Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Death Sentence Found Unconstitutional: Democracy Now

Court Rules Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Death Sentence is Unconstitutional, Grants New Sentencing Hearing

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The case of Pennsylvania death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal took a surprising turn Tuesday when the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared his death sentence unconstitutional. It is the second time the court has agreed with a lower court judge who set aside Abu-Jamal’s death sentence after finding jurors were given confusing instructions that encouraged them to choose death rather than a life sentence. Now Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and journalist, could get a new sentencing hearing in court. We speak with his co-counsel, Judith Ritter, and Linn Washington, an award-winning journalist who has followed Abu-Jamal’s case for almost three decades.

AMY GOODMAN: The case of Pennsylvania death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal took a surprising turn Tuesday when an appeals court unanimously declared his death sentence unconstitutional. It’s the second time the court has done so.

Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther and journalist. For decades, he has argued racism by the trial judge and prosecutors led to his 1982 conviction of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Two years ago, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower judge who set aside Abu-Jamal’s death sentence after finding jurors were given confusing instructions that encouraged them to choose death rather than a life sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court then ordered the court to reexamine the decision. Now that the ruling has been upheld, Abu-Jamal could get a new sentencing hearing in court before a new jury.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said he’ll appeal the federal court’s decision to grant a new sentencing hearing for Abu-Jamal.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY SETH WILLIAMS: What I’m going to do is I’m going to review fully the opinion of the Court of Appeals, but it is my belief at this point that I will ask the Supreme Court to clarify and to make a decision on what we should do at this point.

AMY GOODMAN: Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.

Well, to discuss these latest developments in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, we go to Philadelphia, where we’re joined by his attorney, Judy Ritter. She has worked on his case as his co-counsel since 2002 and wrote the legal arguments in this appeal.

We’re also joined by Linn Washington, the award-winning journalist and columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune. He has followed Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case for almost three decades.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! [Click here to read the rest of this story, or to hear it on Democracy Now!]

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