The U.S. Supreme Court effectively wiped out 30 years of debate regarding the fate of Mumia Abu-Jamal yesterday when it rejected a request from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to re-impose the death sentence for the convicted cop-killer.
The highest court’s refusal to get involved in the racially charged case — centered on the murder of a white Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner — means prosecutors must either start over again or agree to a life sentence. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing after concluding that the death penalty instructions given to the jury during the 1982 trial were misleading. Mumia supporters were pleasantly surprised.
“It’s a partial victory, because Mumia will not die on death row. But a complete victory would be a new trial so this man could be released,” said local defense attorney Michael Coard. “If you give him a new trial, I don’t care if it’s a first-year law student, he’ll be found not guilty.”
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby saw it differently.
“We’re going to wait and see what happens and talk to Maureen [Faulkner] and see what her wishes are. This has been dragging on, and it’s got to be tough for the family as many years as it’s been going on,” McNesby said.
District Attorney Seth Williams’ office has not decided whether to pursue a new penalty hearing or to let Abu-Jamal die in prison.