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New Sentencing for Mumia Abu-Jamal

October 11, 2011

By: Jenée Desmond-Harris | Posted: October 11, 2011

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the Philadelphia DA’s office in the racially charged case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, bringing an end to nearly thirty years of litigation over the fairness of the sentencing hearing that resulted in his death sentence for the 1981 shooting of a police officer, the Washington Post reports.

While his case has been famous among anti-death penalty activists and social justice advocates for decades, this new development is no doubt even more poignant for many in light of the recent execution of Troy Davis.

Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, has spent almost 30 years on death row after being convincted in 1982  for killing Daniel Faulkner.

A federal appeals court this year upheld his conviction, but agreed that the jurt received the potentially misleading death penalty instructions, and ordered a new sentencing hearing. Because the Supreme Court has left in place that ruling, Abu-Jamal will be now automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole unless the District Attorney seeks another death sentence from a new jury.

The Supreme Court’s decision represents the fourth time that a federal court have found that Abu-Jamal’s sentencing jury was misled about the constitutionally mandated process for considering evidence supporting a life sentence.

“At long last, the profoundly troubling prospect of Mr. Abu-Jamal facing an execution that was produced by an unfair and unreliable penalty phase has been eliminated,” said John Payton, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which, along with Professor Judith Ritter, represents Abu-Jamal. Professor Ritter said, “Our system should never condone an execution that stems from a trial in which the jury was improperly instructed on the law.”

The case will now return to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas for final sentencing.

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