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Death Penalty Dropped Against Mumia Abu-Jamal

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on December 07, 2011 1:40 PM

Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal will no longer face the death penalty. The Philadelphia district attorney decided this week to drop their decades-long battle over Abu-Jamal's sentence.

Prosecutors made the announcement just days before the 30th anniversary of his conviction. The decision also comes down after a federal appeals court this year ordered a new sentencing hearing. The appeals court found the jury instructions given in the original case were unclear.

Abu-Jamal was convicted of fatally shooting Daniel Faulkner, a police officer, in 1982. The former Black Panther and his supporters have long argued that his conviction was the result of racial bias, according to The Washington Post.

The death penalty was dropped after the prosecutor consulted with Maureen Faulkner, the victim's widow. Prosecutors believed pursuing capital punishment would only result in more years of appeals, according to The Post. Various piece of trial evidence, including witnesses, have now become unreliable or unavailable.

Anyone convicted of a crime has the right to appeal. Appeals typically request that a higher court review whether or not the sentence or conviction was affected by a legal error. If the court finds an error in sentencing, a case may be sent back for resentencing.

Abu-Jamal's case was sent back because of unclear jury instructions. Jury instructions tell jurors what legal standards to apply and what law is applicable to the case.

Indeed, jury instructions are vitally important. An unclear jury instruction could result in sentences that are too harsh or too light.

Though Mumia Abu-Jamal won't face the death penalty, his conviction still stands. Abu-Jamal won't be sentenced to die, but he will still serve life behind bars.

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