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Live from Death Row.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, an African-American broadcast journalist, was put on trial in June 1982 and sentenced to death for the murder of a white police officer. He has claimed his innocence from the outset and is on death row in a Pennsylvania prison hoping for a new trial. In Live From Death Row, a collection of Abu-Jamal's prison writings, we find, understandably, this award-winning journalist's eye focused on the injustices of our criminal-justice system.

Abu-Jamal, in his continuing fight against his sentence and conviction, documents life awaiting execution and analyzes crime and punishment in the United States. He criticizes America's increasingly draconian response to crime, such as building more prisons and expanding the use of the death penalty, and asserts that a defendant's right to a fair and impartial jury of his or her peers, the right to represent oneself, and the right to a fair trial are in reality not rights at all but, rather, privileges of the powerful and rich and myths for the powerless and poor.

Abu-Jamal's writings examine and critique major Supreme Court cases of the last 140 years, including Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), McClesky v. Kemp (1987), and Hance v. Zant (1994). In presenting these cases, Abu-Jamal argues quite convincingly that racism exists in the American court system and that law enforcement values white lives more than the lives of blacks. In one of his essays, he shows that "cases involving black defendants and white victims are more likely to result in a death sentence than cases featuring any other racial combination of defendant and victim."

Abu-Jamal also demonstrates that officials of all stages of our criminal-justice system treat African-Americans with a vengefulness not experienced by whites. In another essay, he notes a nationwide pattern of violent assaults by white police officers against minorities. Citing the Feagin study, Abu-Jamal indicates that "African-Americans or Latinos were victims of the brutality in 97 percent of such cases and white cops were centrally involved in over 93 percent of the beatings."

Live From Death Row contains an afterword written by Leonard I. Weinglass, who is Abu-Jamal's lawyer. Weinglass describes the judicial outrages that occurred during Abu-Jamal's trial and makes a persuasive argument for his client's innocence.

I strongly recommend Mumia Abu-Jamal's moving and powerful book for anyone interested in criminal justice (and injustice) and race relations in our nation.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Gesualdi, Louis
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1996
Words:391
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