Abu-Jamal Sues to Overturn New Law

"The statute was enacted principally to silence Plaintiff Mumia Abu-Jamal."

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted cop-killer who has spent the last three decades in prison, is suing to overturn a new law intended to keep him and other notorious prisoners from speaking out publicly.

The law, passed in the wake of Abu-Jamal’s October commencement speech to students at Goddard College in Vermont, lets crime victims — or prosecutors — sue inmates whose behavior behind bars continues to create anguish for the victims.

“The statute was enacted principally to silence Plaintiff Mumia Abu-Jamal,” says the lawsuit, brought by Abu-Jamal, along with Robert L. Holbrook (imprisoned for his role in a 1990 Philadelphia drug murder) and Kerry Shakaboona Marshall (another Philadelphia inmate-turned-prison-activist), along with Prison Radio, the Human Rights Coalition, and Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal. (See the full complaint below.)

The law “chills his ability — and the ability of the other Plaintiffs and other current and former prisoners — to engage in speech protected by the First Amendment,” the lawsuit says.

That was clearly the intent. “The time has come to put an end to the desecration of free speech laws by Mumia and anyone else in the Pennsylvania state system who has violently taken the life of another,” said Maureen Faulkner, widow of Danny Faulkner, the officer killed by Abu-Jamal, as she urged the bill’s passage.

Bret D. Grote, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, concluded the law “is overbroad, vague, and penalizes a substantial amount of lawful speech, including truthful statements and speech on matters of public concern. The statute was explicitly written and passed in an attempt to penalize lawful speech.”

The plaintiffs ask that the law be permanently invalidated. Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams are the named defendants.