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US: Mumia Abu-Jamal Sentence Unconstitutional

Mumia Abu-Jamal Sentence Unconstitutional

Mumia Abu-Jamal may be the best known prisoner on death row. A journalist and activist, he is the author of six books and hosts weekly radio broadcasts from prison and is for many the face of the social justice movement and prisoners' rights.

His case took an unexpected turn last week as a federal appeals court ruled, for the second time, that his death sentence was unconstitutional. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia found the sentencing instructions received by the jury was confusing and unclear and did not rule on Abu-Jamal's guilt or innocence.

Abu-Jamal's case has snaked through the justice system since the 1980s. In December 1981, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over a car driven by William Cook, Abu-Jamal's brother. The rest of the story remains in dispute, but shots were fired. Both Abu-Jamal and Officer Faulkner were shot. Faulkner died from his injuries and Abu-Jamal was found guilty of his murder.

The judge who presided over Abu-Jamal's trial was widely considered to be a racist and came under fire for conduct during Abu-Jamal's trial. It was Sabo's instructions to the jury that the court found unconstitutional for two times now.

As a result of this recent decision, Abu-Jamal will likely petition the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on whether or not he received a fair trial. Abu-Jamal could get a new, full sentencing hearing before a jury. At that hearing, the jury would be given clear instructions on how to decide between applying a sentence of life in prison versus the death penalty. If successful, Abu-Jamal would be removed from solitary confinement on death row.

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