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Court: Mumia Deserves New Hearing But Not New Trial

Court: Mumia Deserves New Hearing But Not New Trial Kathy Matheson

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — 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.

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.

Hundreds of people protested outside the federal building in Philadelphia in May and an overflow crowd — including legal scholars, students, lawyers, the policeman's widow and Abu-Jamal's brother — filled the courtroom when the appeals court heard arguments about the case.

The officer's widow, Maureen Faulkner, has kept her husband's memory alive over the years, and recently co-wrote a book about the case. The book, "Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain and Injustice," written with radio talk-show host Michael Smerconish, came out in December.


US Court Overturns Mumia Abu-Jamal's Death Sentence

A US federal appeals court has overturned the death sentence imposed on former Black Panthers member Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The court said Abu-Jamal's conviction for murdering a Philadelphia police officer should stand, but that he should have a new sentencing hearing.

The former radio journalist and activist was sentenced to death for the murder in 1982.

While in jail he became a leading campaigner against the death penalty.

He appealed against the sentence, on the grounds that racism on the part of the judge and the prosecutors had corrupted his conviction, which was by a jury of 10 white and two black people.

Mitigating circumstances

The Third US Circuit Court of Appeals found on Thursday that the jury had been given flawed instructions over how to consider mitigating circumstances to the crime.

"The jury instructions and the verdict form created a reasonable likelihood that the jury believed it was precluded from finding a mitigating circumstance that had not been unanimously agreed upon," the court wrote.

The Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, which has campaigned for a fresh trial, described the ruling as a "devastating decision", and called for mass protests on Friday.

A federal judge in 2001 also came to the conclusion that Abu-Jamal should be given a new sentencing hearing because of the jury instructions - but this decision was appealed against by prosecutors.

Thursday's decision upheld the 2001 judgement.

The police officer killed, Daniel Faulkner, pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother one night in December 1981 for driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

Abu-Jamal denied killing the officer, and says he himself was shot while running away.

The officer's widow, Maureen Faulkner, recently co-wrote a book about the case, called "Murdered by Mumia: A life sentence of loss, pain and injustice".

Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/7317451.stm