Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Now: 30 Unconstitutional Years on Death Row are Enough!
With Mumia Abu-Jamal’s sentence of death now formally vacated, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision last week not to consider an appeal by the Philadelphia District Attorney of a Third Circuit Court panel’s ruling that that sentence had been unconstitutional thanks to flawed jury instructions from the trial judge and a flawed jury ballot form, many of those who have long called for his execution are now saying, fine, let him rot in prison for the rest of his life.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, the leading newspaper in his hometown of Philadelphia, in more genteel language, said essentially the same thing in an unsigned October 13 editorial, opining that with the death penalty vacated, the default sentence of life in prison without parole was “appropriate” and “in the best interest of justice.”
The editorial urged DA Seth Williams not to exercise his right within the next 180 days to seek to obtain a new death sentence by asking for a new jury trial on the penalty only. The paper made this plea not because the editors felt such an effort to re-sentence him would be unseemly, but because of the cost to the struggling city of Philadelphia.
But hold on here. Putting aside for a moment the matter of whether Abu-Jamal was even fairly convicted in a trial that was viewed as a shameful farce at the time in 1982 even by the editors of the Inquirer, is it really “in the best interest of justice” or in any way “appropriate” for Abu-Jamal to simply be switched over from a death sentence to a sentence of life in prison without parole, now that, as the Inquirer correctly noted in its editorial, “four federal judges have ruled that Abu-Jamal’s 1982 death sentence was unconstitutional,” and that “he was denied a fair sentencing at his original trial.”
No. It is manifestly not just or appropriate!