20 January 2010

Supremes throw Abu-Jamal case back to appeals court

I am not a lawyer, but it appears to me that famed Pennsylvania death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal may be running out of legal options. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which had rescinded Abu-Jamal's death sentence because of flawed jury instructions in his original trial. The issue involves how jurors were to weigh various mitigating factors that may have resulted in a sentence other than the death penalty.

The Supremes ordered the appellate court to reconsider its decision in light of a recent similar case in Ohio, in which the high court had reinstated the death sentence, saying that jurors do not need to agree unanimously on mitigating factors.

For years, rights groups have been speaking out against Abu-Jamal's death sentence. A 2000 report by Amnesty International noted that "numerous aspects of this case clearly failed to meet minimum international standards safeguarding the fairness of legal proceedings." Amnesty expressed concerns about judicial bias and hostility, police misconduct, and the apparent withholding of evidence from the jury. Amnesty called for a new trial "in a neutral venue, where the case has not polarized the public as it has in Philadelphia."

And, last year, the 95th annual convention of the NAACP passed an emergency resolution calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the cases of Abu-Jamal and some other prisoners.

But it all seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

According to USA Today, "[t]he 3rd Circuit could still order a federal trial court to consider Abu-Jamal's case anew on other still-pending defense claims." I hope that they will, rather than succumb to the pressure from the higher court to just kill him and be done with it.

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice article, I really enjoyed reading it!