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The Revictimization Relief Act (Muzzle Mumia)
Last Thursday, the Pennsylvania State Senate, in a bi-partisan 37-11 vote, approved the Revictimization Relief Act. This last-minute controversial law was ignited by Mumia Abu-Jamal’s commencement address delivered at Goddard College in Vermont. The law would grant crime victims or prosecutors acting on their behalf the right to file a civil action against an offender to seek injunctive relief to stop offenders or former inmates from engaging in conduct that would cause “temporary or permanent state of mental anguish” to the victim.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is 60 years old. He’s in the general population at Mahanoy State Correctional Institution in Frackville. He has also given speeches at Evergreen State College in Washington and Antioch College in Ohio.
- The “Muzzle Mumia Law” as it was called by the Harrisburg Patriot provides a cause of action for a victim of a personal injury crime to sue an offender in state court in Pennsylvania, if that offender engages in conduct that “perpetuates” the effect of that crime on the victim. Later on in the statutes, that conduct is defined as including conduct that causes a “temporary or permanent state of mental anguish.”
- It also provides for the district attorney where the conviction was secured or the state’s attorney general to essentially act as the private attorney for the victim in order to bring this suit.
- It encompasses not only speech about the crime whether it’s somebody like Mumia or Lorenzo Johnson or countless others who speak out about being framed up in Pennsylvania, but it doesn’t even make any exceptions for legal proceedings – and obviously people appealing criminal convictions can cause anguish to others.
- There are standards and no definitions for the conduct that is at issue except in relation to its impact on the victim and to provide some context, as I’m sure your listeners know why it was written this way, is they needed to write a statute that would sweep so broadly so as to encompass things like Mumia giving a commencement address at Goddard College, which was used as a pretext for whipping up this frenzy at the state legislature.
- It is a prior restraint on the freedom of speech but it’s written so broadly that Maureen Faulkner or the district attorney could conceivably go into court under this law.
- The House Judiciary committee in discussing this law when it was introduced in committee raised the issue of, would this allow a court to enjoin what they called third party vessels?
- It could be Prison Radio, or it could be an individual who is authorized to speak to the media, or make a public statement.
- It was passed 197-0 in the House Legislature, and 37-11 in the Senate.
- It just shows you what takes precedence over any kind of adherence of the Constitution of the state or the United States, more than any law, is allegiance to power amongst the political class. Pennsylvania politicians, attorney generals, district attorneys, are no strangers to Constitutional violations; it’s a normative practice for them.
- Right now, I’m representing Mumia in this and Prison Radio, as well as Robert Holbrook, who is a juvenile lifer and Human Rights Coalition member and activist and writer.
- It’s unconstitutional under traditional over-breadth analysis, it penalizes lawful speech and it’s void for vagueness.
- There is probably nothing that would be more traumatizing for an actual victim of a crime then to have to go through this process that they’ve laid out in the Revictimization Release Act.
- They explicitly and exclusively focused on Mumia.
- This legislation was introduced by a former member of the Fraternal Order of Police, Mike Verib, who was a Philadelphia police officer and is now a state legislator. In the context of Mumia’s case, they have been leading a lynch mob literally in the streets to snuff out his voice.
- For decades the judge that presided over his trial was a Fraternal Order of Police member. They finance and vet the campaigns of every Supreme Court Justice in the state of Pennsylvania, the same with people running for office as governors.
- Mumia is being used in this context to reestablish the narrative that the Fraternal Order of Police, the police, their political counterparts are righteous protectors of public safety and that they’re beyond question and beyond reproach in trying to reset the propaganda line that has been dislodged in the wake of the rebellions in Ferguson, MO.
Guest – Pennsylvania attorney Brete Grote, a member of the Russell Maroon Shoatz legal team and cofounder and legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center. Bret has worked with the Human Rights Coalition since 2007 as an investigator, organizer, and researcher. He was the Isabel and Alger Hiss Racial Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in 2012. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Law School in May 2013 and was recognized as the school’s Distinguished Public Interest Scholar.
We hear a presentation by Richard Falk titled “The Palestinian Future After Gaza.” Richard Falk was presenting at the Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture, co-sponsored by Columbia’s Heyman Center for the Humanities. It’s given once a year in honor of the public intellectual and literary critic, Edward W. Said, who taught in the English & Comparative Literature Department at Columbia from 1963 until 2003.
Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice Emeritus at Princeton, where he was a member of the faculty for 40 years. Since 2002 he has been associated with Global & International Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara as a research professor.
He was Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine for the UN Human Rights Council since 2008, and served on a panel of experts appointed by the President of the UN General Assembly, 2008-2009. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, an NGO located in Santa Barbara.
He is also a member of the editorial board of several journals and magazines, including the American Journal of International Law, Third World Quarterly, Globalizations, The Nation, and The Progressive. Formerly, he was for many years the North American Director of the World Order Models Project.