Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another Jamal Appeal Tossed Out Of Court

(pic of Daniel Faulkner)

By Emilie Lounsberry

Inquirer Staff Writer

Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on death row for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, lost another round in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court yesterday even as he awaits a pivotal ruling from a federal appeals court.

The state's highest court rejected Abu-Jamal's request for a hearing into his contention that witnesses in his case committed perjury. The justices concluded that he had waited too long before raising his arguments.

In his quarter-century of appeals, Abu-Jamal, 53, has become the focus of an international debate about the death penalty, with supporters around the world questioning whether he received a fair trial or might even be innocent.

But Abu-Jamal has lost three previous times in the state Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction and death sentence.

In 2001, U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr. upheld the conviction but threw out the death sentence, ruling that Abu-Jamal must be sentenced to life in prison or get a chance to persuade a new Philadelphia jury that he deserves life rather than death.

Yohn concluded that the jury in Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial might have mistakenly believed it had to agree unanimously on mitigating circumstances, factors that might have caused jurors to opt for life.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has been considering whether to reinstate the death sentence or uphold Yohn's decision. The court also could order a new trial, or a hearing on Abu-Jamal's contention that blacks were unfairly excluded from his jury.

If the Third Circuit panel reinstates the death sentence, Abu-Jamal moves closer to execution, and his best chance for avoiding lethal injection would be a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, which hears fewer than 2 percent of all petitions filed each year.


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