*State attorneys in Pennsylvania urged a judge on Friday to throw out a lawsuit in which former death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal claims prison officials have shown “deliberate indifference” to his health.
Abu-Jamal, the 61-year-old former Black Panther and radio journalist serving life for the murder of a white Philadelphia police officer more than 30 years ago, alleges that prison officials and doctors have systematically denied him proper medical care for illnesses ranging from hepatitis C to high blood sugar.
He wants U.S. District Judge Robert Mariani to order his jailers to allow him to be seen by a doctor of his choosing and to provide adequate treatment. He also is demanding monetary damages.
According to the state, Abu-Jamal’s lawsuit was filed before he exhausted an administrative appeals process as required under federal law. “It’s discouraging inmates from running into court, which Mr. Abu-Jamal did,” argued Laura Neal, a lawyer for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Mariani noted that Abu-Jamal filed an amended complaint last month, after the corrections department rejected his medical appeals.
Abu-Jamal is scheduled to testify by video hookup from the state prison in Frackville.
Abu-Jamal’s lawsuit said he was diagnosed with hepatitis C, a chronic blood-borne infection that gradually destroys the liver, in 2012. Eventually, he got an itchy rash over 70 percent of his body that his lawyers say is a complication of the disease. Prison officials have not adequately treated either his hepatitis or the rash, the suit said.
Prison doctors also failed to address a sudden spike in Abu-Jamal’s blood sugar level in early March, and, weeks later, he lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital in diabetic shock, he claims.
The suit asserts the prison is violating the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment by withholding appropriate medical care.
A federal magistrate ruled in September that Abu-Jamal had failed to show “immediate irreparable harm” and recommended that Mariani rule against him.