Mumia Abu-Jamal no longer faces death penalty
Abu-Jamal, convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, argued there were procedural errors during his sentencing.
December 7th, 2011
12:27 PM ET

Mumia Abu-Jamal no longer faces death penalty

Philadelphia prosecutors have dropped their pursuit of the death penalty against Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of fatally shooting a police officer nearly three decades ago.

Abu-Jamal will instead serve a life sentence in prison, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Abu-Jamal had been sentenced to death for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner, but a federal appeals court in April declared the death sentence unconstitutional, ruling that the jury instructions at Abu-Jamal's original 1982 murder trial were unclear.

His attorneys have repeatedly argued that confusing jury instructions and the verdict form given to the jury favored a death sentence instead of life in prison.

The April appeals court ruling does not grant Abu-Jamal a new trial, so his conviction of murder stands. Last month, the state Supreme Court rejected a request from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to overturn the federal appeals court decision, meaning Abu-Jamal would get a life prison sentence unless the district attorney decided to seek another death sentence from a new jury.

Witnesses testified that Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner in the back and head after the officer pulled his brother over during a late-night traffic stop. He was wounded in the encounter and later confessed to the killing, according to other testimony.

Abu-Jamal has been on death row at a state prison in southwest Pennsylvania, where he's been an outspoken activist from behind bars - claiming there were procedural errors during his capital sentencing, and that too few blacks were on the jury.

The case has attracted international attention, amid charges of prosecutorial misconduct. Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and onetime radio reporter and cab driver, has been a divisive figure, with many prominent supporters arguing that racism pervaded his trial.

Others counter Abu-Jamal is using his race to try to escape responsibility for his actions. They say he has provoked community unrest for years with his writings and advocacy.

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Filed under: Crime • Pennsylvania
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. BOMBO

    Shot a man in the back. There's a fine hero.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      Where would u shoot a man at if he was raping your wife or sister or murdering your brother or son. Maybe tell him to turn around

      December 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO

      How does your brain work JomoDaMusicMan? He wasn't r-ping anyone. He wasn't murdering anyone's brother or son. He was giving his brother a speeding ticket. Are you telling us that if you saw the ploice giving your brother a speeding ticket, you would shoot the officer in the back? I hope to God not. I don't want to be anywhere near a ticking bomb like you.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Portland tonyxvc

    "Out of the fire, into the frying pan"

    December 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Student

    This is good news. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is quoted today as saying: "Based on even a minimal following of international human rights standards, Mumia must now be released. I therefore join the call, and ask others to follow, asking District Attorney Seth Williams to rise to the challenge of reconciliation, human rights, and justice: drop this case now, and allow Mumia Abu-Jamal to be immediately released, with full time served.” Amen. Enough is enough.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      I'm confused. Is there doubt about his guilt? If not, why should he be released? He confessed and was wounded in the encounter. It sounds like he's guilty. I don't know about the death penalty aspect, but if he's guilty of the killing, why should be be released?

      December 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO

      The case was new to me too, so I did some reading before posting my first comment. His "confession" was not typical. He was in hospital, being treated for the one wound he received from the officer, who managed to turn and fire in self defense before dying. He yelled to hospital security "YEAH I SHOT THE M-FER, AND I HOPE THE M-FER DIES." In his 30 years in prison, he has apparently written eloquently about race relations and prisoners' rights, and as a result has built a following. He has not however, as far as I can find, expressed any remorse or taken any responsibility for the murder itself.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • James M

      The lesson to be learned from this is simple: Whether you are guilty or innocent, do not be standing by a dead cop with a pistol in your hand. Or maybe, if you find yourself in this situation, use the sixth bullet on yourself. Because even if you're innocent, you're unlucky enough for you innocence to not matter. Also I'm not convinced that life without parole is a lighter sentence than death.

      December 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Confused

      @ James. He was standing over the cop, with the murder weapon, but he's innocent? I don't get what you're saying.

