U.S. Court Grants New Sentencing for Mumia Abu-Jamal

FoxNews, April 26, 2011

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered a new sentencing hearing for convicted police killer and death-row activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, finding for a second time that the death-penalty instructions given to the jury at his 1982 trial were potentially misleading.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told prosecutors to conduct the new sentencing hearing for the former Black Panther within six months or agree to a life sentence. Abu-Jamal’s first-degree murder conviction still stands in the fatal shooting of Officer Daniel Faulkner, who was white.

District Attorney Seth Williams pledged to mount another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, at the urging of Faulkner’s widow, Maureen.

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A federal judge in 2001 first granted him a new sentencing hearing because of the trial judge’s instructions on aggravating and mitigating factors. Philadelphia prosecutors have been fighting the order since, but the 3rd Circuit ruled against them in a pivotal 2008 decision.

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Under Pennsylvania law, Abu-Jamal should have received a life sentence if a single juror found the mitigating circumstances outweighed the aggravating factors in Faulkner’s slaying. The three-judge appeals panel found the verdict form confusing, given its repeated use of the word “unanimous,” even in the section on mitigating circumstances.

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The decision upholds the 2001 ruling by U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr., who first ruled that the flawed jury instructions warranted a new sentencing hearing. While prosecutors were fighting that ruling, Abu-Jamal has been trying unsuccessfully to have his conviction overturned.

Faulkner, a white 25-year-old patrolman, had pulled over Abu-Jamal’s brother on a downtown street at about 4 a.m. one morning in 1981. Abu-Jamal, a former radio reporter, was working as a cabbie at the time.

According to trial testimony, Faulkner stopped the brother, William Cook, for a driving infraction. Abu-Jamal, from his taxicab across the street, saw them scuffle and ran toward the scene. Police found Abu-Jamal wounded by a round from Faulkner’s gun. Faulkner, shot several times, was dead. A .38-caliber revolver registered to Abu-Jamal was found at the scene with five spent shell casings.

Abu-Jamal, born Wesley Cook, turned 58 on Sunday. His writings and radio broadcasts from death row in western Pennsylvania have made him a cause celebre and the subject of numerous books and movies. His own 1995 book, “Live From Death Row,” describes prison life and calls the justice system racist and ruled by political expediency.

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  • Question Diversity

    At this rate, he’ll die on death row of natural causes before the state can execute him.

  • Wayne Engle

    In a legal system replete with miscarriages of justice, this has to be the worst of at least the last 30 years. Mumia Abu-Jamal is a murderous, White-hating thug who killed Daniel Faulkner as sure as you’re a foot high. He should have been executed long ago. That he hasn’t been only shows that clever lawyers can often game the system forever on behalf of worthless clients — if said clients happen to be members of the most-approved minority.

    And what can one say about these foolish, misguided White people who have marched and demonstrated on behalf of Abu-Jamal? They “didn’t know all the facts,” as the prosecutor said? Oh, they knew the facts, all right. The facts didn’t matter to them. A White policeman had been killed by a black man — so of course “White racism” must be to blame.

  • SF Paul

    This criminal decide that the best way to get out of jail was to write a book and be very articulate. White liberals just can’t believe that a well spoken black man could kill a policeman. It’s amazing that this case is still wasting the judicial systems time and money. The only part I find hard to believe is that he had a legally registered gun. Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

  • Jeddermann.

    “At this rate, he’ll die on death row of natural causes before the state can execute him”

    Well, either that for Mr. Cook or he will get a “new trial” and the decision will be made for Mr. Cook to plead guilty to lesser charges and then he will be released. Such is not out of the question and should not be forgotten.

    This has been almost thirty years now for Mr. Cook being given break after break after break after break over and over. The case against Mr. Cook is so overwhelming and yet after thirty years this still goes on! Mitigating circumstance. They use that phrase a lot. In the case of Mr. Cook there are absolutely NO mitigating circumstances at all.

