Mumia Abu-Jamal: Court Refuses to Reinstate Death Sentence

Some good news for Mumia Abu-Jamal today -- but not enough. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled he either has to get a new jury sentencing trial or his sentence will be life without parole, rather than death.

"The jury instructions and the verdict form created a reasonable likelihood that the jury believed it was precluded from finding a mitigating circumstance that had not been unanimously agreed upon," wrote Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica in the 77-page opinion.

One of the judges on the panel would have granted a new trial in the guilt phase as well: [More..]

Judge Thomas L. Ambro wrote that he would have gone further than his two colleagues, and granted a hearing on Abu-Jamal's contention that the prosecution unfairly excluded blacks from his jury in violation of a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court case, Batson v. Kentucky.

"To move past the prima facie case is not to throw open the jailhouse doors and overturn Abu-Jamal's conviction," wrote Ambro. "It is merely to take the next step in deciding whether race was impermissibly considered during jury selection."

Mumia's letter:

"I am not happy that two of the three judges turned a deaf ear to the racism that permeated this case," said Bryan, who said he was "heartened and thrilled" by Ambro's dissent on that issue.

Mumia's supporters are unhappy and planning protests:

They said rallies were being planned for as early as tomorrow outside federal courthouses in Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco.

What's next?

Either side could ask the panel to reconsider the decision, ask the entire Third Circuit to consider the case, or eventually ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Here is the Free Mumia website.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Good News (5.00 / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:19:10 PM EST
    At least he is not going to be murdered by the state.

    ummm (3.00 / 2) (#3)
    by jarober on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 08:54:51 PM EST
    Is asserting the simple fact that the evidence against Jamal is overwhelming out of bounds?

    that's not the one that was deleted (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 08:56:39 PM EST
    and you did a lot more in the deleted comment. Both the language and content were offensive. Don't play games.

    This thing called evidence... (1.00 / 1) (#1)
    by jarober on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 08:31:53 PM EST
    Sigh.  I wasn't there for the moon landings either.  Or for the American Revolution.  And yet, I know both took place because of this thing called evidence.  You might want to ponder the massive evidence of Jamal's guilt.

    your first post was deleted (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 08:35:50 PM EST
    as was the comment that replied to it.

    Hmm (1.00 / 0) (#6)
    by jarober on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:15:29 PM EST
    I drew a comparison about those who believe that Jamal is innocent.  IMHO, believing he's innocent is akin to believing that the moon landings were faked.

    Here's the thing (none / 0) (#11)
    by Steve M on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 01:00:01 AM EST
    You do not have to believe he's innocent to believe he didn't have a fair trial.

    EXACTLY (none / 0) (#12)
    by allimom99 on Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12:33:44 PM EST
    Pardon me. (1.00 / 1) (#9)
    by diogenes on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 10:26:28 PM EST
    If the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania (and chief Pennsylvania Hillary supporter) thinks Mumia's guilty, then maybe he is.  After all, you can't blame this on "racist Republicans".

    "Maybe" (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by Peter G on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 10:34:37 PM EST
    Or maybe he should have a fair trial.  What you think this case has to do with partisan (Republican vs. Democratic) politics is beyond me.  No one to my knowledge has ever blamed the Mumia fiasco on "racist Republicans."  (Where did those quotation marks come from, anyway?)  The racists in this case  come in all flavors.  As for the "Democratic governor," please re-read my post above.  What the former prosecutor thinks about the guilt of  the accused is entitled to very little weight.

    an appeal (none / 0) (#5)
    by diogenes on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:10:16 PM EST
    If it's appealed to the Supreme Court, perhaps it will reinstate the death sentence.
    If this guy is so innocent, then why doesn't Democratic Governor Rendell pardon him.  Or if it was a federal crime, why didn't either President Clinton pardon him like Marc Rich or whe doesn't the next President Clinton pardon him in 2009?

    Pardon Is Not in the Cards (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Peter G on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:45:31 PM EST
    Mumia abu-Jamal was a local NPR radio journalist who was also a political activist.  He was convicted in the local court here in Philadelphia of cold-bloodedly killing a police officer, whom abu-Jamal apparently coincidentally came upon while the cop was arresting and allegedly brutalizing his brother.  (Today's court decision comes from the federal appeals court because the case is under review on federal habeas corpus, not because the underlying case involved a federal crime.)  The trial was so unfair and infected (deliberately, it seems, by the DA's office) with political and racial prejudice, starting with the jury selection process and continuing to the sentencing hearing, that it is impossible to weigh the evidence and feel you have determined the truth.  The case for doubt is effectively and fair-mindedly martialled in Northeastern Law School Prof. Daniel Williams' book, Executing Justice.  Governor Rendell was the District Attorney of Philadelphia at the time of the trial,  and before that was chief of the homicide division of the DA's office.  Rendell is the one who decided to seek the death penalty in this case and who supervised the trial.  The clemency decision, if it comes to that, will not be his.  In Philadelphia, where I am, the commitment to the Mumia "cause" is less than in many places, but the sentiment that he didn't receive a fair trial on either guilt or penalty is widespread.