The Philadelphia district attorney’s office announced today that it will not seek another death sentence for National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Vice President Mumia Abu-Jamal. Under Pennsylvania law, Mr. Abu-Jamal will now be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
“While there is overwhelming doubt about what the state claims to be the facts in this case, even those allegations never supported a capital charge,” said Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild. “That it has taken three decades to remove death from the table is astonishing.”
The National Lawyers Guild has long maintained that Mr. Abu-Jamal is entitled to a new and fair trial. Procedural irregularities plagued his case from the outset, including blatant constitutional violations, from the judge allowing the prosecution to admit evidence of his affiliation with the Black Panther Party, in violation of the Supreme Court case Dawson v. Delaware, to the use of a faulty sentencing form that misled jurors during the penalty phase, in violation of the Supreme Court case Mills v. Maryland.
A great deal of relevant evidence has never been reviewed by any court, much less presented to a jury. This evidence includes several photographs of the crime scene which impeach the testimony of a police officer who was a key eyewitness and proof that another individual was present, and fled, the scene of the shooting. Mr. Abu-Jamal was charged at a time when, it was later revealed, there was extensive corruption within the Philadelphia Police Department.
In 1995, then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham promised the city that she would dismiss any case in which there was evidence of police perjury or purposeful misreporting of facts. Given the history of police misconduct in Philadelphia when Abu-Jamal was arrested, and the specific instances of police perjury in his case, the National Lawyers Guild urges current District Attorney Seth Williams to act on his predecessor’s unfulfilled pledge. Mr. Abu-Jamal will be formally resentenced to life without parole in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. The final sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.
The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has members in every state.