A Supreme Court blow to anti-death penalty icon Mumia Abu-Jamal
The Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed an appeals court ruling that would have given Mumia Abu-Jamal a chance to avoid the dealth penalty. Some opponents of capital punishment have championed Abu-Jamal's case.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose death sentence for killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981 has become an international cause célèbre for opponents of capital punishment, has suffered a significant setback at the US Supreme Court.Skip to next paragraph
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In a summary order issued on Tuesday, the high court reversed a 2008 federal appeals court ruling that had required a new sentencing hearing for Mr. Abu-Jamal.
The Supreme Court action sends the case back to the Third US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to reconsider the issue in light of a similar decision handed down last week by the high court. In that case, with similar facts, the justices voted 9 to 0 to reverse an order that struck down the death sentence.
Tuesday’s action by the Supreme Court likely moves Abu-Jamal significantly closer to execution.
Abu-Jamal’s writings about his legal plight have attracted widespread attention among human rights activists and capital punishment opponents in the US and Europe. He has maintained that the police coerced witnesses to testify against him and that racial prejudice and discrimination played a role in his death sentence.
This week, supporters began circulating a petition to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder calling for an investigation into the “long history of civil rights and constitutional violations in this case.”
The case against Abu-Jamal
The case stems from a December 1981 traffic stop in which Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over a car driven by Abu-Jamal’s brother, William Cook. Abu-Jamal was a passenger in the car. A struggle broke out between Mr. Cook and Officer Faulkner.
According to witnesses, as the struggle continued Abu-Jamal ran back toward the car from a parking lot across the street and shot Faulkner in the back. The officer fell to the ground and returned fire, striking Abu-Jamal in the chest. Abu-Jamal then allegedly walked toward the officer, stood over him, and fired four more shots at close range. One shot struck Faulkner between the eyes.
He was convicted and sentenced to death. The jury found one aggravating factor – killing a police officer who was acting in the line of duty. The jury considered one mitigating factor, Abu-Jamal’s lack of a significant criminal record.
It is the sentencing phase of the trial that was under consideration in the appeal to the Supreme Court.