Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Attorney Optimistic After Re-sentencing Hearing
Repeated chants of, “Brick-by-brick, wall-for-wall, we will free Mumia Abu Jamal!” & “Mumia deserves a fair trial! Fre Mumia now!” thundered from the sea of international Mumia supporters – numbering approximately a thousand – who organized in front of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Center City Philadelphia this past Tuesday.
Many had traveled from far-off places like Houston, Florida, Canada and even Europe; just to display their support prior to and during a crucial court hearing in front of a 3 judge panel. During this hearing no new evidence was permitted to be presented, only the sentencing phase was discussed.
Back on December 18th 2001, Judge William Yohn Jr. upheld Mumia’s conviction while disallowing the death-sentence based on the fact that jury form for sentencing which was used at Mumia’s initial trial violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s Mills precedent, thus opening the door for a reversal of his death-sentence.
“This court said 2 years ago, that what happened in our penalty phase was a violation of Mills as well,” added Mumia’s lead attorney Judith Ritter. “Whether written instructions given to Abu-Jamal’s 1982 jury may have implicitly encouraged jurors to choose the death penalty, rather than life in prison.”
Prosecutors had 180 days to establish a new jury trial regarding the penalty phase, with – life behind bars w/o parole or death – being the only options. If the state did not respond within the allotted time, Mumia would then automatically be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors appealed the decision and Mumia cross-appealed theirs.
Then on March 27th 2008, Yohn’s verdict was upheld by the 3rd Circuit Court in a 3-0 decision. Prosecutors appealed and Mumia’s attorneys again cross-appealed. New findings disclosed that the jury’s instructions were flawed.
Earlier this year on January 10th, the 3rd Circuit Court was advised by the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling after it was determined that the jury’s instructions were misguiding during Jamal’s sentencing after his 1982 conviction.
The U.S. Supreme Court then ordered the 3rd Circuit Court to reconsider after upholding similar jury instructions in an Ohio case of Frank Spisak – a white-supremacist convicted murderer who appealed his death-sentence as a result of Mills. “That was a very different case, with very different facts,” clarified Ritter.
After the hearing, a confident Judith Ritter , who recently replaced Robert Bryant as Jamal’s lead attorney, stated:
“This is all about the misimpression that was given to the jury in the penalty phase of this case on how to consider mitigating evidence. The jury is supposed to be free to consider a wide range of mitigating evidence. The instructions on the verdict sheet gave the impression to the jury that that was not the case, that they had to be unanimous.”
If prosecutors get their way, it will open the door for Mumia’s possible quick execution. Now the defense awaits the outcome of the hearing which may take some time.
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition
P.O. Box 16
NY, NY 10030
D.A. Seth Williams: 215-686-8000