Supreme Court says Mumia death sentence is unconstitutional


Political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal won a reprieve this week when the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal by Philadelphia prosecutors of a lower court ruling that an earlier death penalty sentence was unconstitutional. The journalist and author is on death row in Pennsylvania.

In April, a Philadelphia federal appeals court reaffirmed a prior decision that improper sentencing instructions occured when jurers were not told to consider mitigating circumstances when consideirng setencing. The city's district attorney then appealed to the high court.

Four judges have ruled that the sentencing instructions were flawed.

Philadelphia prosecutors now have a choice of holding a new sentencing hearing or allowing the former Black Panther to serve a life sentence without parole.

Mumia Abu Jamal was convicted of the 1981 shooting of police officer Mark Faulker.  In the most recent appeal he was represented by Attorney Judith Ritter and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The president of the fund John Payton in a statement said, "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.

Attorney Ritter stated, "Our system should never condone an execution that stems from a trial in which the jury was improperly instructed on the law."

According to news reports Philadelphia prosecutors did not comment on the Supreme Court's ruling. The court's decision leaves open the possibility the district attorney may once again seek the death penalty.

A worldwide campaign has called for Mumia Abu Jamal's release and sought to prevent the death sentence.

The appeal over the sentencing instructions have lasted 30 years.  The campaign to end the death penalty in the U.S. has reached a new stage recently as a result of the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.


Photo: Creative Commons 2.0

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  • This is good news but the struggle is not over. There must be no second round in which the death sentence could be imposed again. And Mumia must not continue to be condemned to a living death in this country's grotesque prison system. Free Mumia!

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 10/13/2011 9:19pm (4 years ago)

  • This man has been imprisoned for over 25 years. Imagine 25 years! Too many injustices to remember about his trial. One thing is for sure, the judge who sentenced him -- after hearing questionable testimony -- was a known bigot.

    Mumia Abu Jamal is a wonderful spokesperson for justice.

    The Supreme Court did the honorable thing.

    Posted by Gabriel Falsetta, 10/13/2011 6:26pm (4 years ago)

  • In the wake of the state sponsored, cruel and unusual murder of Troy Davis, the long, long sword of death over the breast of Mumia, the systemic persecution of African and colored political prisoners,the Cuban 5, the Puerta Rican 5, 11, or 16, as examples, the outright genocide of Native and of African derived people, it seems not only uncivilized to threaten to put Mumia to death, but even to keep him as a political prisoner. Mumia has suffered enough, his supporters have suffered enough, the violence visited upon him and his people has been both enough and too much.
    Free Mumia-and all political prisoners.
    Like many, many in these racist United States of America-his crime is to be of African ancestry-his beautiful curly hair, his dark comely skin, his sinewy body-the fighting history of the great African peoples for equality, freedom and peace- are crimes-didn't you know?
    Read the magisterial WE CHARGE GENOCIDE, written by the great African American lawyer and Communist, William L. Patterson-if you don't.
    Mumia must not die-he must be set free.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 10/12/2011 2:30pm (4 years ago)

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