By Jim Melwert

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia heard arguments Tuesday over jury instructions given during convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial.

Abu-Jamal’s lawyer, Widener University law professor Judy Ritter, argued awkward wording on the verdict sheet may have confused jurors about mitigating circumstances that might favor a life sentence, rather than the death penalty.

‘”This court already agreed with that. It seems to me they don’t see any reason to change their minds,” Ritter said.

The same appeals court granted Abu-Jamal a new sentencing hearing in 2008, but earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court ordered the three judge panel to reconsider. They did, for about an hour’s worth of oral arguments.

Ritter says if Abu-Jamal prevails with the 3rd Circuit, there would be a new sentencing hearing.

The chief of the appeals unit in the Philadelphia district attorney’s office is Hugh Burns.

“Before that happened, we’d ask the United States Supreme Court to review the case again,” Burns said.

He contends Abu-Jamal’s death sentence should be upheld.

Police widows of Officers Daniel Faulkner, Chuck Cassidy and John Pawlowski sat in the front row.

Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio

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