By Kathy Matheson
PHILADELPHIA — Death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal lost his bid for a new trial in the killing of a city police officer after the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it will not take up the case.
Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and one-time radio reporter, had claimed prosecutors improperly excluded blacks from the jury that convicted him of murdering white Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981.
Abu-Jamal's attorney, Robert R. Bryan of San Francisco, called his client's trial "a mockery of justice" and said Monday he would seek a rehearing by the high court.
But prosecutor Hugh Burns said that "for practical purposes, this was the last remotely realistic chance for getting a new trial."
Abu-Jamal's death sentence remains in limbo. The Supreme Court has not yet acted on the state's request to reinstate his capital punishment, said Burns, chief of the appeals unit for the Philadelphia district attorney's office.
A Philadelphia jury convicted Abu-Jamal in 1982.
The 25-year-old patrolman had pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother on a darkened downtown street. Prosecutors say Abu-Jamal saw the traffic stop and shot Faulkner, who managed to shoot back. A wounded Abu-Jamal, his own gun lying nearby, was still at the scene when police arrived. Authorities considered the evidence against him overwhelming.
In March 2008, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld Abu-Jamal's conviction but ruled his death sentence invalid. The appeals court found the jury was given flawed instructions during the penalty phase of his trial.
A new death penalty hearing would give jurors the option of sentencing Abu-Jamal to life in prison.
Since Abu-Jamal's conviction, activists in the United States and Europe have rallied in support of his claims that he was the victim of a racist justice system. Abu-Jamal, 54, has kept his case in the spotlight through books and radio broadcasts.
Faulkner's widow, Maureen, has also written a book and done numerous media interviews to tell her side of the story.
Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham issued a statement Monday saying she is gratified by the ruling.
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"It is a pity that Maureen Faulkner had to go through the last 26 years to hear what she knew from the beginning: that (Abu-Jamal) murdered her husband, Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, in cold blood," Abraham said.