[JURIST] Mumia Abu-Jamal [JURIST news archive] and supporters filed a lawsuit [text, PDF] Monday challenging a recently passed Pennsylvania law [complaint, PDF] that they claim stifles free speech. The law, an amendment to the Crime Victims Act [text, PDF] titled “Revictimization relief,” states that victims of personal injury crimes can bring civil actions against offenders to get either “injunctive or appropriate relief” for any conduct that “perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim.” Opponents of the law, such as the Abolitionist Law Center [advocacy website], argue that it is an attempt by Pennsylvania lawmakers to silence Abu-Jamal and those similarly situated in an unconstitutional manner. They cite the fact that the bill was signed into law 16 days after Abu-Jamal’s pre-recorded commencement speech was delivered at Goddard College as a clear demonstration that this law was passed as a political tactic aimed particularly at silencing Abu-Jamal. They also cite statements made by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett at a press conference in which he stated that the law was intended to restrict the ability of Abu-Jamal and other “violent felons” from “using public venues to promote themselves and their own agenda.” However, supporters of the law, such as Corbett, claim that it was passed in attempt to remedy the revictimization of all personal injury crime victims.
Abu-Jamal has been in jail for the past 33 years for the murder of Daniel Faulkner, a police officer in Philadelphia. In 2012 his final appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court [official website] was rejected [JURIST report], affirming an order denying Abu-Jamal’s claim that certain pieces of forensic evidence were mishandled in the case. This order came after Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced in 2011 that his office would no longer seek the death penalty [JURIST report] against Abu-Jamal. As a result of that decision, Abu-Jamal is due to remain in prison for life, ending a 30-year sentencing battle.