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Philly D.A. Drops Pursuit of Death Penalty for Mumia Abu-Jamal

By Dyanna Quizon, Esq. on December 09, 2011 9:02 AM

After nearly 30 years of legal battles over the fate of former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, Philadelphia's District Attorney has announced his office will no longer pursue the death penalty.

The decision was announced a month after the U.S. Supreme Court denied Pennsylvania's request to review the Third Circuit's finding that Abu-Jamal was entitled to a new sentencing hearing.

Given the Supreme Court's denial to rehear the case, the district attorney had two choices: 1) conduct a new sentencing hearing, or 2) revert Abu-Jamal's sentence to life without parole.

District Attorney Seth Williams' decision to choose the latter option was reportedly made with the consensus of the widow of the officer that Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering and the city police commissioner.

Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death in 1982 after he was found guilty of fatally shooting Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Since then, however, his case has been playing Court of Appeals' hot potato over the claim that the instructions given to the jury were potentially misleading.

Abu-Jamal first scored a victory in 2008 when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals granted him a new sentencing hearing. Although the Supreme Court asked the Third Circuit to rethink the decision, the lower court held firm, and the Supreme Court refused to review the matter again.

With the district attorney's decision revert Abu-Jamal's sentence to life imprisonment, it's hard to say if there is a real winner in this case. Mumia Abu-Jamal may be allowed to live, but it does not resolve his accusations of a racist justice system ruled by political expediency.

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