-Jamal’s father died when he was nine years old, and his mother had to work long hours at low pay to keep the family from starving. So mostly his older sister Teresa raised him. After a meal at the Black Panther soup kitchen, he would run to the Panther library instead of out to play with the other kids. His sister Teresa said he was called a little nerd because he always had a book in his face. He used to sit on the steps reading to other kids.
Mumia left high school to live with the Black Panthers while volunteering with them. When he went back to high school he was voted most likely to succeed. Instead he was kicked out twice once for handing out radical literature, and once as part of an effort to change the school’s name to Malcolm X High.
Amazingly in 1981, despite Black Panthers having been arrested all around him, he still hadn’t ever been in trouble with the law and still had a legal right to carry a gun.
Then on December 9, 1981, Mumia lay severely wounded and soon to be unconscious, and Officer Danny Faulkner lay dead, one shot from a distance and the second one a pont blank shot, the gun near or pressing against Officer Faulkner’s head. In Officer Faulkner’s pocket was a driver’s license belonging to Arnold Howard. When the police grilled Howard, he said he lent his license to Kenneth Freeman, who lost his right to drive. The same Kenneth Freeman that Billy, Mumia’s brother, claimed shot Faulkner than ran away. Neither brother mentioned the second shot in their affidavits. The prosecutor convinced the jury that the shot to the head was a cold-blooded execution. Anti-Mumia web sites now have Officer Faulkner squirming to get away, pointing his head directly in the line of fire. The gun not actually touching his head. This, since pro-Mumia sites wonder why a badly wounded why a badly wounded soon to be unconscious Mumia would pass Faukner by shooting again almost from the front. Anyway people from a distance, especially is they read and liked any of Mumia’s essays can’t understand why anyone would want him dead Making them think that some Philadelphians are bloodthirsty. And the explanation that Philadelphians were afraid to protest didn’t help Philly’s image either. Pax Christi, a peace group, and Philadelphians United held their conventions in Philly since Mumia is off of death-row. But now there is an attempt to put a gambling casino in a building in sight of the Liberty Bell pavilion changing if not disrupting Philly’s new wholesome image.
In 1991 Arnold Beverly claimed responsibility for the second shot to the side of Faulkner’s head. Claiming he was part of a Mafia hit teem because Faulkner was squealing to the feds about corruption (someone should examine the newly declassified files). Mumia fired his attorney and he and his brother jumped at the new evidence, Mumia stopped claiming that Officer Faulkner was assassinated to prevent John Africa’s truths from being known. But Mumia’s supporters abandoned him and the court ruled the new evidence to be non-credible. And Mumia went back to his tradition stance, as much a slave to his image as he is the master of it.
Cases with prosecutor and judge misconduct similar to Mumia’s were thrown out by the Supreme Court, but in Mumia’s case the Supreme Court only threw out the death sentence, changing his punishment to life imprisonment, where Mumia phones out essays that Mumia haters never read or listen to.
Mumia can continue inspiring poor peasants in Southern Mexico and people all over western Europe, and some in the US as well. But he is going to stay in jail unless people start seeing similarities in what happened to Ted Stevens and to Mumia abu-Jamal at the same time. Most of us looked at ACLU tracks talking about such things as the right of the Klan to march and of free speech at the same time. We tend to ignore the ACLU’s generic definition of freedom. But after one has been around a long time they seem to make more and more sense after all.
We should stop cheering aggressive selective prosecution and prosecutorial manipulation of the media, no matter how much one may think a defendant deserves to be punished. If a lot of new people got involved in either Mumia or Ted Steven’s defense it may or may not change anything but it sure would shake up the political climate and make a lot more people respect what the ACLU does by standing up for everyone’s freedoms and everyone’s rights in a generic way.