A change of heart

Prosecutors in Philadelphia announced Wednesday that they had halted the state’s effort to execute Mumia Abu-Jamal, the death row inmate convicted of killing a police officer 30 years ago, whose subsequent legal case based on claims of innocence has received international attention.

Mr. Abu-Jamal will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, said Seth Williams, the district attorney for Philadelphia.

“This has been a very, very difficult decision,” Mr. Williams said at a news conference, adding that he believed Mr. Abu-Jamal was guilty of the murder and should be executed. “The sentence was appropriate. That would have been the just sentence for this defendant.”

In April, a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Mr. Abu-Jamal because jurors had received potentially misleading instructions during his 1982 trial. In October, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Mr. Williams said Wednesday that the appeals court ruling — and others that have spared Mr. Abu-Jamal’s life over the years — had led him to drop his pursuit of the death penalty, in part because witnesses are no longer available. He said he made the decision after discussing it with Maureen Faulkner, the widow of Daniel Faulkner, the slain police officer.

During his long stay on death row, Mr. Abu-Jamal, 57, a former Black Panther and radio reporter, became a vocal and — to some — convincing advocate of his own “Free Mumia” movement. That cause became particularly prominent around college campuses, where students collected donations for his legal defense fund and sold buttons and posters carrying images of his pensive face and long dreadlocks beneath that slogan. The Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine performed at a benefit concert on his behalf in 1999, and a suburb of Paris named a street after him in 2006.



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