(New York, NY) — Today the United States Supreme Court rejected a request from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to overturn the most recent federal appeals court decision declaring Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence unconstitutional. The Court’s decision brings to an end nearly thirty years of litigation over the fairness of the sentencing hearing that resulted in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s being condemned to death. Mr. Abu-Jamal will be automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole unless the District Attorney elects to seek another death sentence from a new jury.
The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and Professor Judith Ritter of Widener Law School represent Mr. Abu-Jamal in the appeal of his conviction and death sentence for the 1981 murder of a police officer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court’s decision marks the fourth time that the federal courts have found that Mr. Abu-Jamal’s sentencing jury was misled about the constitutionally mandated process for considering evidence supporting a life sentence.
“At long last, the profoundly troubling prospect of Mr. Abu-Jamal facing an execution that was produced by an unfair and unreliable penalty phase has been eliminated,” said John Payton, President and Director-Counsel of LDF. “Like all Americans, Mr. Abu-Jamal was entitled to a proper proceeding that takes into account the many substantial reasons why death was an inappropriate sentence.” Professor Ritter stated, “Our system should never condone an execution that stems from a trial in which the jury was improperly instructed on the law.”
Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case will now return to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas for final sentencing.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 70 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments.