The Common Good
July-August 1995

A Word From Death Row

by Rachel Johnson, Aaron McCarroll Gallegos | July-August 1995


Live From Death Row, the new book by inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal,
continues to stir controversy.

Live From Death Row, the new book by inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, continues to stir controversy. Abu-Jamal, an award-winning journalist, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer, though many, including the human rights organization Amnesty International, question the fairness of his trial. Last year, National Public Radio abruptly canceled commentaries it had recorded with Abu-Jamal because of pressure from Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police and members of the slain officer's family.

After the publication of Live From Death Row, which is a strong indictment of America's prison system, Abu-Jamal was reprimanded for continuing to write. "So strongly does the state object to my writing they have begun to punish me (while I'm in the most punitive section that the system allows) for daring to speak and write the truth," Abu-Jamal wrote just after his death warrant was signed in June.

Abu-Jamal, whose execution date is set for August 17, 1995, was recently visited on death row by Steve Wiser, a Bruderhof pastor. Wiser said that Live From Death Row is being smeared by the big news networks, and while Abu-Jamal felt some sorrow about this, he wasn't bitter. "I have no time for bitterness," Wiser quoted Abu-Jamal as saying. "I'm too busy being blessed."

"Mumia has suffered tremendously," said Wiser, "but he has gone beyond hatred and bitterness to a real peace, and actually a real love. He's not a Christian or a Muslim, yet he has a very deep grasp of Jesus-far deeper than most Christians. Jesus was tried and put on death row by the state and executed. And here American 'Christians' are doing the same to Abu-Jamal." Wiser said that, at the least, Abu-Jamal deserves a fair trial.

Mumia Abu-Jamal passed on a word specifically for Sojourners readers, urging them to speak out against the death penalty. "Any voice against the death penalty," Abu-Jamal said, "is a voice crying aloud in the wilderness."

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