Mumia Abu-Jamal Faces US Supreme Court
Hans Bennett | 4/12/2011, 4:35 p.m.
On March 27, the three-judge panel unanimously affirmed Federal District Court Judge William Yohn's 2001 decision "overturning" the death sentence. Citing the 1988 Mills v. Maryland precedent, Yohn had ruled that sentencing forms used by jurors and Judge Sabo's instructions to A the jury were potentially confusing, and jurors could have mistakenly believed that they had to unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances in order to consider them as weighing against a death sentence.
According to this ruling, if the DA wants to re-instate the death sentence, the DA must call for a new penalty-phase jury trial where new evidence of Mumia's innocence can be presented. However, the jury can only choose between a sentence of life in prison without parole or a death sentence.
The DA is appealing this 2001/2008 ruling to the US Supreme Court, so if the court agrees to consider the DA's appeal and rules in their favor, Mumia can then be executed without benefit of the new sentencing trial.
However, if the court upholds the 2001 and 2008 rulings, then the DA will either request a new sentencing trial or accept life in prison without the chance of parole.
Notably, at the DA's request, during the post-2001 appeals, Mumia has never left his death row cell or been given general population "privileges" such as contact visits with family.
Reacting to the DA's Appeal
Following news that the DA was appealing to execute without a new sentencing trial, I spoke with Dave Lindorff, J. Patrick O'Connor, and William Francome.Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: An investigation into the death row case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. He says that "the obsession of a string of Philadelphia district attorneys, beginning with current Governor Ed Rendell and ending with current DA Lynn Abraham with killing Mumia Abu-Jamal, despite his now having spent 26 years in the living hell of Pennsylvania's death row, is truly repulsive and inhuman. It has ruined the live of Daniel Faulkner's widow whose life has become a pathetic campaign of vengeance. It has cost the taxpayers of Philadelphia and of the state of Pennsylvania untold millions of dollars. And meanwhile, there is every reason to believe that Abu-Jamal was wrongly convicted of first degree murder and should never have been sentenced to death in the first place. The obsession to kill him, which began from the moment police first arrived on the scene in December, 1981, has led to a decades long travesty of and insult to the principles of justice, which is continuing to this day."
William Francome, from the British film In Prison My Whole Life says that this "shows again the political nature of this case. It is my opinion that their office would not like to have to go through with another sentencing phase of the trial, with the attention that it would receive. They wish that this case would just disappear and that Mumia would be quiet, yet they do not want to face the Fraternal Order of Police who would be outraged if the DA wasn't pushing for a death sentence...The sad thing is that amongst the political battles, a man's life is at stake and I find the attempt at reinstating the death sentence (which is a completely irreversible and inhumane practice), to be abhorrent."