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March 27, 2008

Third Circuit reverses high-profile death sentence

As detailed in this AP article, a "federal appeals court on Thursday said former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal cannot be executed for murdering a Philadelphia police officer without a new penalty hearing."  Here are more details from the start of the AP piece:

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Abu-Jamal's conviction should stand, but that he should get a new sentencing hearing because of flawed jury instructions. If prosecutors don't want to give him a new death penalty hearing, Abu-Jamal would be sentenced automatically to life in prison.

Abu-Jamal, 53, once a radio reporter, has attracted a legion of artists and activists to his cause in a quarter-century on death row. A Philadelphia jury convicted him in 1982 of killing Officer Daniel Faulkner, 25, after the patrolman pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother in an overnight traffic stop.

He had appealed, arguing that racism by the judge and prosecutors corrupted his conviction at the hands of a mostly white jury. Prosecutors, meanwhile, had appealed a federal judge's 2001 decision to grant Abu-Jamal a new sentencing hearing because of the jury instructions.

UPDATE: How Appealing provides some additional media links here.

The Third Circuit's habeas ruling in Abu-Jamal v. Horn is a total of 118 pages and is available at this link.  I predict that both sides seek en banc review and perhaps even Supreme Court review, so this story is not likely to end anytime soon.  And I suspect Capital Defense Weekly and Crime and Consequences in the meantime will have a lot to say about the Third Circuit panel's work here.

March 27, 2008 at 12:36 PM | Permalink


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I notice there is a long dissent to the affirmance of the conviction based on Batson and citing the recent Snyder decision based on a quick glance. Neither side must be happy with this outcome and I agree more action is likely.

Posted by: Zack | Mar 27, 2008 1:22:49 PM

Zack is probably right. The district court affirmed the conviction but vacated the sentence, and it appears that both sides appealed.

The CA3 majority agreed with the district court, but Judge Ambro dissented w/r/t the conviction.

Posted by: | Mar 27, 2008 2:37:06 PM

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