Mumia Abu-Jamal will no longer be facing execution. He should be getting a new trial.
In October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to reinstate the death sentence that had been overturned by a lower court. So today, Philadelphia prosecutors threw in the towel, announcing that they will not seek a new death sentence in Abu-Jamal’s case, instead allowing his sentence to be automatically commuted to life without parole.
But, over ten years, ago, Amnesty International concluded in its report, “The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Life in the Balance” that Mumia Abu-Jamal’s original trial utterly failed to meet international fair trial standards.
Among other things, Amnesty’s report highlighted the prosecution’s use of peremptory strikes to dismiss African American jurors during trial; inadequate defense representation at trial and during the sentencing phase; the prosecution’s use of Abu-Jamal’s political statements to argue for a death sentence; overt hostility of the trial judge and the appearance of judicial bias during appellate review; the close political relationship between the Fraternal Order of Police and the (elected) Pennsylvania judiciary; and law enforcement’s unseemly agitation for execution throughout the process
Given these fundamental flaws, it would have been unconscionable to put Mumia Abu-Jamal to death. So the Philadelphia District Attorney did the right thing there. But Mumia Abu-Jamal should also get a new trial.