Observations and analysis of Linn Washington Jr. on the federal Third Circuit ruling in the Mumia Abu-Jamal case issued on March 27, 2008. Washington, is a journalist and university professor in Philadelphia who has written extensively about the contentious case since Abu-Jamal’s arrest in December 1981.
The long awaited ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the Mumia Abu-Jamal case released on March 27, 2008 again displays the dismaying pattern of US courts ignoring precedent to deny relief to this death row journalist whose plight generates international support.
Precedent in American law means courts following previous court rulings when determining specific legal issues.
Precedent is the bedrock of American law.
America law requires courts to follow precedent unless significant evidence and/or compelling rationales necessitate changing precedent.
This Third Circuit ruling changes precedent. This ruling changes precedent by applying legal procedures in a highly questionable manner to dismiss compelling evidence of injustice against Abu-Jamal.
The Third Circuit did uphold the elimination of Abu-Jamal’s death sentence. This is no victory because the ruling upheld his conviction thus condemning Abu-Jamal to life in prison.
This ruling refused to grant Abu-Jamal a new hearing or new trial on three compelling issues: prosecutors using racism to exclude African Americans from the jury during Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial; the prosecutor making improper comments to that ’82 jury at the end of the trial; and pro-prosecution bias by the ’82 trial judge during a 1995 appeals hearing.