Supreme Court to rule on Mumia Abu Jamal execution today

Yesterday there was a huge development in Mumia’s case.

According to a posting yesterday on the US Supreme Court’s website, the Court has scheduled a conference for this Friday, January 15, to discuss Mumia’s case. Specifically, they are looking at the Philadelphia DA’s request to have Mumia executed without a new sentencing hearing.

The Supreme Court has apparently been waiting for the ruling on the Spisak case, which was also released yesterday. In Spisak, the court ruled to reinstate Spisak’s death sentence, but it is still unclear what impact this ruling will have. The common thread between Mumia and Spisak is the “Mills” precedent, and the Court yesterday ruled that Spisak’s case did not meet the standards of Mills.

This is the link to the Supreme Court posting.

Here is a recent article by Jeff Mackler, explaining the importance of the Spisak case.

SOME BACKGROUND:

This past March, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Abu-Jamal’s appeal for a new guilt-phase trial, but the Court has yet to rule on whether to hear the appeal made simultaneously by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, which seeks to execute Abu-Jamal without granting him a new penalty-phase trial.

In March 2008, the Third Circuit Court affirmed Federal District Court Judge William Yohn’s 2001 decision “overturning” the death sentence. Citing the 1988 Mills v. Maryland precedent, Yohn had ruled that sentencing forms used by jurors and Judge Albert Sabo’s instructions to the jury were potentially confusing, and that therefore jurors could have mistakenly believed that they had to unanimously agree on any mitigating circumstances in order to consider them as weighing against a death sentence.

According to the 2001 ruling, affirmed in 2008, if the DA wants to re-instate the death sentence, the DA must call for a new penalty-phase jury trial. In such a penalty hearing, new evidence of Abu-Jamal’s innocence could be presented, but the jury could only choose between execution and a life sentence without parole.

The DA is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court against this 2008 affirmation of Yohn’s ruling. If the court rules in the DA’s favor, Abu-Jamal can be executed without benefit of a new sentencing hearing. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the DA’s appeal, the DA must either accept the life sentence for Abu-Jamal or call for the new sentencing hearing. Meanwhile, Mumia Abu-Jamal has never left his death row cell.

From Robert R. Bryan, lead attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal:

Today I put online a petition for President Barack Obama regarding Mumia &
the death penalty. I ask that you & your colleagues sign it as soon as
possible. The link to the Petition is:
http://www.PetitionOnline.com/Mumialaw/petition.html.

Signers within the first few hours include Günter Grass, Nobel Prize winner
in literature, Madame Danielle Mitterrand, former First Lady of France,
Fatima Bhutto, Noam Chomsky, Ed Asner, etc.

I expect a decision next week from the U.S. Supreme Court on the question of
the death penalty. Mumia & I are very concerned, because earlier this week
the court denied relief in a similar case, *Smith v. Spisak*. Either we get
a green light to proceed with the new jury trial we previously won on the
question of death or life, or we are closer to an execution.

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, CA 94123-4117
[Tel: (415) 385-8159 cell]

*Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal*

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