Judge Grants Stay For Mumia Abu-Jamal
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Black activist Mumia Abu-Jamal was granted an indefinite delay in his scheduled execution today, 10 days before the former radio reporter was to be put to death for the murder of a police officer.
The execution, which had been the subject of international protests, may not be rescheduled for years.
Abu-Jamal, who has written a book about his years on death row, claimed he was the victim of a racist criminal-justice system. However, he never explained what he was doing during the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 1981, including how his gun was used in the shooting death of the 25-year-old police officer.
Judge Albert F. Sabo, who presided at Abu-Jamal’s trial, said he granted the delay because there wasn’t enough time to finish hearing Abu-Jamal’s request for a new trial by Aug. 17 and for the condemned journalist to appeal if necessary.
``He has an absolute right to be heard by the highest court in the land _ the United States Supreme Court,″ Sabo said.
Cheers erupted in the courtroom from dozens of Abu-Jamal supporters, who were joined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. ``There’s reasonable doubt so there should be a new trial,″ Jackson said outside. ``It’s a strong moral question ... to kill a man who could be determined to be innocent.″
James McDevitt, a Fraternal Order of Police vice president, said the judge probably ``is just bending over″ to be fair. ``They have absolutely no evidence,″ he said of the defense. Abu-Jamal ``should be executed,″ he said.
Sabo said he was only granting the stay to allow full appeals. But Abu-Jamal’s attorney, Leonard I. Weinglass, called the ruling ``a very heartening victory for the many thousands of people who have come out around the world in support of Mumia.″
The ruling will allow proceedings to continue ``in the orderly process, not working under the shadow of death but working with time to prepare our papers, time for proper courts to review the case and hopefully getting what we’ve always been seeking _ a new trial,″ Weinglass said.
Prosecutors had no comment.
Prosecutors say overwhelming ballistics evidence and eyewitness testimony prove that Abu-Jamal shot officer Daniel Faulkner. The shooting occurred after Abu-Jamal found his brother, William Cook, in a struggle with the officer on a street. Faulkner also shot Abu-Jamal, who was working as a cab driver.
Abu-Jamal, now 41, never offered another explanation and his brother never testified. Abu-Jamal repeatedly disrupted the trial with political outbursts and several times was removed from the courtroom.
Defense lawyers contend prosecutors and police stacked the trial against the defendant, with Sabo’s approval. They say witnesses who could have helped Abu-Jamal’s case were coerced to testify against him, intimidated into leaving town or simply unavailable during the trial.
During sentencing, critics say, prosecutors inflamed the mostly white jury by mentioning that Abu-Jamal belonged to the Black Panthers as a teen-ager.
A hearing on whether to grant Abu-Jamal a new trial has been under way since July 26 before Sabo.
Jamal Mumia Abu-Jamal, Abu-Jamal’s son, said he wasn’t ready to celebrate.
``When my father’s life is spared and he comes home, it will be a victory,″ he said. ``It’s just a step in the right direction until he can come home to be with his children and grandchildren.″