On April 26, 2011, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ordered a new sentencing hearing for Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther member who was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. The court concluded that the jury sentenced Abu-Jamal to death after improper jury instructions regarding mitigating factors. Under Pennsylvania state law, mitigating circumstances are to be considered regardless of agreement among the jury, and only one juror to find that mitigating circumstances outweigh aggravating factors to result in a life sentence. The district attorney representing the state in the case reported that he would consider an appeal to the US Supreme Court.
Learn more about the Black Panthers and the laws governing jury instructions from the JURIST news archive.