The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday cleared the way for famed death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal to get a new sentencing hearing for the murder of a white Philadelphia police officer in 1981.
Abu-Jamal, whose racially-charged trial and death sentence made him an international icon, had been fighting for a new trial and against his death sentence for decades, alleging prosecutorial misconduct and a biased, mostly white jury. Abu-Jamal has maintained his innocence.
An appellate court this year decided that Abu-Jamal, who has become a criminal justice activist and writer while in prison, deserved a new hearing because of potentially misleading death-penalty instructions the jury received at his 1982 trial.
High Court Move Ends Decades of Legal Wrangling
The Philadelphia District Attorney's office appealed the ruling, but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, ending decades of legal wrangling over his death sentence.
The DA's office declined to comment on the Supreme Court's decision against taking the case.
The district attorney, along with members of the office's Law Division, need to determine the next course of action in this case and no decision will be made today, the office said in a statement.
Abu-Jamal, born Wesley Cook, will now spend the rest of his life in prison unless the Philadelphia District Attorney's office seeks the death penalty again at the new sentencing hearing in a county trial court.
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 for the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented Abu-Jamal. 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.
Abu-Jamal, a cab driver and radio reporter, was accused of shooting Daniel 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.