Mumia Abu-Jamal: Court Orders New Sentencing

The jury that chose the death penalty for him may have received improper instructions.

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mumiademonstration
Supporters demonstrate on the 25th anniversary of Abu-Jamal's arrest.
(Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

A federal appeals court ruled today that high-profile death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal should get a new sentencing hearing, Reuters reports. Abu-Jamal, who is African American, was convicted in 1982 of the fatal shooting of a white Philadelphia police officer. He was sentenced to death, and his case became the subject of wide debate.

Abu-Jamal, who has been a vocal advocate for his own cause, has gained supporters around the world, who view him as a symbol of the racial inequities and other injustices of the American death-penalty system. They argue he did not get a fair trial and say the evidence does not support his conviction.

Today the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed, at least in part. It ruled that sentencing form and instructions used by the jury in Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial could have inaccurately led jurors to believe that they needed to be unanimous in a decision as to whether there were mitigating circumstances that would spare Abu-Jamal's life.

The court did let stand the first-degree murder verdict. Still, for the hundreds of vocal supporters and death-penalty opponents who regularly turn out for court hearings in the case, this represents an enormous development. Not just about whether this particular man will receive the death penalty or spend his life behind bars, but about the larger issues of fairness, and whether our criminal-justice system can be trusted to do its job.

Read more at Reuters.

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