Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Shaun King asks DA Larry Krasner about Mumia Abu-Jamal; Veteran journalist Linn Washington responds

"DA Krasner danced around the core issue of justice for Abu-Jamal during his interview with Shaun King. The misconduct that led Krasner to end the wrongful convictions of 19 persons is even more pronounced in Mumia’s case. Krasner defends being unfair to Abu-Jamal as acting fairly."

--Linn Washington interviewed by the Jamal Journal, March 17, 2021.

Transcript of Shaun King asking Larry Krasner about Mumia Abu-Jamal

(March 16, 2021)

Shaun King:  How do you balance that with the continued imprisonment of Mumia Abu-Jamal? Many of us, myself included, have always fought for the eventual freedom of Mumia, and we've learned over the past few days and weeks that he's actually been very ill, not just from COVID but also from a skin disease.

What is your role as district attorney with Mumia's case? For those of us who hope that USDA could do something about it, what are the barriers there? Now, I say that knowing that anything you say will be used against you politically, but too many people ask, Larry, for me to ignore it.

I'm curious as well as one of your biggest supporters, as somebody who not only do I have questions about Mumia's guilt, but even if we just assumed that he was guilty for a moment, is he to spend the rest of his life in jail even if he was guilty for that moment? How do we work that out?

Larry Krasner:  It's a great question. I can answer a good amount of it. I can't answer all of it, because this is a pending case. The killing we're speaking of occurred on December 9th, 1981 that we are coming up on 40 years, I was in college in Chicago. I think I was a sophomore when that killing actually occurred even though I am from Philadelphia.

It has been litigated for many, many years before I ever got to the DA's office. The thing that fascinating to me is I have protesters who are in favor of Mumia Abu-Jamal come to the front office, and they protest. Some of them, frankly, take a very strong position that we must be terribly unfair.

Then about 10 minutes after they leave, I see a bus pulling up. It's full of retired police officers and friends of Mrs. Faulkner, who is the widow or the officer who was killed, and they all pile out and they hold up signs. "Krasner is a liar. Krasner is in the bag for Mumia. He's going to do everything to let them out."

They even went so far as something almost unprecedented, which is trying to get me removed from the case, because the Faulkner family insisted I'm so unfair, and I am so biased in favor of Mumia I couldn't possibly handle the case. That litigation went on for months. I had to sift through depositions and then answer questions on it.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court, depending on which justice, cursed me out but also said, "OK, well, I guess we can't really prove he's so terribly unfair." There are people on both sides of this issue who feel just as strongly that I'm completely unfair in opposite directions. I don't know if that means I'm bringing people together or not.

I don't want to make light of their concern, because I know it comes from a sincere place. as long as we're being direct and as long as we're being provocative, let me try to answer your question a little further.

Apparently, some people believe that I actually am the jailer for Mumia Abu-Jamal. I am not. I do not have the capacity to turn the key to let him out. I do not have the legal power to turn the key to let him out, and I do not have the legal power to control his medical care.

It is essential that all inmates receive proper medical care. It is essential that consistent with the law that all defendants have the opportunity to challenge a conviction.

The notion that we're somehow at the beginning, we're back in 1981, and we can just ignore the decisions that made now for decades including the decision that he not be executed because he originally had death sentence is just inaccurate. We do not have the power. What comes to my office is one decision at a time on a particular issue. Sometimes the law is crystal clear, and sometimes it is not.

We are always going to bend in favor of trying to get to the bottom of these issues. That's actually why we got attacked by the Faulkner family and FOP and their crew, because our bottom line was we thought we should get to the bottom of the issues before more witnesses who were involved way back in 1981 pass away.

This has already happened that a significant number of witnesses involved back in 1981 have passed away. That's how I got in trouble with them. When I get 2,000 texts suggesting that somehow I can take out my key and let him out of jail, it just shows a deep misunderstanding of how this works.

Shaun:  Sorry to interrupt you, Larry. Help us understand what power you do have on the case. Where is the case now? As much as you can say it because it is an active case.

Larry:  Let me address the medical issue. There is absolutely no motion that anyone has filed in which I have any say whatsoever in relation to the medical treatment of Mumia Abu-Jamal. There's been no phone call from his lawyers, whatsoever. What there have been are literally hundreds of emails and texts from people who apparently think I can somehow control this.

If a motion in which I had standing to respond was provided, I would respond appropriately given what the actual facts are. Sometimes, the facts are not clear. We have some people who are very adamant that there's been a diagnosis of a certain type, and then other people in the same camp say there has been no such diagnosis. There's simply a symptom, that sort of thing.

Whatever the facts are, we would respond and take an appropriate position. The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution requires constitutionally adequate medical care. I think it should require more than that. Frankly, I've litigated this myself as a defense attorney in federal court for a woman who had thyroid cancer.

I think people in custody are entitled to good medical care. If there was a motion presented, if I had standing on anything, we would respond. I would like to think we would try to be as fair as we could with reference to the rest of the case.

There has been a lot of going around and around in which we essentially took the position that we were OK with getting to the bottom of certain issues and doing hearings. The whole system went nuts, and the family went against us. It all got tied up in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for a long time.

As I mentioned earlier, they grudgingly said, "OK, I guess we don't have to take it away from you and give it to Josh Shapiro, our attorney general," who, by the way, has been sending people into court to advocate for the death penalty in cases where we are opposed to the death penalty, has repeatedly opposed pardons in cases where we have supported them, and has opposed commutations in cases where we have supported them.

It is a very, very complicated process that will require us on a motion-by-motion basis to respond, and we will do so. I can tell you this. You may like what we do or you may not, but we are going to try to be fair with the facts and the law just as we have been fair when we exonerated 18 people on 19 cases -- 18 people, not as well known, not as famous as Mumia Abu-Jamal but 18 people nonetheless.

I heard none of this energy, none around those individuals. That's worth reflecting because, frankly, a prosecutor ought to treat famous and unpaid famous people the same; rich people, poor people, the same; smart intellectual people, the same as people who have low IQs. We should treat them all the same.

Shaun:  I appreciate your thoughtful answer there. Part of my hope was that people who have decided that fighting for Mumia's freedom and care to hear from you on that. Thank you for allowing me to ask that question. For those of you who are here for Mumia, I hope you do see that Philadelphia as a district attorney who will engage us on hard questions.

--Transcription by CastingWords

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