08-16-2018  11:06 am      •     
By The Skanner News
Published: 20 January 2010

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out a ruling that had set aside the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in the 1980s in a racially tinged case that has made the former Black Panther an international cause celebre.

The justices ordered the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to revisit its 2008 ruling that Abu-Jamal deserved a new sentencing hearing because of flawed jury instructions. The Supreme Court pointed to its ruling in an Ohio case last week, when it said a neo-Nazi killer did not deserve a new sentencing hearing on those grounds.
Prosecutors called the Ohio case directly on point.
"The order pretty much says it all," Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Hugh J. Burns Jr. said. "I don't see how you can possibly distinguish them."
But Abu-Jamal's lawyer insists the facts differ.
"If our cases are similar, of course it doesn't bode well. But they're different," said lead appellate lawyer Robert R. Bryan of San Francisco. "It's always uphill with a death-penalty case."
The 3rd Circuit could still order a federal trial court to consider Abu-Jamal's case anew on other still-pending defense claims.
A mostly white Philadelphia jury convicted Abu-Jamal of killing white Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981 after the patrolman pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother in an overnight traffic stop.
Prosecutors believe the 25-year-old Faulkner managed to shoot Abu-Jamal during the confrontation. A wounded Abu-Jamal, his own gun lying nearby, was still at the scene when police arrived, and authorities consider the evidence against him overwhelming.
Since Abu-Jamal's conviction, activists in the United States and Europe have rallied in support of his claims that he was the victim of a racist justice system. Abu-Jamal has kept his case in the spotlight through books and radio broadcasts.
"His body's locked up, but his mind is free as a bird," Bryan told The Associated Press. "He has a lot to draw from within that most people similarly situated don't have."
Faulkner's widow, Maureen, did not immediately return phone messages Tuesday.
Abu-Jamal, a former radio reporter born Wesley Cook, has been on Pennsylvania's death row for about 28 years. Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Philadelphia when his latest appeal was argued in May 2007.
Bryan unsuccessfully argued for a new trial on grounds the prosecution improperly excluded Blacks from the jury, made up of 10 Whites and two Blacks.
In March 2008, the 3rd U.S. Circuit upheld the first-degree murder conviction but found the jury instructions and verdict form flawed and agreed Abu-Jamal deserved a new sentencing hearing. The Supreme Court earlier rejected Abu-Jamal's appeal of his conviction.
The issue over the instructions relates to whether jurors understood how to weigh mitigating circumstances that might have kept Abu-Jamal off death row. Under the law, jurors did not have to agree unanimously on a mitigating circumstance.
"The verdict form together with the jury instructions were misleading as to whether unanimity was required in consideration of mitigating circumstances," the appeals court wrote.
But last week, the Supreme Court reversed a similar ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. That case dealt with Frank Spisak, the neo-Nazi who killed three people in 1982.


Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • Newspapers from Maine to Hawaii pushed back against President Donald Trump's attacks on "fake news"Newspapers from Maine to Hawaii pushed back against President Donald Trump's attacks on "fake news" Thursday with a coordinated series of editorials speaking up for a free and vigorous press.The Boston Globe, which set the campaign in motion by urging the unified voice, had estimated that some 350 newspapers would participate.They did across the breadth of the country.The Portland (Maine) Press-Herald said a free and independent press is the best defense against tyranny, while the Honolulu Star-Advertiser emphasized democracy's need for a free press."The true enemies of the people — and democracy — are those who try to suffocate truth by vilifying and demonizing the messenger," wrote the Des Moines Register in Iowa.In St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch called journalists "the truest of patriots." The Chicago Sun-Times said it believed most Americans know that Trump is talking nonsense.The Fayetteville Observer said it hoped Trump would stop, "but we're not holding our breath.""Rather, we hope all the president's supporters will recognize what he's doing —  manipulating reality to get what he wants," the North Carolina newspaper said.On Thursday morning, Trump again took to Twitter to denounce "fake news."He wrote: "The Boston Globe, which was sold to the the Failing New York Times for 1.3 BILLION DOLLARS (plus 800 million dollars in losses & investment), or 2.1 BILLION DOLLARS, was then sold by the Times for 1 DOLLAR. Now the Globe is in COLLUSION with other papers on free press. PROVE IT!"THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country....BUT WE ARE WINNING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2018  That followed this tweet from the president: "THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country....BUT WE ARE WINNING!"The Morning News of Savannah, Georgia, said it was a confidant, not an enemy, to the people."Like any true friend, we don't always tell you want you want to hear," the Morning News said. "Our news team presents the happenings and issues in this community through the lens of objectivity. And like any true friend, we refuse to mislead you. Our reporters and editors strive for fairness."Some newspapers used history lessons to state their case. The Elizabethtown Advocate in Pennsylvania, for instance, compared free press in the United States to such rights promised but not delivered in the former Soviet Union.The New York Times added a pitch."If you haven't already, please subscribe to your local papers," said the Times, whose opinion section also summarized other editorials across the country."Praise them when you think they've done a good job and criticize them when you think they could do better. We're all in this together."That last sentiment made some journalists skittish. Some newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote editorials explaining why they weren't joining the Globe's effort. The Chronicle wrote that one of its most important values is independence, and going along with the crowd went against that. Both the Chronicle and Baltimore Sun said that it plays into the hands of Trump and his supporters who think the media is out to get him.Nolan Finley, columnist and editorial page editor of The Detroit News, spoke up for the press but added a scolding. He said too many journalists are slipping opinion into their news reports, adding commentary and calling it context."Donald Trump is not responsible for the eroding trust in the media," Finley wrote. "He lacks the credibility to pull that off. The damage to our standing is self-inflicted."The Radio Television Digital News Association, which represents more than 1,200 broadcasters and web sites, is also asking its members to point out that journalists are friends and neighbors doing important work holding government accountable."I want to make sure that it is positive," said Dan Shelley, the group's executive director. "We're shooting ourselves in the foot if we make this about attacking the president or attacking his supporters."It remains unclear how much sway the effort will have. Newspaper editorial boards overwhelmingly opposed Trump's election in 2016. Polls show Republicans have grown more negative toward the news media in recent years: Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said in June 2017 that the news media has a negative effect on the country, up from 68 percent in 2010.
    Read More
  • The world mourns the death of Aretha Franklin who died today at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit.
    Read More
  • Omarosa viewed as "two-bit opportunist" for calling Trump a racist only after aligning herself with him 
    Read More
  • Seven ships filled with 176,000 tons of wheat have left Portland for Yemen
    Read More
  • It was a rare admission of fault for an administration that frequently skews data and overstates economic gains.
    Read More
  • PP&R activities scheduled outdoors are being moved indoors where feasible
    Read More
  • Trump tweeted a barrage of insults Tuesday morning as Manigault Newman continued promoting her White House tell-all
    Read More
  • Aretha Frankin, considered one of the greatest singers of all time, has fallen ill
    Read More
Oregon Convention Center Job Fair
Port of Seattle Tours
Calendar

Photo Gallery

Photos and slide shows of local events

Montavilla Jazzfest 2018
The Skanner Report