Justice on Trial - The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal is the most recognized death row inmate in the world today. In 1982, he was was tried and convicted for the murder of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. Since then, the Abu-Jamal trial proceedings have come under scrutiny and today his case is one of the most contested legal cases in modern American history. A former Black Panther and now renowned author, his books and writings in venues as diverse as the Yale Law Review, Forbes, Nation and street-papers for the homeless, have led many to hail him "the voice of the voiceless."
Justice on Trial navigates the tempest of the Abu-Jamal trial by reviewing the known facts of the case. It demonstrates that the major violations in the Abu-Jamal case - judicial bias, prosecutorial misconduct, racial discrimination in jury selection, police corruption and tampering with evidence to obtain a conviction -  are not special to this case. Instead, they are commonly practiced within the criminal justice system and account for the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans and Latinos in the United States. The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal is a microcosm of greater problems in the criminal justice system in the United States today. The attention that its many violations have received make the Abu-Jamal case one of the most important civil rights cases of our time.
by Big Noise Films

About the Justice on Trial team


Iranian-born Kouross Esmaeli has been a member of the Big Noise Films Collective since 2007.  His international and domestic news dispatches and documentary work have appeared on MTV, Current TV, Al Jazeera and Democracy Now, among others. A board member of the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association, his co-production of the documentary on Iraq for MTV's True Life won the RTNDA's Edward L. Murrow Prize for Best Television Documentary in 2005. Kouross' last production with Big Noise, Yo Soy el Army: America's New Military Caste, details the heightened recruitment of Latinos by the U.S. military. It debuts next month. Kouross is currently finishing his doctorate in media studies at New York University.

Johanna Fernandez has a Ph.D. in history and teaches 20th-century America, the political economy of American cities and African-American history at Baruch College of the City University of New York. She has published in the Journal of Urban History, in Race and Reason, and in field-defining anthologies on the Civil Rights movement. Her book on the history of the radical Puerto Rican organization, the Young Lords, will be published in 2011.  In Spring 2011, she will travel to Jordan as a Fulbright scholar where she will teach graduate courses in American history.

The broader message of this film was inspired, in part, by the intrepid reporting of Northwestern journalism students, who in the 1990s scrutinized the work of Chicago prosecutors and police, exposed the practice of tortured and coerced confessions that sent countless innocent and predominantly black men to death row unjustly, and led to a moratorium on executions in Illinois.

She believes that the problem of mass and wrongful incarceration is one of the gravest civil rights problems of our time.

Film Editor

Aljernon Tunsil has been editing documentaries for the past 15 years. Recently he edited several films for Firelight Media, which were presented on PBS as part of its American Experience series, they include: Freedom Riders, Wounded Knee (Episode 5 of the We Shall Remain series) and Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. In addition to his work on long format historical documentaries, Aljernon has edited numerous short format films and trailers. Aljernon was as the assistant editor on several Academy Award-nominated documentaries including The Smartest Guys In the Room: The Enron Story, Sound and Fury, and The Farm.


January 08, 2013