U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani ruled yesterday (January 3) that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) must provide Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former Black Panther and journalist infamously incarcerated since 1982, with hepatitis C treatment. He was diagnosed with the disease, which attacks the liver, in 2015.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported today (January 4) that Abu-Jamal must be allowed to see a doctor within two weeks to determine if he’s a candidate for new medication. If the doctor clears him, then the state must provide him with a recently developed direct-acting antiviral drug.
The DOC previously argued in court that Abu-Jamal, convicted in the death of a Philadelphia Police Department officer, Daniel Faulkner, in 1981, did not meet treatment criteria. Robert J. Boyle, one of Abu-Jamal’s attorneys, told the Inquirer that he expects the DOC to appeal Mariani’s ruling.
"We are reviewing the decision and cannot comment further at this time," DOC spokeswoman Susan McNaughton told the paper.
"This is the first case in the country in which a federal court has ordered prison officials to provide an incarcerated patient with the new [hepatitis C] medications that came on the market in 2013," said Bret Grote, the legal director for the Abolitionist Law Center who also represents Abu-Jamal, in a statement.
Abu-Jamal spent 29 years on death row until Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams reduced the original death sentence to life without parole in 2011. The push to free him remains popular among supporters worldwide who believe he was framed or improperly prosecuted for Faulkner’s death because of his political beliefs.