Supreme Court Tosses Mumia Abu-Jamal Ruling
PHILADELPHIA (AP) ― The Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out a ruling that had set aside the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, coonvicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in a racially tinged case that has made the former Black Panther an international cause celebre.
The justices ordered the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to revisit its 2008 ruling that Abu-Jamal deserved a new sentencing hearing because of flawed jury instructions at his 1982 trial. The Supreme Court pointed to its ruling in an Ohio case last week, when it said a neo-Nazi killer did not deserve a new sentencing hearing on those grounds.
Prosecutors called the Ohio case directly on point.
"The order pretty much says it all," Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Hugh J. Burns Jr. said. "I don't see how you can possibly distinguish them."
But Abu-Jamal's lawyer insists the facts differ.
"If our cases are similar, of course it doesn't bode well. But
they're different," said lead appellate lawyer Robert R. Bryan of San Francisco. "It's always uphill with a death-penalty case."
The 3rd Circuit could still order a federal trial court to consider Abu-Jamal's case anew on other still-pending defense claims.
A mostly white Philadelphia jury convicted Abu-Jamal of killing white Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981 after the patrolman pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother in an overnight traffic stop.
Prosecutors believe the 25-year-old Faulkner managed to shoot Abu-Jamal during the confrontation. A wounded Abu-Jamal, his own gun lying nearby, was still at the scene when police arrived, and authorities consider the evidence against him overwhelming.