How immigration is transforming our society.
The definition of terrorist has drifted far
from ground zero.
The return of the culture wars.
The Angolan wars connection to suburban Arizona.
Market Magic's Empty Shell
Days of infamy and memory.
Let's review the tape.
The liberal media strike again.
Israels gravest danger is not the Palestinians.
Bush unilaterally junks the ABM accord.
Washington gives Indians the runaroundagain.
Mumia's death sentence is overturned, for now.
Massey Energy, Inc. targeted by labor and greens.
Phil Radford: Last Call, Save the Ales.
BOOKS: Empires new clothes.
The Empty Theater
BOOKS: Joan Didion vs. the political class.
BOOKS: The Complete Works of Isaac Babel.
FILM: The Devils Backbone of the Spanish
December 22, 2001
Reversal of Fortune?
Mumias death sentence is overturned, for now
Police beat protesters at a legally permitted Free
Mumia march in Philadelphia on December 8. Four protesters were hospitalized;
6 face felony charges.
PhiladelphiaAfter surviving two decades on Pennsylvanias Death
Row, journalist and former Black Panther activist Mumia Abu-Jamal had his death
sentence voided on December 19. The ruling was based on a narrow issue involving
faulty instructions to the jury by the judge and in the jury verdict form at
Abu-Jamals 1982 trial, which federal Judge William Yohn said might have
incorrectly misled the panel.
Judge Yohn rejected all arguments to overturn Abu-Jamals first-degree
murder conviction. Prosecutors have 180 days to file a motion for a new sentencing
hearing before a new jury, which could reimpose a death sentence. If no such
hearing is held, he will automatically be sentenced to life in prison with no
chance of parole.
With the death sentence lifted, the man who was convicted in the 1981 slaying
of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner will be moved from the super-max
prison where he has spent the bulk of his adult life in near solitary confinement
into a regular prison.
Both Abu-Jamals attorneys and Lynne Abraham, Philadelphias District
Attorney, say they will appeal the decision. Hugh Burns, the prosecutor handling
the case, argues that the jury instruction issue cited by Yohn should have been
raised by Abu-Jamal in his first appeal to the states high court in 1989,
and that in raising it later, in 1995, he was too late.
Abu-Jamal, meanwhile, will ask the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn
Yohns rejection of the 19 constitutional complaints his lawyers raised
concerning his conviction. He is also asking the Appeals Court to order Yohn
to consider new evidence and witnesses discovered by his attorneys, Eliot Grossman
and Marlene Kamish. Those witnesses include a controversial figure, Arnold Beverly,
who claims it was he, and not Abu-Jamal, who killed Faulkner.
No date has been set for the federal appeals court to consider the case, and
it could take some time before it is heard. If there were a new sentencing trial,
one hope for Abu-Jamalwho continues to maintain his innocenceis
that he could, at the discretion of the judge, introduce new evidence to raise
residual doubt in the minds of jurors concerning his actual guilt.
Leonard Weinglass and Daniel Williams (both dumped by Abu-Jamal last spring
after Williams published a book about the case) say it was always their hope
that, if they failed to overturn his conviction, a new sentencing hearing might
enable them at least to introduce new evidence of their clients innocence.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals could reverse Judge Yohn or send the case
back to him on the issue of whether the prosecution improperly excused jurors
in 1982 on grounds of their race. While Yohn denied that claim, it is the one
issue he certified to the appeals court, meaning that he felt there were grounds
to reconsider it.
The most likely outcome for Abu-Jamal at this point, though, is that he will
never get out of prison. This grim prospect angers those who have been demanding
his freedom. But given Abu-Jamals charisma and journalistic gifts, the
much greater access to the outside world he will gain as an ordinary prisoner
in the state system is sure to infuriate those othersincluding the police
and most of the states legal and political establishmentwho have
been trying to silence him.
The ruling is being seen as a mixed blessing by Abu-Jamal supporters. Says
Pam Africa, a leader of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia
Abu-Jamal, Trading Mumia from Death Row to life in prison is not acceptable.
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