Almost 30 years after after being sentenced to die for the killing of a white police officer, former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal is getting a slight reprieve.
According to the Associated Press, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced his decision Wednesday, with slain Officer Daniel Faulkner’s widow standing next to him as prosectors called off their case.
“There’s never been any doubt in my mind that Mumia Abu-Jamal shot and killed Officer Faulkner,” Williams said. “I believe that the appropriate sentence was handed down by a jury of his peers in 1982. While Abu-Jamal will no longer be facing the death penalty, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life, and that is where he belongs.”
Abu-Jamal, 58, has long been critical of the all-white jury that voted for his conviction. His attorneys have also taken issue with improper instructions given to the jury, and inaccuracies in eyewitness testimony.
He has written a book about his experience in 1995 called Live From Death Row, and has inspired international support for his “Free Mumia” movement.
Actors Mike Farrell and Tim Robbins were among a dozen figures who used a New York Times ad to advocate a new trial for Abu-Jamal. Rap group The Beastie Boys also were touched by the particulars of Abu-Jamal’s case, holding a concert to raise money for his defense fund.
The U.S. Supreme Court intervened in the case in October by refusing prosecutors’ request to reinstate the death penalty after a lower court overturned the sentence.
On December 9, 1981, Abu-Jamal was convicted with shooting Faulkner seven times with a .38 caliber gun after he saw his brother fighting with the police officer. He received the sentence of capital punishment the following year.
There are currently 231 people on death row in Pennsylvania, although the state has only executed three people since 1976. All of those executions occurred during the administration of former Homeland Security director Tom Ridge (R).