Trial Set for Challenge to Mumia-Silencing Law

Hearing is scheduled for March 30.

A trial has been scheduled in the legal challenge to state law aimed at silencing convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. The trial has been scheduled for March 30 in Harrisburg.

Federal Judge Charles Conner ordered the trial late last week, after the defendants — Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams — asked to have the suit dismissed. Conner freed Williams from the suit, saying he lacked jurisdiction in the matter, but said Kane’s office will remain the suit to defend the law on behalf of the state.

“If we win (on March 30) we will be granted a permanent injunction against the statute, and the statute will be invalidated,” one of the lawsuits plaintiffs, Prison Radio, said in an email to its followers.

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.

Abu-Jamal and prison radio filed their lawsuit challenging the new law in October, joined by 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, the Human Rights Coalition, and Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal. They contended that the law was 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.”

But the law’s defenders say Abu-Jamal and his ilk don’t deserve free-speech rights.

“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.

A separate challenge to the law, brought by a number of journalists — including Philadelphia journalists Christopher Moraff and Daniel Denver, along with Philadelphia City Paper — has been joined to the original lawsuit for the trial.

Check out the trial order below.