Local/State

Mumia Abu-Jamal case back before appeals court

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A federal appeals court began hearing arguments concerning the sentence of death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal.

By the hundreds, pro-Jamal demonstrators gathered outside the federal courthouse where the 3-judge panel would begin another review of the death sentence hanging over the head of international death row celebrity Mumia Abu-Jamal who still awaits execution for the 1981 killing of Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Inside the courtroom, Faulkner's widow sat with wives and family members of other fallen officers. Maureen Faulkner says Monday would have been the couple's 31st wedding anniversary.

In 2008, this same 3rd circuit granted the former radio reporter a new sentencing hearing based on what it labeled flawed instructions by trial judge Albert Sabo, but the Supreme Court this year ordered this lower court to revisit the case.

The legal arguments were highly technical and convoluted.

Abu-Jamal's lawyer Judy Ritter wants this trio of judges to stand by their original ruling.

"The jury is supposed to be free to consider a wide range of mitigating circumstances; the instructions, the verdict sheet gave the impression to the jury that that was not the case, that they had to be unanimous," Ritter said.

"At the time that he gave these instructions, they were instructions that had been approved by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania," Assistant Philadelphia District Attorney Hugh Burns said.

Abu-Jamal, who was never slated to appear at Tuesday's hearing in federal court, remains the poster child for anti-death penalty crusaders.

Abu-Jamal has claimed for years that racism by the trial judge and prosecution denied him a fair trial.

No matter who wins at this level, the case will continue to move up the legal ladder.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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police officer killed, mumia abu-jamal, vernon odom, pennsylvania, philadelphia, local/state
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