Alive on Death Row
A federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing for
convicted police killer and death-row activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, finding for a second time that the death-penalty instructions given to the jury at his 1982 trial were potentially misleading.
Under Pennsylvania law, Abu-Jamal should have received a life sentence if a single juror found the mitigating circumstances outweighed the aggravating factors in Faulkner's slaying. The three-judge appeals panel found the verdict form confusing, given its repeated use of the word "unanimous," even in the section on mitigating circumstances.
Abu-Jamal, born Wesley Cook, turned 58 on April 22nd. His writings and radio broadcasts from death row in western Pennsylvania have made him a cause celebre and the subject of numerous books and movies. His own 1995 book, "Live From Death Row," describes prison life and calls the justice system racist and ruled by political expediency.