A federal appeals court has agreed to hear an appeal from death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former Black Panther convicted in the 1981 murder of a white Philadelphia police officer.
In the most significant ruling in the case in four years, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it would consider three of Abu-Jamal’s claims.
Abu-Jamal, 51, a one-time radio reporter, was convicted in 1982 of shooting Daniel Faulkner, 25, after the officer pulled over Abu-Jamal’s brother in 1981.
Abu-Jamal’s attorney, Robert Bryan, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Prosecutor Hugh Burns called the decision a blow to Abu-Jamal’s defense because the court dismissed dozens of other claims from the inmate as frivolous. “The case is moving after four years, which is good,” he said Thursday.
Abu-Jamal’s writings and taped speeches on the justice system have made him a cause celebre among Hollywood activists, foreign politicians and some death-penalty opponents, who believe he is the victim of a racist justice system.
In 2001, a federal judge overturned Abu-Jamal’s death sentence but upheld his conviction. Both sides have appealed that ruling, and Abu-Jamal remains on death row.
The appeals court said Tuesday it will consider Abu-Jamal’s claims that prosecutors illegally removed blacks from the jury pool, that a prosecutor gave an improper summation to the jury, and that the judge in a previous appeal was biased.