  • HH

    This is utterly obscene at this point – in fact, it has been for years! How can America crow about “Justice” as we do, when we allow such a disgraceful cricus to continue in the courts? If ever there was a case where politics obviously outrules anything most would recognize as legitimate jurisprudence, this is it! Sick…

  • Madison Grant

    While it’s true Mumia is a guilty-as-hell racist cop-killing dirtbag, it’s not surprising that he’s still alive.

    As talk radio host Michael Smerconish explained today, only 3 convicted killers have been executed in Pennsylvania in the last 40 years, and only because they dropped their appeals, in effect asking to die.

    No one in neighboring New Jersey or New York has been executed since the early 60s; the liberal judges have made the death penalty a dead letter.

  • Seek

    Back in 1999, Vanity Fair magazine did an exhaustive profile of “Mumia,” and concluded — without any doubt — that he killed that cop in Philly. The piece is worth downloading.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    In a legal system replete with miscarriages of justice, this has to be the worst of at least the last 30 years. Mumia Abu-Jamal is a murderous, White-hating thug who killed Daniel Faulkner as sure as you’re a foot high.

    –Wayne Engle

    My sentiments exactly Wayne.

    I was shocked when I saw this article and it is indeed a miscarriage of justice, a 40-year miscarriage of justice.

    Unbelievable that the Faulkner family has to yet again face their loved one’s murderer, and worse, his many supporters.

    When will this end for the Faulkner family?

    French name street to honor Philly cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal

    He is also an honorary citizen of Paris, the first one so named in 30 years.

    The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution naming a day in Abu-Jamal’s honor. Ditto the European Parliament. The anti-Iraq war group Not in Our Name proudly advertised Abu-Jamal’s endorsement as one of its celebrity signatories. Writer Alice Walker likened Abu-Jamal to South African leader Nelson Mandela.

    Twenty-two members of the British Parliament called for a new trial.

    Oakland schools scheduled a Mumia teach-in…The teach-in lesson plan referred to Abu-Jamal not as a cop killer, but as a ‘political prisoner.’

    The usual Hollywood stars — Ed Asner, Mike Farrell — are happy to impugn the motives and behavior of Philly police and prosecutors. Devotees desperately cling to the notion that Abu-Jamal… is a victim of racism.

    NBC’s Matt Lauer asked Maureen Faulkner mostly skeptical questions, such as: ‘Do you ever allow yourself to consider the fact that perhaps he didn’t do this?’

    As for Maureen Faulkner, widow of Officer Faulkner, she been threatened, cursed at, intimidated, spat at outside of court as well as subjected to cretins who shout things at her like We’re glad your pig husband is dead! and He got what he deserved!

    She has received so many death threats that for years she refused to give any information as to where she lived and worked.

    Maureen relates that no one knows Danny’s name yet Mumia maintains enthusiastic, on-going, world-wide support.

    If this is not a miscarriage of justice, I don’t know what is.

    Bon

  • Sardonicus

    I have no doubt that if Mumia were ever executed, which appears extremely unlikely, that there would be public scenes of hysterical grief and consternation among many white liberals. As SF Paul mentioned, liberals believe that any articulate black is incapable of committing a heinous crime–heck, they think that about most white criminals as well! Liberals live in a protected fantasy world and insist we all share their delusion.

  • Frank

    The courts will keep giving him stays and he will eventually get a straight life sentence. That will enable him to get parole. He is too hot politically to kill.

  • Soprano Fan

    I think the best thing would be for Mumia to get life imprisonment without parole. Face it, Pennsylvania will never execute him, So the next best thing is to keep him on the inside until the day he dies.

  • AM

    Ahh Mumia, I’ve always loved the arguments put forth by his defenders. They are generally along the lines of: “Mumia was framed! He was never anywhere near the scene of the crime and his gun was planted there. Besides which those cops were racist and he only shot them to save his brother!”

    Mumia should be grateful for his incarceration. Before his arrest, he was a failed writer driving a hack on the night shift to make ends meet, now he’s a published author with a radio program. Getting busted was the best career move he ever made.