Philadelphia, Pa. – More than 200 supporters of former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal protested outside a federal appeals court Thursday as lawyers challenged his 1982 conviction for the killing of a police officer.
Abu-Jamal has built a global following from prison through his politically – charged writings and recorded speeches.
Actors, writers, death-penalty opponents and activists have rallied behind his claim of innocence over the years.
At the courthouse Thursday, May 17, Marcus Shell, 35, said Abu-Jamal didn't get a fair trial because of who he was – "a former Black Panther, the voice of the voiceless."
"Mumia represents a lot of Blacks locked up in prison today," Shell said.
Abu-Jamal, 53, a former radio reporter, was convicted of shooting police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981.
Faulkner had pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother in a traffic stop when Abu-Jamal, according to witnesses, ran to the scene from his taxi and shot the 26-year-old officer repeatedly. Abu-Jamal was shot once, apparently by the downed patrolman.
A federal judge in 2001 threw out his death sentence, citing improper jury instructions, but upheld Abu-Jamal's conviction. Both sides are appealing.
Abu-Jamal's lawyer Robert R. Bryan planned to argue that prosecutors improperly rejected a large number of potential Black jurors and that the trial judge was racially biased.
Philadelphia prosecutors say the evidence against Abu-Jamal is overwhelming. They will ask the appeals panel to reinstate the death sentence.
--The Associated Press