[JURIST] The Pennsylvania Supreme Court [official website] has rejected [order, PDF] the final appeal by Mumia Abu-Jamal [Philadelphia Inquirer backgrounder; JURIST news archive], a former member of the Black Panthers who was convicted of killing a police officer in Philadelphia in 1981. The ruling affirmed an order from the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas [official website] which denied [AP report] Abu-Jamal’s claim that certain pieces of forensic evidence were mishandled in the case. This order comes after Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced in December that his office would no longer seek the death penalty [JURIST report] against Abu-Jamal. As a result of that decision, Abu-Jamal is due to remain in prison for life, ending a 30-year sentencing battle.
The conviction was upheld through years of appeals, but a new sentencing hearing was granted [JURIST report] in April 2011 on the basis of improper jury instructions. The US Supreme Court [official website] declined to opine on the decision in October, which forced prosecutors to decide whether they would pursue the death penalty through a new sentencing hearing. The Supreme Court had considered Abu-Jamal’s case in several previous rulings. The court remanded the case to the Third Circuit [JURIST report] in January 2010 for further consideration in light of the ruling in Smith v. Spisak [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing police officer Daniel Faulkner [advocacy website] after Faulkner pulled over Abu-Jamal’s brother for a traffic violation. The case has become a focal point for death penalty opponents and Abu-Jamal’s supporters [advocacy website] who believe he was the victim of a racially biased justice system.