United States Supreme Court Rejects Appeal from Philadelphia DA’s Office
Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Death Sentence is Unconstitutional
(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, 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.