Mumia Abu-Jamal, one of the most famous death-row inmates in the U.S., will receive life in prison for the 1981 shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer Wednesday when prosecutors decided against seeking a new death penalty verdict, putting to rest a racially-charged case that has endured for decades.
The U.S. Supreme Court in October cleared the way for Abu-Jamal, who was found guilty of shooting Officer Daniel Faulker, to receive a new sentencing hearing. The high court had decided against hearing a case from a lower appeals court that overturned Abu-Jamal's death penalty.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams Wednesday said he declined to press for a second death penalty verdict, allowing the case to be tied up in appeals. Instead, Abu-Jamal will be sentenced to life in prison.
There's never been any doubt in my mind that Mumia Abu-Jamal shot and killed Officer Faulkner. I believe that the appropriate sentence was handed down by a jury of his peers in 1982, Williams said, according to The Associated Press. While Abu-Jamal will no longer be facing the death penalty, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life, and that is where he belongs.
Fighting Death Penalty for Decades
Abu-Jamal has maintained his innocence and has been fighting his death penalty verdict for decades, becoming an international icon in the process. Abu-Jamal alleged prosecutorial misconduct during his case and a biased, mostly white jury.
Abu-Jamal, born Wesley Cook, was a cab driver and one-time radio reporter accused of shooting Faulkner after witnessing the officer stop a car his brother was driving. Abu-Jamal's attempts at a new trial have failed, with courts upholding his conviction.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia this year decided that Abu-Jamal, who has become a criminal justice activist and writer while in prison, deserved a new sentencing hearing because of potentially misleading death-penalty instructions the jury received at his 1982 trial.
That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, but the justices declined to review the ruling.
The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, which represented Abu-Jamal during his appeals, welcomed the district attorney's decision.
After three long decades, it was time to bring the quest for a death sentence for Mr. Abu-Jamal to an end, said Judith Ritter, a law professor who was also on Abu-Jamal's legal team. There is no question that justice is served when a death sentence from a misinformed jury is overturned.