*The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear a petition by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office seeking to reinstate the death penalty against Mumia Abu-Jamal, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The ruling in the case of Abu-Jamal – convicted of murder in the 1981 shooting of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner – was one of more than 250 appeals summarily rejected by the high court without comment. It means that, unless the District Attorney’s Office decides to conduct a new sentencing hearing, Abu-Jamal, 57, will continue serving a life sentence with no chance of parole.
Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams, said the prosecutor’s office would not comment on the ruling while its appeals unit decides what to do next.
The prosecutor’s unsuccessful appeal to the nation’s highest court followed a decision in April by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. The Third Circuit reaffirmed its ruling that Abu-Jamal’s sentencing hearing was unfair, giving the District Attorney’s Office the choice of conducting a new death-penalty hearing or letting Abu-Jamal serve life.
The fairness of the sentencing hearing was one of 29 claims in a 1999 appeal filed by the former radio reporter who became a political radical and international cause célèbre.
Abu-Jamal is housed at the state prison in Greene County in Western Pennsylvania, where he has achieved the distinction of living longer on death row than any other of the state’s 208 condemned men and women.
Faulkner, 25, was on patrol in Center City the night of Dec. 9, 1981, when, according to testimony, he pulled over a car driven by Abu-Jamal’s brother, William Cook, at 13th and Locust Streets.
Abu-Jamal, moonlighting as a cabdriver, recognized his brother’s car, ran toward them, and shot Faulkner, witnesses testified. A gunfight followed, and Abu-Jamal was hit by a bullet from Faulkner’s gun. He was found slumped on a curb.
Witnesses said that during the encounter, Abu-Jamal stood over the wounded officer and shot him in the face. Court records say Faulkner was shot between the eyes.
Neither Abu-Jamal nor his brother has testified about what happened, though in a 2001 affidavit Abu-Jamal denied shooting Faulkner.
Since then, Abu-Jamal’s supporters have been countered by equally vocal supporters of the slain officer and his widow, Maureen.