      December 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BOMBO

    No. He'll just shoot someone else in the back. Next time, it might be you, Student.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Portland tonyxvc

    Crimes of rage are seldom repeated. However this man, being incarcerated for so long, has little or no prospects for rehabilitation on the outside. He should remain a Ward of the state unless prosecutor malfeasance is proven.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JonahLuck

    If they truly thought him deserving of the death penalty why would the cease seeking it? There's always been doubt in this case, witnesses disappearing, recanting testimony, another man claiming responsibility for the murder... There's a reason why such a high standard as "shadow of a doubt" is used in the phrasing. Yes, there's doubt, therefore a life sentence cannot be imposed. Anyone who had civics or forensics should be able to understand this.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO

      Do a little more reading, Jonah. There is no doubt. The ballistics match, the only witnesses who changed their minds were a few defense witnesses who were never too sure what they saw in the first place. The prosecution witnesses were always sure and have never recanted. I don't know where you found the "other man claiming responsibility", please post reference if you have one, and his own brother at the traffic stop has NOT disputed the facts. He was there, and his only comment during the arrest was "This has nothing to do with me."

      The decision not to pursue the death penalty is procedural. The high court has ordered that in order to get the death penalty, they would basically need a whole new sentencing hearing, almost as much of an ordeal as a whole new trial 30 years after the fact.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • bhibsen

      The standard is "beyond a REASONABLE doubt", not beyond the SHADOW of a doubt. There is a great deal of scholarly work related to this topic. Basically, the standard is whether the evidence would lead a reasonable person to come to a conclusion of guilt.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Richard

    I think spending many decades in prison is worth than death. They could have offered him a choice.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO

      I actually agree with you. But the worst possible sentence would be a death sentence, hanging over your head but never carried out, until you died of old age.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    He shot a policeman. He shot him in the back and the head during a traffic stop.
    He didn't shoot anybody rayping his mother or sister.
    Your scenario is not applicable.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ BOMBO:
    Thank you for doing the research.
    I've know about this case for years, and I've never heard credible views of Abu-Jamal's innocence, although there may have been a technicality of jury instruction.
    Generally, those who defend this murderer quickly change the discussion to one of race relations, with the implication that somehow Abu-Jamal did a good thing by killing the policeman–although, of course, he didn't do it.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I think that the death penalty is absolutely appropriate in this confessed murder of a policeman.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DesMoiner

    This cop killing S C U M bag should have taken two taps to his ugly mug years ago. Wesley Cook needs to meet his maker with extreme prejudice. What ever happened to a good ole fashioned prison shanking?

    December 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bigwilliestyles

    The people calling for Mumia's head are the same ones that ignore the many killings perpetrated by the police from coast to coast. What did the cop who 'pulled his gun instead of his taser' get, 1 year? I didn't hear you folks screaming for the death penalty for him. But he's not Black is he? There's a reason that the death sentence is dis proportionally given to Blacks in this country; people like some of the above posters are allowed on juries.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • DesMoiner

      True dat my brother, true dat. If you murder someone, the sentence should be state sanctioned homicide. It's a pretty simple concept really. Cop killers, cops that kill, whatever. And I think that the reason "the death sentence is dis proportionately given to Blacks in this country" is because they commit a disproportionate number of crimes. The truth only hurts if it should.

      December 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. theleftsucks

    Liberal democrats need the black and hispanic vote bank to vote exclusively for the DEMs so they will say and do anything to appease the backers of this murderer including overturn his conviction if they could. This is not about fair justice, the judges even know about that.
    This is a foundational violation of bill of rights and equal justice that will one day bear a revolution in the United States.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bigwilliestyles

    @ dis moaner: I love how people like you throw around nonsense and hope someone thinks that its fact. Blacks do not commit more crimes than whites or anyone else. They are sentenced to prison terms dis proportionately, while the whites get sentenced to SEVERAL probations before they are EVENTUALLY sentenced to some token sentence. This is why people are always 'shocked' to hear that their neighbor is a crook (Bernie Madof); they think all crime is done by Blacks.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. @theleftsucks

    And why would blacks or hispanics vote for conservatives? So that none of the issues important to them can ever be addressed by elected officials? That makes sense...

    December 7, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
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