BREAKING NEWS — The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has found that the sentencing jury in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case was misled about the process of weighing mitigating factors in considering whether to impose a life or death sentence. This error rendered Mumia’s death sentence unconstitutional, violating Mills v. Maryland, the Supreme Court decision that allows jurors to consider all mitigating evidence, whether agreed upon unanimously or not. The Third Circuit distinguished Mumia’s case from the more recent case of Smith v. Spisak, in which the Supreme Court reversed the 6th Circuit to hold that there was no Mills violation. The DA in Philadelphia has been claiming that Spisak should control in Mumia’s case. Judy Ritter argued the Mills claim before the Third Circuit. While the government will likely seek Supreme Court review, and of course this decision falls short of ordering a new trial as to innocence, we nevertheless celebrate this victory in Mumia’s long struggle.
The opinion is available on http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/019014p2.pdf