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U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Abu-Jamal Death-Sentence Appeal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Philadelphia prosecutors will have to pursue a second death-penalty sentence for convicted police killer Mumia Abu-Jamal or accept a life sentence after the U.S. Supreme Court declined Tuesday to review the racially charged case.

Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, has spent nearly 30 years on death row after his 1982 conviction for killing white officer Daniel Faulkner.

A federal appeals court this year upheld his conviction, but agreed the death-penalty instructions were potentially misleading and ordered a new sentencing hearing.

City prosecutors appealed that order, but must now decide whether to pursue the death penalty for a second time. Only three people have been executed in Pennsylvania since 1976, and none since 1999.

The officer’s widow, Maureen Faulkner, had supported the city’s appeal, but wondered Tuesday whether it was time to end the long-running drama. A re-hearing would cost the city millions, and keep Abu-Jamal in the media spotlight, she said. And many of the relevant witnesses are dead.

“He does get in the spotlight, and you just don’t know which way it’s going to go,” the 54-year-old Faulkner said from her home in southern California. “I have to think of the city of Philadelphia and the costs it would incur to open a new hearing. Any logical person would, after 30 years.”

Abu-Jamal’s writings and radio broadcasts from death row have made him a cause celebre and the subject of numerous books, movies and death-penalty protests. Other books, one by Maureen Faulkner, have supported her point of view.

Prosecutors plan to take some time before deciding their next move, District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement.

Widener University law professor Judith Ritter and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund represented Abu-Jamal in the latest appeal.

“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 of the fund. “Our system should never condone an execution that stems from a trial in which the jury was improperly instructed on the law.”

According to trial testimony, Abu-Jamal saw his brother scuffle with the 25-year-old patrolman during a 4 a.m. traffic stop in 1981 and ran toward the scene. Police found Abu-Jamal wounded by a round from Faulkner’s gun. Faulkner, shot several times, was killed. A .38-caliber revolver registered to Abu-Jamal was found at the scene with five spent shell casings.

Tuesday’s decision upholds a 2001 ruling by U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr., who first ruled that Abu-Jamal deserved a new sentencing hearing because of flawed jury instructions on aggravating and mitigating factors.

Philadelphia prosecutors fought the decision, but the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them in 2008.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard an Ohio case involving similar sentencing issues last year, but rejected the inmate’s claim—and ordered the 3rd Circuit to revisit its Abu-Jamal decision.

However, the Philadelphia-based court stood its ground in April, insisting the two cases were different.

Under Pennsylvania law, Abu-Jamal should have received a life sentence if a single juror found the mitigating circumstances outweighed the aggravating factors in Faulkner’s slaying. The 3rd Circuit found the verdict form confusing, given its repeated use of the word “unanimous,” even in the section on mitigating circumstances.

Williams has conceded that courts in Philadelphia and the U.S. “have had a history of problems and racism,” while adding of the Faulkner case, “This is not a whodunit.”

Abu-Jamal, a radio journalist and cab driver born Wesley Cook, is now 57.

Maureen Faulkner wants him mixed into the general prison population if she and prosecutors agree to a term of life without parole. She believes he now has an enviable setup as a world-famous inmate, with access to a law library and computer.

“I think he’s got his nice little cottage industry going from prison,” she said. “He lives each and every day like he’s going to work.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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  • Laura

    Fry him now.

  • nellar

    Fry Mumia!

  • --this is mimi--

    I was child when this incident took place, and because I only heard his name in muted whispers combined with outrage, miscarriages of justice, and racism, I decided to look for THE TRUTH in this situation.

    I got my hands on every piece of literature I could and read BOTH sides of the argument. I can honestly say that as much as I can sympathize with Mrs. Faulkner and her need to have closure regarding her husband’s killer, the Mumia Abu Jamal trial sets a precedent as the most corrupt trial in the judical system. Quite frankly, not only was the sentencing portion racially biased, but the whole trial was as well.

    It didn’t help that the trial took place under the racist Rizzo regime where the former mayor joined forces with the media and took pleasure in exploiting falsehoods about MOVE and their teachings while tainitng the public’s perception of them.

    This precedented corruption spanned decades into the Troy Davis trial and execution.

    I am pleased, for once, with the Supreme Court’s decision and wish that DA Williams would find something more valuable to do with his time.

