Abu-Jamal gets chance to escape death row
By Nathan Gorenstein
Mumia Abu-Jamal was awarded a new sentencing hearing today by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, but Philadelphia's district attorney said he would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the 32-page decision issued by the court, it accepted defense arguments that the jury instructions at Abu Jamal's original 1982 trial, in which he was sentenced to death, were unclear.
The decision does not give Abu-Jamal a new trial on the murder charge; his conviction for killing police officer Daniel Faulkber remains in effect.
But Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams issued a statement that "granting this new sentencing hearing is contrary to clearly established precedent of the United States Supreme Court."
Abu-Jamal remains on death row at the state prison in Waynesburg in southwest Pennsylvania for the 1981 murder of Faulkner. His legal team argued that confusing legal instructions to the jury encouraged execution rather than a life sentence.
Williams said he made his decision after talking with Maureen Falkner, whom he described as "devastated" by the Third Circuit decision. She still wants the death penalty, he said...
...Jurors do not have to unanimously agree on which mitigating circumstance to consider, but Abu-Jamal's attorneys say the written instructions in 1982 did not make that clear.
Judith Ritter, the Widner Law professor who argued the case, noted that Pennsylvania courts have abandoned the "the confusing and misleading instructions and verdict slip that were relied on in Mr. Abu-Jamal's trial."
"Courts now use clear and unambiguous language to advise sentencing juries about their ability to consider evidence that favors a life verdict. Mr. Abu-Jamal is entitled to no less constitutional protection," she said.
The Third Circuit court agreed with Abu-Jamal in 2008, but Philadelphia prosecutors appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which tossed the case back for reconsideration.
In the new decision, the court appeared to uphold its 2008 conclusion.
Talk about an abuse of justice. This officer's family has suffered for three decades and this waste is a cause celeb for the redial left in this country. Hopefully the Supreme Court will slap down the 3rd Circuit.
UPDATE: Found this interesting web site on the Daniel Faulkner murder....