Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha, one of the most vocal
supporters of Pennsylvania death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, said Tuesday
he still hopes the convicted cop killer can earn a new trial, even after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his latest appeal.
"Hope sometimes exceeds expectations," de la Rocha wrote in a statement to MTV News Online. (SonicNet is a division of MTV Interactive.) "We were not shocked, but extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court's denial of Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal. But it assigns us to the fact that Mumia's life will only be defended on the streets and that the Supreme Court's silence must not be met with more silence, but action."
The Supreme Court handed down its decision without explanation Monday, marking the end of an appeal process that began in state courts earlier this decade. Abu-Jamal exhausted the last of three state appeals last year and appealed to the Supreme Court from there. A former radio journalist, Abu-Jamal was convicted in 1982 of shooting and killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner the year before and was sentenced to die.
The inmate's supporters have claimed that procedural errors and racial bias cost Abu-Jamal a fair trial the first time around. They point to evidence that police officers coerced testimony from witnesses, that the judge allowed the prosecution to use Abu-Jamal's affiliation with the Black Panther Party as part of its case and that a juror was dismissed while Abu-Jamal was not in attendance, among other things.
Rage Against the Machine organized a benefit concert at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., on Jan. 28. The Beastie Boys, Bad Religion and Black Star also performed that night. Members of those groups were unavailable for comment.
Abu-Jamal is also a subject on "Guerrilla Radio" (RealAudio excerpt), the first single off Rage's new album, The Battle of Los Angeles. The band sold T-shirts with the slogan "Free Mumia" at its show at New York's Roseland Ballroom on Saturday.
Abu-Jamal still can make appeals in federal court. Iriscience (born Rakaa Taylor), a 27-year-old member of the hip-hop group Dilated Peoples, expressed relief that Abu-Jamal's efforts are not entirely dead.
Dilated Peoples contributed to Unbound, a maxi-single released by Mumia 911, an Abu-Jamal advocacy group. The single also featured de la Rocha, Chuck D of Public Enemy, Black Thought of the Roots and Gang Starr protégé Afu-Ra.
"There's so much that needs to be reviewed," Iriscience said. "If he was guilty, and the people who said he was guilty were right, you would think there'd be no problem in clearing up the discrepancies in the trial. From the information I've seen, I tend to believe there's a lot more to the story."
Tim Richardson, a legislative assistant to the Fraternal Order of Police, said he and the organization's 283,000 members are confident that Abu-Jamal is guilty. The Supreme Court decision reinforced that belief, he said.
Richardson said the organization will continue to call for a boycott of public figures who've declared support for Abu-Jamal, a list that includes folk singer Pete Seeger; pop singers Sting, David Byrne and Michael Stipe of R.E.M.; and rapper Everlast.
Richardson said of the boycott, "The majority of people I've spoken to have been supportive. I've gotten hundreds of e-mail messages. A lot of people were simply unaware of the case. Once they know that, and everything is presented ... they see very strong forensic evidence, five eyewitnesses and overwhelming ballistics evidence."
During the original trial, prosecutors presented evidence that a gun owned by Abu-Jamal was used the night of Faulkner's murder.
The artists mentioned on the FOP's boycott list, which also includes actors and activists, were not available for comment.