    I only ask those who are so passionately ugly with their reponses to educate themselves more about the case and ask themselves why is that they have silenced Mumia for over thirty years.

    Is it possible he is intelligent and eloquent enough to expose the hideous truths about a government and judicial system we follow so blindly?

    And no one really wants to know?

    May we contnue to search for the truth and pray for those wrogly convicted and exexuted.

    • --this is mimi--


      ugh I hate typos

    • CC

      so Mimi, just what exactly did you read? the trial transcript or the tabloid. since you are so well read on the subject could you please show me where Billy Cook stood up and said Mumia didn’t do it? and….ummm…i believe it was Mayor Good that bombed Move’s HQ on Osage ave. Mayor Rizzo may have been in charge when Move killed Officer Ramp in Powleton village. on the teachings of Move. i read they were a back to nature group…where they had their children forage for the neighborhood trash cans. the Bullentin reported that. with pictures i think…but i would have to go to the library through the microfilm.

      • --this is mimi--

        Greetings CC,

        Sorry it took me son long to get back to you , and I want to apologize. I must be missing the part of the transcript where Billie Cook testified. As I stated earlier, I read in the statements by the defense team at the time that Cook didn’t testify because he had warrants and Judge “I am going to help them fry that n*gga” Sabo threatened to incarcerate him.

        The biggest mistake the defense ever made was telling Cook not to risk testifying because they thought the evidence against Mumia was so haphazardly strung together that an even ALL WHITE HAND PICKED JURY couldn’t possibly convict him.

        Hand picking juries like the one in the Mumia trial have now been deemed by the Supreme Court as an unconstitutional action. (I think the term is called “fishing” but I am not completely sure)

        I also am diligently looking for the reasons why no paraffin tests were done on Mumia’s hands? Is there some sort of stipulation that the “perpetrator” has to be conscious when the tests are performed? Is that information in the transcripts as well?

        But honestly, if I am wrong, PLEASE point it out to me.

        And CC, yet again you are RIGHT!!! Mayor Goode was the mayor who gave the go ahead on the BOMBING OF A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD THAT KILLED INNOCENT PEOPLE!!! However the slander of the MOVE organization started with Rizzo well before the Powleton Villiage incident.

        From what I read, there are current NINE MOVE members in jail for the murder of the officer that was killed.

        How can NINE people shoot one gun?

        The irony is I also read the bullet that actually killed that officer may have been from friendly fire.

        But seriously, I was young at the time this all happened, so back then I didn’t know anything about the political agenda, the media and how with the right influence you can sway public opinion with a picture, incorrect caption or exaggerated story printed in the newspaper and turn your approval rating around in the polls.

        Thanks for your input, for I have no problem admitting when I am wrong; it helps me to grow.

        Peace and Blessings.

  • Peter

    He is not exactly the poster boy for ending the death penalty. I’m against the death penalty but won’t be shedding any tears for him.

  • rifleman1234

    lol, 2 funny. a black panther kills a white cop, gets convicted, hollywood actors get involved and now he is a star! only in america!

    • uster

      yup, sick isn’t it?

  • Hater

    Maybe they should just let him go. I’m sure no one will want to harm him.

  • Angry Revolutionary

    It’s a sad day when the US Supreme Court refuses to hear a case because it is racially charged…..

    • SOOOO Guilty

      READ THE REAL FACTS “Angry Revolutionary”. I’m a left-wing African-American Democrat and even I think he’s guilty as sin. I used to one of those idiots screaming “Free Mumia” until I read the REAL facts on the case…not the shady ones shown to you by the celebrities and his defense team. He’s not only guilty, but a master manipulator and thousands have bought into his scam.

      • uster

        So what’s new? The NAACP and the silly Hollywood types always ignore the facts and the truth.

      • Angry Revolutionary

        Dude I’m not defending him. I think he should have been shot a few more times when he was in the ambulance. He’s a pos who needs to go. I know the real facts better then most. My point is that the supreme court wont touch the case because of the racial implications.

  • SB

    Wise One – your comment makes no sense. The SC is just ordering a new sentencing trial, if the DA wants to hold another (if not they would just give a life sentence). They aren’t being “liberal” and “letting him off the hook”; they’re actually doing their jobs and making sure the jury receives proper instruction & comes back with a decision based on the proper & lawful rules of sentencing.

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