For the first time since resuming capital punishment last year, the Tennessee Supreme Court has pumped the brakes on an execution scheduled for April 16.
The reason? Racism.
From the Tennessean:
The high court delayed Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman’s April 16 execution to allow a lower court time to consider if racial bias surrounding his trial should remove him from death row altogether.
Since being sentenced for his role in a 1986 stabbing that took the life of a Nashville man, the 68-year-old has awaited his final fate on death row for more than three decades. However, questions about the fairness of his sentence persist, and with his execution mere months away that scrutiny has been amplified.
From the Tennessean:
For decades, Abdur’Rahman’s legal team argued his murder trial was tainted, primarily by the actions of prosecutor John Zimmerman. Attorney Brad MacLean said Zimmerman “engaged in a pervasive pattern of suppression and deception,” misrepresenting key facets of the case to the defense team and withholding others.
Eventually, Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins agreed to listen to arguments exploring the likelihood that black jurors were prohibited from being involved in Abdur’Rahman’s case. As such, in August, Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk negotiated a new deal that allowed Abdur’Rahman to serve out a life sentence in place of being executed based on evidence of “prosecutorial misconduct”—more specifically, racial discrimination during jury selection that compromised both his trial and sentencing.
Watkins signed off on the agreement, but weeks later Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery blasted the deal as “improper” and filed an appeal with the intention to exclude the Tennessee Supreme Court from the process in order to retain the original execution date.
However, Slatery’s request was denied by the high court and the appeal process will proceed as usual. As a result, Abdur’Rahman’s execution will be delayed while the appeal remains under consideration.
“This is not the end of the case,” Brad MacLean, Abdur’Rahman’s attorney, said in a statement. “I greatly admire the way Abu-Ali continues to perform his good works in prison during these stressful times. We will continue to vigorously fight for his life and for justice.”