PHILADELPHIA, PA - The jury that sentenced black activist Mumia Abu-Jamal to death for the murder of a white Philadelphia police officer was wrongly instructed, a U.S. appeals court said.
The court ordered the state of Pennsylvania to hold a new sentencing hearing within 180 days or to sentence Abu-Jamal to life imprisonment. The three-judge panel upheld the findings of a district court judge and an appellate decision in 2008.
Abu-Jamal, 57, has been on death row since 1982 when he was convicted of shooting Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. During his years in prison, he has written several books and become one of the best-known death-sentenced inmates in the world.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said he is considering whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The high court has already ordered the appeals court to reconsider its earlier finding that the sentence was invalid, resulting in Tuesday's opinion.
The court found the judge gave confusing instructions to the jury. As a result, the panel found, jurors might have believed wrongly that they needed to be unanimous on mitigating factors.
Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, worked for several public and commercial radio stations in Philadelphia during the 1970s. At the time of his arrest, he was driving a cab.