Death Sentence Overturned, but Danger Still Clear and Present


On December 18, U.S. District Judge William Yohn overturned Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence, citing errors in Abu-Jamal’s 1982 sentencing hearing. State prosecutors have 180 days to conduct a new sentencing hearing for Abu-Jamal’s first-degree murder conviction; if not, the sentence will revert to life imprisonment.

The ruling upholds Abu-Jamal’s 1981 first-degree murder conviction for the death of Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner. While acknowledging errors in the jury charge and verdict form in his 272-page ruling, Yohn denied all other claims and refused to grant a new trial, which Abu-Jamal supporters are still seeking. Yohn’s ruling does not eliminate the possibility of Abu-Jamal being re-sentenced to death.

Within the claims denied by the ruling is a petition to hear new evidence in the case, including the testimony of Arnold Beverly, a man whom Abu-Jamal’s defense lawyers say has confessed to Faulkner’s murder. In previous rulings by Yohn and Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe, this new evidence was excluded due to time limitations imposed by the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). While Yohn’s ruling sets aside Abu-Jamal’s death sentence, AEDPA has prevented evidence from being heard that might lead to an overturn of Abu-Jamal’s conviction.

State prosecutors have vowed to appeal the ruling, and supporters of Abu-Jamal have said they will not be satisfied until the murder conviction is overturned and Mumia is free.

Related Story:

“Clear and Present Danger: Anti-Terrorism Law and Mumia Abu-Jamal” by Dasun Allah

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