Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Supreme Court reverse for Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal in prison (image from 1994)
Abu-Jamal has been in custody for nearly 30 years

The US Supreme Court has overturned a decision by a lower court in Philadelphia to block the execution of a former "black power" militant.

The lower court reversed the death penalty on Mumia Abu-Jamal in March 2008 after finding that the jury had been given flawed instructions.

The ex-Black Panther's conviction for murdering a policeman still stood.

The Supreme Court made its ruling after a case in Ohio last week which turned on a similar legal issue.

Under the law, jurors do not have to agree unanimously on a mitigating circumstance in a case.

The Philadelphia 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the jurors in the Abu-Jamal case had received misleading instructions "as to whether unanimity was required in consideration of mitigating circumstances".

Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a similar ruling by a Ohio appeals court in the case of Frank Spisak, a neo-Nazi who killed three people in 1982.

The Black Panthers were a revolutionary "black power" group active in the US in the 1960s and 1970s.

Prison writings

Abu-Jamal, a former radio journalist, was sentenced to death for murder in 1982.

He appealed against his sentence on the grounds that racism on the part of the judge and the prosecutors had corrupted his conviction, which was by a jury of 10 white and two black people.

The police officer killed, Daniel Faulkner, had pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother one night in December 1981 for driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

Abu-Jamal denied killing the officer.

Abu-Jamal's prison writings about the justice system have drawn the attention of many people around the world.

His case has attracted the support of many death penalty opponents.

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NPR Court Sends Back Abu-Jamal Death Penalty Case - 15 hrs ago
Los Angeles Times Supreme Court setback for Mumia Abu-Jamal - 16 hrs ago
Yahoo! via Wap High court tosses ruling favorable to Abu-Jamal - 16 hrs ago U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Ruling On Former Black Panther Activist's Death Sentence - 18 hrs ago
Reuters Africa US court sends back Abu-Jamal death penalty case - 23 hrs ago

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