Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mumia Abu-Jamal Legal Update: Court of Appeals Denies Motion for Rehearing

Legal Update

Date: July 22, 2008

From: Robert R. Bryan, lead counsel

Subject: Federal ruling regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal, death row, Pennsylvania [please circulate]

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia Today our Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc, submitted on behalf of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Simply put, we did not receive the needed majority vote from the nine sitting judges; at least five votes for a rehearing were necessary.

However, Justice Thomas L. Ambro continues to urge the granting of relief on the issue of racism in jury selection. That position, as detailed in his brilliant dissenting opinion of March 27, 2008, will continue to serve as a beacon of hope as we press on for a new trial and Mumia’s freedom. Judge Ambro said that the “core guarantee of equal protection, ensuring citizens that their State will not discriminate on account of race, would be meaningless were we to approve the exclusion of jurors on the basis of . . . race. . . . I respectfully dissent.” A copy of today’s decision is attached.


Mumia and I had a legal conference this afternoon. He, as I, was stunned by the federal court’s refusal to grant relief since it flies in the face of established legal precedent in both the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. I am furious because racism continues to raise its ugly head in this country, and should have no place in our legal system. The indisputable facts are that the prosecutor engaged in racism in selecting the jury in this case, and that bigotry lingers today in Philadelphia. It would be naive not to realize that this case continues to reek of politics and injustice.

U.S. Supreme Court We will be seeking relief in the Supreme Court. The Petition for Writ of Certiorari will be filed by October 20, 2008, unless there is an extension. The racism issue will be presented, along with the fact that the prosecutor made misrepresentations to the jury in order to obtain a murder conviction against Mumia.


My goal remains a complete reversal of the conviction, even though the federal court has already granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. We will not rest until Mumia is free.

Yours very truly,
Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

To All Mumia Supporters: - EMERGENCY -

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied Mumia's request for a rehearing of his appeal for a new trial today.

**Please be on alert for PROTEST information!**


In Solidarity,

Jeff Mackler and Laura Herrera
Co-coordinators, Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

Abu-Jamal loses latest appeal for new trial

By Emilie Lounsberry
Posted on Tue, Jul. 22, 2008

A federal appeals court yesterday refused to reconsider the decision denying a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal in the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

In a two-page decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied Abu-Jamal's request for a rehearing of his appeal in the controversial case, which has helped fuel an international debate about the death penalty.

Abu-Jamal's lawyer, Robert R. Bryan of San Francisco, said he planned to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case.

In March, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit left intact Abu-Jamal's conviction but said a new jury should decide whether he deserved death or should be sentenced to life behind bars.

Deputy District Attorney Ronald Eisenberg said no decision had been made on whether his office would ask the high court to reinstate the death sentence.

Abu-Jamal and his lawyers contend that the panel should have ordered a hearing on their contention that prosecutors intentionally excluded blacks from his jury in violation of a later 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

They noted that one of the panel members, Judge Thomas Ambro, wanted a hearing held on that issue, though he was in the minority on that issue.

All three members of the panel, which also included Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica and Judge Robert E. Cowen, affirmed the December 2001 decision by U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr., who threw out the death sentence.

Yohn concluded that the jury might have been confused by the trial judge's instructions and wording on the verdict form filled out when the jury decided on death.

He found that the jury might have mistakenly believed it had to agree unanimously on any mitigating circumstances - factors that might have persuaded the jury to decide on a life sentence, rather than death.

Abu-Jamal, 54, has been on death row since his 1982 conviction in the killing of Faulkner, who was shot to death near 13th and Locust Streets early on Dec. 9, 1981.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence in 1989, and also rejected three other appeals.

Unless the nation's high court agrees to hear the case, Abu-Jamal most likely would face a new Philadelphia jury to decide only whether the penalty should be life or death. The high court hears only a tiny percentage of all petitions filed each year.

Contact staff writer Emilie Lounsberry at 215-854-4828 or

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