Following the United States Supreme Court’s decision to let stand an April 2011 federal appeal court order vacating Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence for the 1981 killing of a police officer, Philadelphia prosecutors announced this week that they will not seek a new death sentence for Mr. Abu-Jamal.
Mr. Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and journalist, was convicted of fatally shooting Officer Faulkner, who was white, on Dec. 9, 1981, after the officer pulled over Mr. Abu-Jamal’s brother for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Mr. Abu-Jamal had been shot in the chest by the officer.
Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams said he decided not to seek a new death sentence because witnesses are no longer available and to avoid further appeals. The officer’s widow, Maureen Faulkner, agreed to stop pushing for execution because the case had gone on for too long. Under state law, Mr. Abu-Jamal will be resentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
In the past 30 years, the case has garnered a great deal of public attention, with high-profile supporters of Mr. Abu-Jamal questioning the reliability of the proceedings in his case and maintaining that his conviction and death sentence was a miscarriage of justice based on racism.
Mr. Abu-Jamal has become an influential writer and commentator on the death penalty, race, and the criminal justice system. For many years he has been a regular commentator on an online broadcast sponsored by Prison Radio and on the Pacifica Network’s Democracy Now! weekday radio newsmagazine. His publications includeDeath Blossoms: Reflections from a Prisoner of Conscience, in which he explores religious themes; All Things Censored, a political critique on crime and punishment;Live From Death Row, a very popular diary of life on Pennsylvania’s death row; and the historical We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party.