Conviction of former militant upheld in Ga.

/ Source: The Associated Press

Jamil Al-Amin, the former 1960s black militant once known as H. Rap Brown, lost a bid in the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday to overturn his conviction for the shooting death of a sheriff’s deputy four years ago.

In a unanimous decision, the state’s highest appeals court said it found no reversible error in the trial that led to his conviction. Al-Amin’s lawyer said he would ask the court to reconsider and would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Al-Amin, 60, was convicted in 2002 of the March 16, 2000, shooting death of Fulton County Sheriff’s Deputy Ricky Kinchen, 38. He was sentenced to life without parole.

Deputy shot serving warrant
Kinchen was killed and his partner, Deputy Aldranon English, was wounded when they went to serve a warrant on Al-Amin. The warrant was for failing to appear in court for charges of driving a stolen car and impersonating a police officer.

Federal marshals captured Al-Amin in Alabama four days after the shootings.

The court said the evidence, which included a statement by English and ballistics tests, was sufficient to find Al-Amin guilty.

The court said it found no merit to a claim he was denied equal protection because the county’s procedures for choosing grand juries and trial juries were flawed.

It also dismissed a claim that Al-Amin’s right to not testify was violated when prosecutors posed questions to him during closing arguments in sort of a mock cross-examination. Defense attorneys had sought a mistrial at that point. The trial judge denied the motion but instructed the jury that a closing argument is not evidence.

Court cites evidence
The Supreme Court agreed that the prosecutor crossed the line in posing questions to Al-Amin during the closing. But it held that the action did not require an automatic reversal because of the strength of the evidence and the judge’s instruction to the jury.

Defense lawyer John R. Martin said the court’s decision “sends a message to prosecutors that they can violate someone’s rights and there are no consequences.”

Several calls to the office of prosecutor Paul Howard seeking comment were not returned.

Al-Amin had lived quietly in Atlanta for years and led a Muslim group, the National Ummah, which has formed 36 mosques around the nation and is credited with helping revitalize poverty-stricken areas.

Defenders have suggested Al-Amin was framed as part of a government conspiracy they said had dogged him since his days as a prominent Black Panther in the ’60s.