Stung by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week denying a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal, supporters of the internationally known death-row inmate met yesterday at a church in West Philadelphia and said they planned to seek some type of presidential intervention on his behalf.
The gathering of about 50 people, led by MOVE member Pam Africa, began signing a petition to present to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., asking for action in the 28-year-old case, in which Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
They also said they would ask Rep. Chaka Fattah to take their plea to President Obama and his wife, Michelle, both lawyers.
Fattah (D., Phila.) did not return calls for comment yesterday.
"This is a new administration, and we are looking for honesty and fairness," Africa said shortly before the meeting at Abiding Truth Ministries, 57th Street and Washington Avenue.
The meeting lasted more than two hours and drew supporters from New York, Baltimore, and as far away as Chicago.
Monday's Supreme Court ruling virtually guarantees that Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and radio reporter, will never be freed by the courts.
Now his best hope is to avoid execution.
The court is still weighing a petition by prosecutors to reinstate Abu-Jamal's death sentence, and the justices have agreed to review a capital case from Ohio that involves the same legal issue that is a key focus in Abu-Jamal's appeal.
Africa at first expressed concern about seeking a presidential pardon, wondering if it would imply guilt.
"He's not guilty!" she argued.
But Darby Tillis, a former death-row inmate from Chicago who was freed in 1987 after new evidence emerged, said at the Abu-Jamal meeting that his gubernatorial pardon "was based on innocence, and I received it."
Abu-Jamal supporters previously appealed to the Clinton administration's attorney general, Janet Reno, but were turned down.
Africa said she hoped Holder and the Obama administration would react differently.
"It's clear Mumia did not have a fair trial," she said. "Evidence was most definitely withheld. This is a test for this new administration right here."