Supreme Court remands Mumia case to reconsider death sentence

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday issued two per curiam opinions [order list, PDF], remanded the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal [JURIST news archive], and denied a preliminary injunction to Michigan in a dispute over Asian carp. The Court granted certiorari in Beard v. Abu-Jamal [docket] and granted the respondent's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court vacated the judgment below and remanded the case to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for further consideration in light of the Court's decision in Smith v. Spisak [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The only issue is whether the Third Circuit erred in allowing a new sentencing hearing [JURIST report] solely on the issue of life imprisonment or a death sentence. The Court declined to review [JURIST report] Abu-Jamal's conviction in April. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing police officer Daniel Faulkner [advocacy website] after Faulkner pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother for a traffic violation. The case has become a focal point for death penalty opponents, attracting the attention of artists, civil rights activists, and politicians.

In Presley v. Georgia [opinion, PDF], the Court ruled that a defendant's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment [texts] right to a public trial was violated when the trial court excluded the public from the voir dire of prospective jurors. The Court granted the petition for certiorari and petitioner's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Georgia. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia.

In the capital case of Wellons v. Hall [opinion, PDF], the Court granted the petition for certiorari and petitioner's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, vacated the decision below, and remanded the case to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit for further consideration in light of the Court's decision in Cone v. Bell [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The Court ruled in Cone that a federal habeas court has the power to recognize that a state court erred in holding that state law precludes reviewing a claim and that a federal habeas claim is not "procedurally defaulted" because it has been presented twice to the state court. Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito filed a separate dissent, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts.

In Michigan v. Illinois [JURIST report], the Court denied an injunction sought by Michigan to compel Illinois to close two waterways that allow invasive Asian carp to reach the Great Lakes. The Court issued the order without comment. The Court must still determine whether to reopen a longstanding controversy over the diversion canal, created in the 1890s to keep Chicago's sewage from flowing into Lake Michigan.

Finally, the Supreme Court declined to review an order requiring the state of California to release more than 40,000 inmates from its state prisons to ease overcrowding. The Court dismissed the appeals in Schwarzenegger v. Plata and California State Republican Legislator Intervenors v. Plata [dockets] for lack of jurisdiction but noted "that a further order has been entered in this case, but that order is not the subject of these appeals. It is also noted that the district court has stayed its further order pending review by this Court." Last week, a panel of federal judges approved [JURIST report] a new prison reduction plan, but stayed the order pending Supreme Court action.



 

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