The federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, in a stunning smack at the U.S. Supreme Court, has issued a ruling upholding its earlier decision backing a new sentencing hearing in the controversial case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted killer of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
The latest ruling, issued on Tuesday April 26, 2011, upholds a ruling the Third Circuit issued over two years ago siding with a federal district court judge who, back in 2001, had set aside Abu-Jamal’s death penalty after determining that death penalty instructions provided to the jury, and a flawed jury ballot document used during Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial, had been unclear.
The U.S. Supreme Court had ordered the Third Circuit to re-examine its 2009 ruling upholding the lifting of Abu-Jamal’s death sentence.
The nation’s top court had cited a new legal precedent in that directive to the Third Circuit, a strange order given the fact that the Supreme Court had earlier consistently declined to apply its own precedents to Abu-Jamal’s case.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said that, honoring a “campaign promise,” he had asked Faulkner’s widow Maureen Faulkner what her wishes were, and in response to her request was appealing the decision back to the US Supreme Court.
Abu-Jamal’s current lead attorney, Prof Judith Ritter of the Widener Law School, said of the decision, “Each of the four federal judges that has reviewed Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case has found his death sentence to be unconstitutional. The Third Circuit’s most recent opinion reflects a detailed analysis demonstrating that their unanimous decision is well-supported by Supreme Court precedent. We believe this carefully reasoned analysis will stand.”